Jota caps Liverpool fightback as Man City, Chelsea win
It was Liverpool’s fourth successive victory since influential defender Virgil van Dijk was sidelined for several months
Diogo Jota capped Liverpool’s dramatic fightback as the Premier League champions beat West Ham 2-1 to move three points clear at the top, while Manchester City and Chelsea both won to keep in touch with the leaders on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were rocked by Pablo Fornals’ early strike at Anfield as the West Ham midfielder punished a poor header from Joe Gomez in the 10th minute.
The Reds drew level in the 42nd minute when Mohamed Salah was fouled by Arthur Masuaku and the Egyptian stepped up to convert the penalty for his eighth goal of the season.
Liverpool thought they had claimed the lead with just over 10 minutes remaining when substitute Jota turned in a loose ball.
Jota had pounced after Lukasz Fabianski saved Sadio Mane’s shot but after a lengthy delay that saw referee Kevin Friend make use of the pitchside monitor, the goal was ruled out for a foul by the Senegal winger.
With time running out, Jota ensured he would still finish as Liverpool’s hero.
In the 85th minute, the Portugal forward ran onto Xherdan Shaqiri’s pass to score his third goal since joining from Wolves in September.
It was Liverpool’s fourth successive victory since influential defender Virgil van Dijk was sidelined for several months with a serious knee injury suffered against Everton.
Despite their defensive issues this term, Liverpool have opened up a three-point lead over second placed Everton, with their Merseyside rivals in action at Newcastle on Sunday.
Title rivals City have yet to hit the free-scoring form of Pep Guardiola’s side at their best, as for the third consecutive league game they were held to a solitary goal.
But Kyle Walker’s long-range strike against his former club was good enough to earn a 1-0 win at goal-shy Sheffield United.
A fourth win in five games in all competition edges City up to eighth, five points behind Liverpool.
And there was another boost for City after the game as Guardiola ruled out a return to Barcelona despite interest from presidential candidates at the Catalan giants to bring the club’s most successful ever coach back to the Camp Nou.
“I said many times, my period as a manager in Barcelona is over,” said Guardiola, whose contract at the Etihad expires at the end of the season.
“I am incredibly happy here, still I have the desire to do well and this is the most important thing.”
On the field, there were plenty of positives for City as the newly-formed centre-back pairing of Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias played their part in a second consecutive clean sheet.
However, without injured strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, City struggled to turn their dominance into goals.
“We played really well,” added Guardiola. “We struggled to score goals for the chances we created, 16 shots, eight on target, is a lot against this team.”
Instead, Walker was the unlikely match-winner with his first goal for a year in his 100th Premier League appearance for City.
Chelsea are also finding their form after a slow start to the season as Frank Lampard’s men ran out 3-0 winners at Burnley to stretch their unbeaten run to nine games.
Hakim Ziyech was handed his first Premier League start after scoring in a 4-0 Champions League win away to Krasnodar in midweek and the Moroccan’s shot wrong-footed Nick Pope to open the floodgates for the visitors on 26 minutes.
Kurt Zouma’s bullet header then doubled Chelsea’s advantage from Mason Mount’s corner just after the hour mark.
Timo Werner was due to be rested until an injury in the warm-up to Christian Pulisic forced the German international into Lampard’s line-up.
And Werner rounded off an excellent second-half performance from the Blues with a fine finish from Ziyech’s pass.
After much criticism of his side’s defending, Lampard will be equally delighted at a fourth straight clean sheet as Chelsea moved up to fourth place.
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