United retain top spot after Liverpool draw

Published January 19, 2021
LIVERPOOL: Manchester United’s Paul Pogba (R) vies for the ball with Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool during their Premier League match at Anfield.—Reuters
LIVERPOOL: Manchester United’s Paul Pogba (R) vies for the ball with Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool during their Premier League match at Anfield.—Reuters

LONDON: Four games without a win for the first time since 2017. Three games without scoring for the first time since 2005.

The dominance of last season is becoming a distant memory for the defending Premier League champions.

Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with leaders Manchester United saw Juergen Klopp’s team drop to fourth behind Manchester City, who thrashed Crystal Palace 4-0 on Sunday, and Leicester City.

United are two points clear of second placed City, who have a game in hand, and Leicester. Liverpool are a further point back in fourth.

“There is nothing fundamentally different, it is just the result is different,” Klopp said. “We have not to worry about it, but we obviously have to ignore the fact and hope it will be good again. We did that, but the only possibility we have is to create situations and be ready to fail and do it again. That is a massive difference to when you are flying, because then you deal with the missed chances better.”

Targets are being revised, it seems, with a top-four finish the priority.

“We spoke about the fight for the Champions League, so that’s the most important thing and for that you need points,” Klopp said. “It’s not about, If we don’t become champions, it’s not fun anymore. That’s not like it is. We just fight for everything and I saw that tonight again. That’s all I need.”

This is a team albeit depleted by injuries that won the title by 18 points in July to end Liverpool’s 30-year title drought.

“I know that football fans in general are not the most patient species on the planet they want to win each football game,” Klopp said. “I am not very different to that, but I’m long enough in the business to know that you have to go through more difficult periods as well. And it’s not the most difficult in my life not even close to it.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has endured many difficulties but has now been in charge of United more than two years and leading the club’s first credible title challenge since Alex Ferguson retired with the Premier League trophy in his hands in 2013.

Only Alisson Becker’s fine saves from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba prevented United being the first team to win at Anfield since 2017.

“We were a bit disappointed in the performance, not just the result,” Solskjaer said. “We didn’t do well enough to cause them problems in the first half, but we defended well and they didnt create too many chances. We know we have players who can win you a game in the blink of a second and Bruno and Paul almost did.”

The draw at Anfield was the perfect result for City, who took advantage at the Etihad Stadium with their fifth successive league victory.

Pep Guardiola’s team scored in the 26th minute when Kevin De Bruyne’s majestic cross with the outside of his foot picked out John Stones and the defender headed his first Premier League goal for City.

City, unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions, doubled their lead 11 minutes into the second half when Ilkay Gundogan curled into the top corner.

Stones struck again in the 68th minute, blasting home after Ruben Dias’ header was saved, and Raheem Sterling made it four with an 88th minute free-kick.

“We were so stable. It’s an important victory,” Guardiola said. “We try to play the same way we have in the last few seasons and in the back four we don’t make mistakes. Last year was the worst. If there is one player I’m more than pleased that everything is going well, it’s John Stones. He deserves it.”

Tanguy Ndombele’s stunning strike sealed Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-1 win at Sheffield United.

Jose Mourinho’s side took an early lead through a rare goal from Ivory Coast defender Serge Aurier.

Harry Kane’s 19th goal of the season increased Tottenham’s advantage before half-time.

David McGoldrick got one back for bottom of the table United in the second half, but Ndombele’s sublime lob, flicked over his shoulder from an acute angle, wrapped up the points.

Fifth placed Tottenham are on a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions after winning at Bramall Lane for the first time since 1975.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2021

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