Liverpool keeps City in view; Newcastle clear of bottom 3
The wind was howling. The rain was lashing down. The challenges were flying in. And, for once, Mohamed Salah was having a quiet day.
Everything was set up at Turf Moor for Liverpool to drop vital points against Burnley in its improbable attempt to reel in Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
Salvation came in the unlikely form of Fabinho.
Or perhaps not unlikely, given the defensive midfielder’s scruffy winner in the 1-0 victory on Sunday was actually his fifth goal in his last seven games in all competitions.
Who needs Salah?
“I am surprised at my form,” Fabinho, a player known for his tackles rather than goals, said with a smile.
What didn’t come as a surprise for Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was the fierce examination his team faced -- and passed -- against the league’s last-place team which didn’t really play like it.
“Everything today was set up to be a banana skin for us,” Klopp said. “The balls in the air were so tricky to defend because the wind came from all directions. We played the circumstances rather than suffered from them.
“We like each other, we respect each other. We had to work incredibly hard and that is what the boys did. We made our shirts dirty.”
The Reds aren’t letting up in their pursuit of City.
The lead is back down to nine points between the top two -- City briefly made it 12 by beating Norwich 4-0 on Saturday -- and Liverpool has a game in hand, at home to struggling Leeds on Feb. 23. Crucially, Klopp’s team also has to play away to City in April.
Much has been made of City’s 15-game unbeaten run in the league but Liverpool has quietly put an impressive streak together, winning six in a row in all competitions and losing just once since Nov. 7.
Both teams now see their fixture schedule get even more condensed with the return of the Champions League. City plays Sporting away on Tuesday and Liverpool is at Inter Milan the following day.
As for Burnley, the team remained in last place but is showing the sort of defensive resilience to perhaps stay up. Whether Burnley has enough goals in the side to make up a seven-point deficit to safety is another thing, especially with Newcastle — the team just outside the relegation zone — having won three straight league games on the back of some heavy spending in January.
“We looked a threat with some nearly moments,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. “There is not a lot I can fault with that performance.”
TRIPPIER’S FREE KICKS
A couple of free kicks from Kieran Trippier have helped Newcastle pull clear of the relegation zone.
His first was in a 3-1 win over Everton on Tuesday. On Sunday, he smashed one through the defensive wall, via a slight deflection, and high into the net to earn his team a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.
Newcastle, boosted by five arrivals — including Trippier — in January thanks to the recent Saudi-funded buyout, has won three straight league games and is four points clear of the bottom three.
Wolverhampton was the big winner Sunday in the race to finish in the top four.
A 2-0 win at defensively hapless Tottenham lifted Wolves above its beaten opponent and into seventh place, four points off fourth-place West Ham.
A few hours later, West Ham drew 2-2 at Leicester and is clinging onto the final Champions League qualification spot, a point ahead of fifth-place Manchester United.
Wolves scored both their goals in the opening 18 minutes, through Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker. Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was at fault for both of the goals, flapping twice at shots before Jimenez drove home a finish in the sixth minute and then executing a poor pass out prior to Dendoncker eventually scoring a scrappy second following a deflection off the post.
West Ham squandered a lead given to the team in the 10th minute by winger Jarrod Bowen’s seventh goal in his last seven games. Leicester turned the game around thanks to Youri Tielemans’ penalty on the stroke of halftime and Ricardo Pereira’s 57th-minute header, before Craig Dawson bundled in an equalizer in stoppage time.
Kurt Zouma was named in West Ham’s starting lineup but pulled out during the warm-up, having complained of feeling unwell.
The France international had been jeered by fans for the second straight game after being filmed kicking and slapping a cat, conduct which is the subject of an animal-abuse inquiry and led to him being fined two weeks’ salary and losing his sponsorship deal with Adidas.
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