‘It was ugly, but who cares?’: Klopp joy as Liverpool go top

‘It was ugly, but who cares?’: Klopp joy as Liverpool go top
Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) and Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino (L) celebrate after a late own goal from Tottenham Hotspur’s. PHOTO AFP

Collated English Premier League results 

Cardiff 1 Chelsea 2

Liverpool 2 Tottenham 1

Played Saturday

Brighton 0 Southampton 1

Burnley 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Crystal Palace 2 Huddersfield 0

Fulham 0 Man City 2

Leicester 2 Bournemouth 0

Manchester United 2 Watford 1

West Ham 0 Everton 2

Playing Monday (1900GMT)

Arsenal v Newcastle

Liverpool, United Kingdom | AFP |  Liverpool’s willpower is keeping their Premier League title hopes alive, admitted manager Jurgen Klopp after his side moved back top of the table in dramatic fashion with a 2-1 win over Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday.

Toby Alderweireld’s own goal a minute from time moved Liverpool two points ahead of title rivals Manchester City.

Klopp’s men still need City to slip up in their remaining seven games as the champions have a game in hand.

However, Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’s error to parry the ball in off the unfortunate Alderweireld was reminiscent of Jordan Pickford’s mistake to also gift Divock Origi a late winner against Everton earlier in the season, suggesting Liverpool’s luck may be in this year.

“I told the boys after the game there are 500,000 ways probably to win a football game. Today it was rather ugly, but without a bit of luck you cannot be in the position we are,” said Klopp.

“If we are top of the table after the last matchday it would be a championship of will.”

Liverpool’s hopes of ending a 29-year wait to win the title looked set to be dealt a massive blow as Lucas Moura’s strike 20 minutes from time cancelled out Roberto Firmino’s early opener.

And the visitors will be left to regret Moussa Sissoko missing a huge chance to inflict Liverpool’s first home league defeat in nearly two years five minutes from time.

Spurs are now in serious danger of crashing out of the top four as they remain level on points with Manchester United and could be usurped by north London rivals Arsenal into third should the Gunners beat Newcastle on Monday.

“Overall I think we were better than Liverpool,” said Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. “It is difficult to explain, but at the same time I am proud of the performance.”

Pochettino’s men remain without a Premier League win since February 10. However, the Argentine wants to set that record right at the opening night of the club’s new 62,000 capacity stadium against Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“The new stadium must be a big boost for everyone,” said Pochettino. “I was telling the players in the changing room we have seven games and we are in top four and we need to compete. It’s a mini-league and, playing the way we played today, I think we can achieve the top four.”

– Kop delirium –
Spurs started brightly, but conceded with Liverpool’s first significant attack when Firmino headed home the opener on 16 minutes from a delightful Andy Robertson cross.

That was Robertson’s 12th assist of the season from left-back and the Scotland captain was involved again in a flowing move moments later as he forged down the left and neat touches from Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum teed up Sadio Mane to curl just wide.

Liverpool were thankful to Robertson at the other end after the break as he made a vital block to prevent Christian Eriksen firing home on the rebound after Alisson Becker was forced into his first save of the afternoon by Harry Kane.

Salah has now scored just once in his last 11 games and his wasted chance to give Liverpool some breathing space when Alderweireld blocked the Egyptian’s shot with Mane better placed and begging for a pass looked costly when Tottenham levelled.

Kane’s quick thinking and excellent long-range pass picked out Kieran Trippier, who fed Eriksen and his scuffed shot fell perfectly for Moura to turn home.

As Liverpool surged forward in search of a winner, Spurs could have picked them off as Sissoko blazed over with just Alisson to beat before Alli clipped a shot inches wide.

Instead, there was delirium in front of the Kop end when Lloris parried Salah’s header into Alderweireld and the ball ricocheted over the line to breathe fresh life into Liverpool’s title challenge.

In Sunday’s other game,  Maurizio Sarri insists he will fight to remain Chelsea manager despite fans chanting for him to be sacked during their controversial 2-1 win at Cardiff City.

Sarri’s position looked precarious when Chelsea trailed 1-0 against Premier League strugglers Cardiff with just six minutes remaining.

Victor Camarasa’s goal looked likely to dent Chelsea’s pursuit of a top four finish and their supporters’ anger towards Sarri was audible.

But a dubious equaliser from Cesar Azpilicueta, who was clearly offside, and a stoppage-time Ruben Loftus-Cheek winner rescued Sarri’s team, who stay within touching distance of a place in next season’s Champions League.

Asked how he had felt when the chants of “We want Sarri out” rang out from the visiting fans, Sarri said: “I don’t want to answer, but I can understand the reaction of the fans.

“But it was probably best for them to wait until the end of the match.”

Sarri insisted he wouldn’t let the supporters’ abuse drive him out of Stamford Bridge, although he may yet have that decision taken out of his hands if Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League.

“I am getting used to this and for me it’s not a big problem. I just have to work to change their opinion,” he said.

“I want to stay here. When I arrived the team were 30 points behind Manchester City. I want to stay and improve results, but it is not easy work.

“At the moment, there is a difference between Manchester City, Liverpool and us.”

The victory keeps Chelsea in sixth place, but only a point behind fourth-placed Manchester United, and may also have emboldened Sarri to launch a staunch defence of his selection decisions.

He began with both Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante on the substitutes’ bench and failed to hand an appearance to in-form England teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi.

“Hazard cannot play 70 matches a season,” added Sarri. “Kante has played a lot of games and in every season there is a moment when you have to give players a rest.”

– ‘We were lucky’ –

Azpilicueta’s goal drew anger from Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and Sarri admitted his team had been fortunate that the linesman did not spot that the Chelsea skipper was in an offside position when a corner was flicked on by Marcos Alonso.

“We were lucky with the first goal. But I think we deserved to win,” Sarri said.

“I haven’t see the replay, but Neil told me he was sure he was offside by two yards.

“He told me about the referee’s decision, but I can understand the situation.”

Chelsea looked jaded for the opening 45 minutes and although it was goalless at half-time, they fell behind less than a minute after the re-start.

A half-cleared throw-in allowed Harry Arter to set up Camarasa for a sweetly-struck half volley.

Chelsea’s efforts to find an equaliser were thwarted by a resolute Cardiff until the 84th minute when Azpilicueta struck.

Cardiff’s anger had hardly cooled by the time Loftus-Cheek stooped to head in a cross from Willian.

The result leaves Cardiff five points from safety, although they do have a game in hand on Burnley above them and the two clubs face each other in a crucial fixture in a fortnight.

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock said Azpilicueta’s goal only reinforced the need for the introduction of VAR into the Premier League.

“If anybody was in doubt before today, I think VAR has got to be the answer to help them out. VAR would have sorted the goal out within seconds,” Warnock said.

“We’ve worked on things for the last three weeks and one of them is coming out at corner kicks and leaving a man i

 

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