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As Solskjaer, Klopp acclaim players, Sarri goes on offensive

January 19, 2019
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Chelsea's manager Maurizio Sarri gestures to his players during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates stadium in London, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shifted the acclaim onto his players as a Manchester United managerial record was broken. Juergen Klopp praised the character of title-chasing Liverpool. Maurizio Sarri, though, chose Saturday to eviscerate his Chelsea squad.

The drama on the field in the Premier League was no match for Sarri’s stinging attack on his team’s mental frailties after a 2-0 loss at Arsenal on Saturday night.

“It appears this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate,” the Italian coach said after seeing Chelsea manage just one shot on target after Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny scored in the first half for Arsenal.

The tone from Sarri was in marked contrast to Solskjaer after the Norwegian racked up a sixth successive league win at the start of his United reign thanks to Paul Pogba’s penalty and Marcus Rashford’s strike securing a 2-1 win over Brighton.

“The players have to be proud of the form and the momentum they are building,” Solskjaer said.

On a day of commemorations to mark 25 years since the death of Matt Busby, Solskjaer surpassed the start of the managerial great who only managed five wins in a row when he set out at United in 1945.

“Maybe in 10, 15, 20 years’ time I’ll look back on things like this,” he said. “I don’t care whatsoever about records at all. I’ve never ever bothered about these things. But of course to be part of a team that’s winning so much, that feels great.”

United remains sixth, just as it was when Solskjaer was hired to replace Jose Mourinho a month ago, but now Champions League qualification is back on the cards. The race for fourth position is looking wide open, with fourth-placed Chelsea only three points ahead of Arsenal and United.

TROPHY CHASE

United is still waiting for its first title since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. Liverpool has been waiting since 1990 but is now well placed to dethrone Manchester City as champion.

A 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace put Liverpool seven points ahead of City, which plays Sunday against last-place Huddersfield.

The Palace lead established by Andros Townsend in the first half was wiped out within eight minutes of the second half by Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

After Palace equalized through James Tomkins’ header, Salah restored Liverpool’s lead. In a frantic conclusion in stoppage time, after Liverpool had James Milner sent off, Sadio Mane scored for the hosts before Palace substitute Max Mayer netted.

“I have known the boys since 2015 and I have found boys with outstanding character,” Klopp said. “It’s not the first time this season we had to do it, but today it was pretty special and I really liked it.”

WOLVES COMEBACK

There was another 4-3 scoreline in central England. Wolverhampton edged a pulsating encounter with Leicester when Diogo Jota completed a hat trick in the third minute of stoppage time.

RELEGATION THREAT

Newcastle climbed out of the relegation zone, and sent Cardiff into the bottom three, with a 3-0 victory over the Welsh club. Southampton’s revival under Ralph Hasenhuettl continued with a 2-1 victory over Everton taking the south-coast team three points clear of danger. Burnley is between Newcastle and Southampton after drawing 0-0 at Watford.

In a mid-table meeting, Bournemouth beat West Ham 2-0.

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