LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (second L) heads to score during the English Premier League match against Brentford at Anfield on Sunday.—AFP
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (second L) heads to score during the English Premier League match against Brentford at Anfield on Sunday.—AFP

LONDON: Liverpool found the goal-scoring alternatives needed in the absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane as their stand-ins stepped up in a 3-0 win over Brentford at Anfield to climb up to second in the Premier League on Sunday.

Midfielder Fabinho proved an unlikely solution with his third goal in eight days with the opener just before halftime when a corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold bounced to the back post and was nodded home by the Brazilian.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s diving header in the 69th and substitute Takumi Minamino’s close-range finish wrapped up the win.

A 0-0 draw against 10-man Arsenal in the League Cup on Thursday had raised questions about how Juergen Klopp’s side would cope while Salah and Mane remain at the African Cup of Nations, but this result offered more hope for the coming weeks.

With a first clean sheet in five league matches and a first league win since mid-December, Liverpool moved above Chelsea in second place but 11 points behind Manchester City with a game in hand.

And Klopp insisted Liverpool will not give up the chase of City.

“We don’t have to convince anybody outside [the club]. People who are with us, they want to enjoy the ride,” said Klopp. “This is not the situation to talk about a title race, 11 points with one game in hand. In a normal world [City win the league], but what is normal nowadays?”

In Sunday’s other game, West Ham United squandered a chance to cement fourth spot as they lost 3-2 at home to Leeds United with Jack Harrison scoring a hat-trick for the visitors.

After three successive wins West Ham had the chance to open up a five-point gap between themselves and fifth-placed Arsenal whose game at Tottenham Hotspur was postponed. But Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, missing seven players through injury or suspension, had other ideas.

Harrison put Leeds ahead at the London Stadium and netted again after Jarrod Bowen’s equaliser. When Pablo Fornals hauled West Ham level in the second half, Harrison had an instant response as the midfielder completed his treble.

West Ham remained fourth with 37 points but the three sides below them — Arsenal (35), Tottenham (33) and Manchester United (32) all have at least two games in hand.

On Saturday, Philippe Coutinho marked his debut for Aston Villa with a late equaliser to complete a dramatic comeback in a 2-2 draw against United, for whom Bruno Fernandes scored twice to put the visitors 2-0 ahead.

Everton boss Rafael Benitez was sacked on Sunday, a day after a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City, who moved off the bottom of the table with their third win of the campaign and dragged the visitors into the relegation picture.

Newcastle United conceded a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at home to Watford, missing the chance to escape the drop zone.

Eighth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers continued their good form with a 3-1 home win over Southampton thanks to goals from Raul Jimenez, Conor Coady and Adama Traore.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2022

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