Liverpool: A spectacular strike from Mohamed Salah helped Liverpool maintain their two point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League title race with a crucial 2-0 win over Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday.
City won 3-1 at Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday meaning Liverpool have 85 points with four games to go and City are on 83 with an additional match to play.
But with Pep Guardiola’s side having to face Tottenham and Manchester United in the next 10 days and Liverpool having no more matches against top six teams, Juergen Klopp’s side have a glorious chance to end their club’s 29-year wait for a domestic league title.
After a fascinatingly even first half, Liverpool turned on the style after the break with a 51st minute header from Sadio Mane and then a long-range screamer from Salah two minutes later blowing Chelsea away.
“I’m so proud of the team, it was a fantastic performance,” said Klopp.
“What a team, what a stadium, what an atmosphere. I’m so thankful I can be a part of this, it’s great. It’s just outstanding, very overwhelming at times,” said the German.
Although the brilliant Eden Hazard hit the post for the visitors, there was a real determination about the way Liverpool approached the second half -- closing down across the field and yet still pushing forward in search of a third to totally kill the game.
That did not come but with only lowly Cardiff City, relegated Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United and Wolves remaining as hurdles, this was the biggest obstacle in Liverpool’s run in, cleared with some margin to spare.
Hazard, playing in a central role, had been a constant threat in the opening half while Liverpool’s cutting edge was not quite there. Mane went close with a curling effort and a Firmino toe poke forced Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga into action.
Chelsea had arguably had the better of the opening half but whatever Klopp said to his team at the break certainly had the desired effect.
The breakthrough came when Salah weaved into the area, putting the Chelsea defence on the back foot and Henderson picked out Mane at the back post with the Senegalese forward confidently heading home.
If that goal brought a feeling of relief, it was pure joy two minutes later when Salah scored a sensational second -- the Egyptian receiving the ball on the right flank and cutting inside before unleashing an unstoppable drive from 25 metres out into the far, top corner.
“It blows me away,” said Klopp.
“I had the best view of it. I saw earlier than most people that it would go in. What a finish, what a shot. But the whole move around it. Wow, brilliant,” he added.
Chelsea responded positively, though, with David Luiz picking out Hazard with a ball over the top, the Belgian beating the advancing Alisson Becker only to see his shot bounce out off the post.
Moments later, Becker then had to be alert to keep out a Hazard shot from a Willian cross as Chelsea searched in vain for a way back.
But having been warned, Liverpool were alert to the Hazard threat and they could have had a third themselves in the 89th minute with Mane forcing Arrizabalaga into a reflex save.
The jubilant reaction of the crowd at the final whistle, showed the importance of these three points.
The pressure is on City ahead of 10 days which could determine the outcome of this fascinating title race.
MANCHESTER CITY STAY ON TOP OF THE LEAGUE RACE
Raheem Sterling struck twice as the Premier League champions Manchester City beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park on Sunday to stay within two points of leaders Liverpool.
Happy daysApril 14, 2019
Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-0 at Anfield to move to 85 points with four games remaining and City are on 83 but with an extra game in hand.
The victory was the ninth straight win for City in the Premier League and manager Pep Guardiola says they will need to extend that run to 14 victories to successfully defend their title.
“We expect Liverpool to win all of their remaining games, but the Premier League is in our hands and we have to win all our games and that’s what we need to do if we want to win the title back-to-back,” he said.
Having missed an easy chance early on, Sterling put City ahead in the 15th minute when he ran on to Kevin De Bruyne’s inch-perfect pass from behind the halfway line and fired past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
The England international added a second for his 17th league goal of the season after the break, meeting Leroy Sane’s first-time cross into the box with a calm left-footed finish that wrong-footed Guaita as it rolled in.
Palace ensured an entertaining finish to the contest when Luka Milivojevic scored from a free kick with nine minutes to go after midfielder James McArthur was brought down on the edge of the penalty area.
City, however, sealed the deal with their third of the match as De Bruyne latched on to a poor pass from defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka before feeding substitute Gabriel Jesus who finished emphatically.
Former Liverpool forward Sterling predicted that the title race will endure until the last minute of the season.
“100 percent the way Liverpool have been playing, it will go down to the wire. I don’t see us slowing down now. Liverpool have a great squad, great self-belief, but so do we,” Sterling said.
City now face a crucial ten days starting with a home game against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday in their Champions League quarter-final second leg, trailing 1-0 from the opening game.
Guardiola’s side then play Spurs at the Etihad again, in the league, on Saturday before the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on April 24.
“The players have shown me they want to do it - I didn’t have any doubts about that - and we have taken three points from a very difficult place to win,” said Guardiola.
“We have played with incredible personality in the last two or three months - for the last month we’ve known that if we drop points it will be more difficult if not impossible to win the title.
“Of course, Liverpool or we could drop points when you don’t expect, and football is unpredictable in that sense,” he added.
“But we don’t have any complaints - we have taken 183 points in two seasons and still have five games left. Those are incredible numbers and show how consistent we are.”