Sunday 27th October 2019

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Liverpool 2 Spurs 1

After the vibrancy of Tuesday’s win over Red Star Belgrade – admittedly, a pedestrian opposition – Mauricio Pochettino surprisingly opted to recall Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen at Anfield – three players with seemingly no long-term future at Spurs. Not unpredictably, Eriksen and Rose were two of Spurs’ biggest problems as they battled to a 2-1 defeat to the League leaders.

The left-back put in another erratic performance and was at fault for Liverpool’s equaliser, getting dragged out of position before Henderson’s strike, and his most memorable contributions with the ball were a bizarre clearance out for a Liverpool corner which nearly soared over the Anfield Road stand and a wild late shot.

It was not the first error leading to a goal Rose has made this season and clearly the England international, who was transfer-listed in the summer, is out of sorts. Fortunately perhaps, he will be suspended for next Sunday’s trip to Everton after picking up a fifth booking of the season for rash first-half challenge, so Ben Davies or even Ryan Sessegnon will play on Spurs’ return to Merseyside.

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Eriksen, meanwhile, was passive and a passenger. Barring one excellent counter-attack in the first half, the Dane contributed very little and was replaced by Giovani Lo Celso at 2-1. Surely Tanguy Ndombele, who was excellent after replacing Harry Winks, or Lucas Moura would have given Liverpool more to worry about.

Certainly, Spurs looked better when Ndombele – a £65million record-signing don’t forget came on. Serge Aurier, another player who has had too many chances under Pochettino, gave away a penalty, harshly but not at all surprisingly, which Mo Salah converted to give Liverpool another win over Spurs.

Pochettino is evidently not ready or willing to force through a new era at the club by sidelining his senior players, who have served him so well in the past, but his loyalty is now costing the team. Just ten matches into the season and a fifth consecutive season of Champions League football is already looking a tough ask for Spurs.

This defeat, their fourth in the League, left them eight points off fourth ahead of the return to Merseyside next weekend. With the Carabao Cup already gone and no guarantees of reaching the Champions League knockouts, the concern for Spurs is that the season is all but over by Christmas, which would leave Pochettino with a mammoth task to motivate his squad, many of whom are already struggling for focus given their uncertain futures.

Spurs, of course, usually pick up speed from November onwards and there remains plenty of time to stage a recovery. But they need to do so fast, to avoid the whole season slipping away. It might have been game over by half-time were it not for the brilliant Paulo Gazzaniga. The Argentinian made fine saves to deny Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold to keep Liverpool at bay – the best an acrobatic, one-handed effort to tip over Van Dijk’s point-blank header.

He also stood tall after the interval, denying Firmino after a Davinson Sanchez error. It was also Gazzaniga’s superb kick that nearly gave Spurs as second as he released Son, who skipped away from Alisson but struck the crossbar from an angle.

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Gazzaniga failed to take his chance in pre-season, when he was erratic in the absence of Hugo Lloirs through illness, but he showed enough at Anfield to suggest Spurs have little to worry about during the Frenchman’s absence with a dislocated elbow until at least January and they may even have the long-term successor to their club captain already in the squad. There are always moments in a season which feel like decisive, sliding-doors situations and Heung-min Son’s miss at the start of the second half may prove one. With Spurs fortuitously leading 1-0, Son was set free by Gazzaniga’s brilliant kick, before skipping away from first Dejan Lovren and then Alisson.

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But with the angle widening, the South Korean fired his effort off the crossbar. A goal would have given Spurs a 2-0 lead and perhaps led to Pochettino’s first win at Anfield in unlikely and memorable circumstances. It could have proved the boost that turned around their season and truly sparked the revival.

Instead, Jordan Henderson’s equaliser five minutes later set Liverpool on the way to another victory and ensured that most of the positivity from Tuesday night ebbed away, deepening the sense of unease at Spurs, whose confidence continues to take a pummelling.

Atlanta 20 Seahawks 27

Three impressions from the Seahawks’ 27-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Seahawks are 6-2 overall and 4-0 on the road, matching their best road start in franchise history.

It’s never easy, is it?
Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have prided themselves on being a team that plays its best late in games, on getting better late in the season, on having a “constant improvement” mindset. The Seahawks, in summary, were awesome early and awful late.

Seattle did just about anything and everything it wanted in the first half, building a 24-0 lead at half-time. They did almost nothing for much of the second half, giving one of the NFL’s worst teams hope of a miracle rally late.

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The Seahawks held on in the end, but the final score doesn’t do justice just how disconcerting that second half was. The Seahawks had a chance to put a 1-6 team away and couldn’t do it.

That has to raise some (more) legitimate questions about just how viable this team is as a playoff contender. Yes, they’re 6-2, and that’s reason to celebrate.

Schaub’s 1-yard touchdown pass to high end Austin Hooper got the Falcons within 27-17. Bobby Wagner then broke up Schaub’s attempted 2-point conversion pass.

Jacob Hollister recovered the ensuing onside kick for Seattle, but the fact that it came down to that had to be a disheartening for the Seahawks.

Midway through the season, the question has to be asked: Just how good is this Seahawks team, really?
Marquise Blair made his second straight start at strong safety and came through with the play of the game in the fourth quarter, knocking the ball away from Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman near the goal line.

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Wagner recovered the fumble at the Seattle 1-yard line.
An Atlanta touchdown there would have cut the Seahawks’ lead to 24-18 with almost 13 minutes left.
Blair, a rookie out of Utah, drew praise from Pete Carroll after his first start last week against Baltimore. And Blair’s play Sunday should only further increase his role going forward, even when Bradley McDougald (back) and new acquisition Quandre Diggs (hamstring) are fully healthy.

Wagner’s breakup on the 2-point play was another highlight in his record-setting day.

In the first quarter, Wagner broke Eugene Robinson’s 24-year-old record to become the Seahawks’ all-time leading tackler, now with 989. Wagner also had one of the Seahawks’ two sacks of Schaub on Sunday. The Seahawks star running back was as good as ever in the first half, running for 86 yards on 14 carries, with a 1-yard TD run in the second quarter to give the Seahawks a 17-0 lead.

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Carson had one run in which he spun out of a would-be tackle, continued up the left sideline and then lowered his shoulder to punish an Atlanta defensive back. Dude looked unstoppable in the first half. The second half, again, was a different story. The Seahawks offense never got going, and Carson had just six carries for four yards (yikes) in the final 30 minutes. Rashaad Penny had five carries for 42 yards in the first half, after being limited the last month because of a hamstring injury.

The day began with speculation that the Seahawks were perhaps listening to trade offers for Penny. But do you really want to give up on this backfield combo right now?

 

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