Liverpool can cope without Mohamed Salah scoring. Not so Tottenham when a lethargic Harry Kane is misfiring.
Chasing a first English title since 1990, Liverpool swept to a fifth successive win at the start of the Premier League on Saturday with goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino clinching a 2-1 win at Tottenham.
Tottenham is paying the price for England's deep progress at the World Cup, where the Kane-led team unexpectedly making the final weekend and finishing fourth.
While Kane collected the Golden Boot in Russia, the six goals came in his first three games and that was followed by a three-match barren run. The striker did net twice in August for Tottenham, but he hasn't found the net in the last two games for the north London club and his scoring touch evaded him in last Saturday's England loss to Spain.
Kane, who was the second-highest scorer in the league behind Salah last season, looks in need of a break to rest and recover a weary body. Kane also lined up on the Wembley Stadium pitch with three World Cup teammates: Defenders Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier, and midfielder Eric Dier.
Tottenham managed only three shots on target to Liverpool's 10, including Erik Lamela's angled strike in stoppage time. It gave the flicker of hope that an equalizer could be grabbed, and Son Heung-min was then denied a penalty when he was kicked by Sadio Mane.
A point wouldn't have been deserved by Spurs after such an inferior display.
The lack of depth in Tottenham's squad is clear — particularly the lack of a quality backup striker to Kane — after being the only Premier League team to make no offseason additions. Liverpool, by contrast, spent more than $220 million on refreshing the squad and is now enjoying its best start since 1990.
"I don't want to complain about the World Cup," Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said. "(It's) a tough start to the season because it's a challenge to work with a team that arrives a few days before the start of the competition."
Hugo Lloris, who won the World Cup with France, is out injured and Tottenham was reliant on Michel Vorm in goal against Liverpool.
The Dutchman flapped at the corner that led to Liverpool's opener. It was punched to Dier, whose weak header presented Wijnaldum with the opportunity to nod high into the net. Vorm tried to claw it onto the bar, but goal-line technology ruled it crossed the line in the 39th minute.
The second came in the 54th when Mane was able to glide past Trippier. Mane's shot was diverted onto the post by Jan Vertonghen but Vorm couldn't recover his positioning and Firmino turned the ball into the net.
"The performance was better than the result," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. "We could have scored more and we controlled the game."
Almost a year after Tottenham humbled Liverpool 4-1 at Wembley, before finishing third, the fortunes of the teams have been reversed.
Liverpool is the early front-runner alongside Chelsea, which has also won five out of five.
But just like its delayed new stadium across north London, which this game was originally due to open, the Tottenham team is still a work in progress.
"I am not going to complain because after three victories it was all fantastic and now after two defeats it's not a disaster," Pochettino said. "I am not worried I promise you. We are going to win a lot of games. I completely trust my squad."
The next challenge is in the Champions League with a trip to Inter Milan on Tuesday when Liverpool hosts Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the group stage.
UNITED DELIVER RESULTS, MOURINHO NOT HAPPY
Manchester United ended Watford's unexpectedly perfect start to the English Premier League with a 2-1 victory in the fifth round on Saturday.
Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling scored inside three minutes in the first half and Jose Mourinho's side had to withstand a second-half fightback by Watford.
After Andre Gray was left unmarked to pull one back for Watford, United was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time: Nemanja Matic received a second booking for bringing down Will Hughes.
It then took David de Gea's fingertips save from Abdoulaye Doucoure's header to ensure United claimed a third victory of the campaign.
Fourth-place Watford is still ahead of United, although the gap between the sides has been narrowed to three points.
"I am very happy with the spirit," United manager Jose Mourinho said. "I feel a bit frustrated because we had everything in the first half."
But only two goals. Lukaku steered Ashley Young's cross into the net with his chest in the 35th minute. The lead could have been doubled almost immediately with former United goalkeeper Ben Foster pushing over a strike from Paul Pogba.
But United would not be made to wait much longer as another Pogba shot from the resulting corner was blocked behind.
This time Young's corner was sent deep into the box, with Marouane Fellaini's knock-down skillfully controlled on the chest by Smalling, with the defender on the turn then sending the ball past Foster.
"If we played the second half the way we did the last part of the first half we would be in this moment with a completely different result," Mourinho said. "The beginning of the second half we let the game go down in intensity and stopped being aggressive. We gave them the chance to be reborn, score a goal and give us a difficult match."
(With AP Inputs)