LONDON: Liverpool kept hope of a Premier League title race alive as a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace cut the gap on leaders Manchester City to nine points, while Arsenal missed the chance to move into the top four after being held 0-0 by Burnley.
Jurgen Klopp’s men also have a game in hand to come on the champions and face City away in April with the chance to further reduce the gap.
By the time Liverpool take the field again on Premier League duty, they should be bolstered by the return of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane from their international duties at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The visitors showed no sign of missing their talismen as they blew Palace away in the opening half-hour.
Virgil van Dijk’s towering header from Andy Robertson’s corner opened the scoring just eight minutes in.
Robertson was the creator again when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled Liverpool’s lead with a calm finish.
However, Palace served to warn of what was to come in the second half before the break as Alisson Becker had to make fine saves from Michael Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta to keep the Eagles at bay.
The Brazilian spread himself brilliantly to deny Odsonne Edouard’s backheel, while Conor Gallagher somehow failed to turn in Olise’s dangerous cross in a blistering start to the second period from the hosts.
Palace finally got their reward with a brilliant move as Jeffrey Schlupp and Mateta teed up Edouard for a tap-in.
Alisson was needed once again to keep his side in the lead and turn Olise’s inventive lob behind.
But Liverpool’s two-goal cushion was restored in controversial circumstances a minute from time when a penalty was given after a lengthy VAR intervention for Vicente Guaita’s block on Diogo Jota.
Fabinho sent Guaita the wrong way from the spot to seal the points to Klopp’s relief.
Arsenal failed to bounce back from their League Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool in midweek as Mikel Arteta’s men were frustrated by a Burnley side that had not played a league game since Jan 2.
The Clarets have up to four games in hand on some of their relegation rivals and gave their hopes of survival a huge boost despite the remaining bottom of the table.
Nick Pope kept the Gunners at bay despite enjoying over 75 per cent possession and having 20 shots on goal.
Arsenal edge up to sixth but are two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United.
Leicester’s hopes of European football next season were dealt a huge blow by conceding twice deep into stoppage time to lose to Spurs in midweek.
Brendan Rodgers’ men were again guilty of giving up a lead as Brighton secured a third consecutive 1-1 draw.
Patson Daka fired home on the rebound after Robert Sanchez had saved from Harvey Barnes in the first minute of the second half.
But Brighton levelled eight minutes from the time when Danny Welbeck headed home Neal Maupay’s cross.
CITY’S WINNING STREAK FINALLY ENDS
On Saturday, Manchester City’s seemingly unstoppable charge to the Premier League title slowed slightly as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton, snapping a 12-match winning sequence that had distanced their rivals.
Manchester United moved into the top four of the Premier League with a last-second goal from Marcus Rashford earning them a 1-0 win over West Ham United at Old Trafford.
Everton began life after Rafa Benitez in much the same manner as they ended it — in defeat — a 1-0 loss at home to Aston Villa leaving them in 16th place, just four points above the relegation zone.
Newcastle United claimed only their second league win of the season as they beat Leeds United 1-0 away, boosting their hopes of beating the drop.
Wolverhampton Wanderers won 2-1 at Brentford where the match was halted because of a drone flying above the ground.
The three points pushed United above West Ham and back in the top four for the first time since early October.
United have 38 points from 22 matches while the Hammers are now fifth on 37 from 23.
Newcastle earned a vital 1-0 win at Leeds, moving them to 18th in the standings, one point from the safety zone, having played one game fewer than Norwich City in 17th, and seven points behind Leeds in 15th.
Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves struck in the 78th minute to seal a 2-1 win at Brentford although the main talking point was a 19-minute delay caused by a drone. Joao Moutinho’s opener had been cancelled out by Brentford’s Ivan Toney.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2022