Liverpool respond to stay top after Man City win

Monday, Feb 12, 2024

MANCHESTER: Manchester City claimed the Premier League summit only to be swiftly knocked off it by Liverpool on Saturday, in a sign of what is likely to be in store over the coming weeks in a nail-biting title race.

Erling Haaland’s double -- his first goals since returning from a foot injury -- earned champions City a 2-0 victory over an obdurate Everton side at The Etihad Stadium. That cranked up the pressure on Liverpool but Juergen Klopp’s side duly responded by beating Burnley 3-1 with Dioga Jota, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez all on target.

It meant the day ended as it had begun with Liverpool two points clear of City, who have played one game less. Liverpool have 54 points from 24 games with City on 52 from 23 and third-placed Arsenal, who face West Ham United on Sunday, on 49 from 23 games.

Klopp’s side, beaten by Arsenal last week, were not at their best again and had to work hard to subdue Burnley who actually equalised through Dara O’Shea’s header and looked capable of taking something home as they battle against relegation.

Jota headed Liverpool into the lead in the 31st minute and Diaz and Nunez, also with headers, secured the victory after the break to return Liverpool above City. “It’s not only the three points. You cannot have momentum guaranteed all the time,” Klopp, whose side host City on March 10, said. “It’s always a different challenge. If it’s not clicking straight away, fight through it. It was really tough today but the boys fought through and got three points.”

One worry for Klopp, however, was Trent Alexander-Arnold’s failure to emerge for the second half because of injury. City also found Everton a tough nut to crack and they did not muster a shot on target in the opening half.

Such is the firepower available to Pep Guardiola that even the stiffest resistance is usually pierced and Haaland’s return to the scoresheet was inevitable. His 15th and 16th goals of the season saw the Norwegian reclaim sole top spot in the league’s scorer list -- his second set up by Kevin De Bruyne, also recently back from injury.

“I cannot imagine him two months stopped and moving this huge body and be in shape again, but he is back,” Guardiola said. “I think he is going to help.” Tottenham Hotspur moved back into the top four -- leapfrogging Aston Villa -- thanks to Brennan Johnson who struck deep in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 home victory against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Pascal Gross’s penalty had given Brighton an early lead but Pape Matar Sarr levelled on the hour and Tottenham’s talisman Son Heung-min, who started on the bench having returned from the Asian Cup, set up Johnson with 96 minutes on the clock.

Tottenham have 47 points from 24 games although Villa, who have 46, play sixth-placed Manchester United on Sunday. Bottom club Sheffield United gave themselves a glimmer of hope in their survival battle as they won 3-1 at Luton Town to move level on 13 points with 19th-placed Burnley.

Luton, in 17th, wasted a golden chance to ease away from the relegation zone as goals by Cameron Archer, James McAtee and Vinicius de Souza gave Sheffield United their first away league win of the season and only their third win in all.

“They got two fours in their last two games so they’re no mugs... For us to get that win gives us a little bit of belief and a little bit of confidence,” United boss Chris Wilder said, referring to Luton’s four-goal performances in their two previous league matches.