Liverpool shrugged off an injury crisis to move level on points with Tottenham at the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Leicester to set a new club record of 64 unbeaten league games at Anfield.
The champions were without the injured Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while top scorer Mohamed Salah was absent due to a positive coronavirus test.
Liverpool were not derailed by an injury crisis as Jurgen Klopp’s men produced a dominant display to beat Leicester 3-0 and move level on points with Premier League leaders Tottenham.
Klopp was missing seven first-team regulars through injury and top scorer Mohamed Salah due to a positive coronavirus test, but Liverpool still swept aside a Leicester team who had started the weekend on top of the table.
Jonny Evans’s own goal was just reward for the Reds’ bright start before Diogo Jota set a record-breaking start to life at Anfield.
The Portuguese international became the first Liverpool player to score in his first four home league games when he headed home Andy Robertson’s inch-perfect cross.
Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal kept the score down as he made a series of second-half saves, notably from Sadio Mane and Jota, while Evans had a lucky escape as the post prevented him from scoring a second own goal.
Roberto Firmino thought he had been denied just his third league goal in 24 games when the Brazilian’s shot came back off the post and his follow-up was cleared by Marc Albrighton with just 10 millimetres of the ball not over the line.
But Firmino rounded off a brilliant team performance by rising highest to meet James Milner’s corner.
Another muscle injury suffered by Naby Keita was the only negative for Klopp on a night when his side showed they will not give up their title easily despite losing centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez for the rest of the season.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has now lost all three meetings against his former club and just like the previous meeting between the sides, which Liverpool won 4-0 in December, the Foxes were shown the gulf they have to bridge to become title contenders.
Harvey Barnes wasted one big opportunity for the visitors when he sliced wide Jamie Vardy’s cross at 1-0.
But the end to a six-game winning run sees Leicester fall back to fourth, two points off the top.
Liverpool paid tribute to former goalkeeper Ray Clemence, who died aged 72 after a long battle with prostate cancer this week, before kick-off.
Alisson Becker wore a replica of Clemence’s jersey from the 1981 European Cup final win over Real Madrid in the warm-up, while his former teammates Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush paid their respects from the stands.
And two of Liverpool’s greatest ever players also got the chance to show their appreciation to the current crop, who surpassed a club record they set between 1978 and 1981, as Klopp’s men are now unbeaten in 64 league games at Anfield stretching back to April 2017.
Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino scored the crucial goal as Brazil laboured to a 1-0 win over a well organized but limited Venezuela in their World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Firmino broke the deadlock on 66 minutes in Sao Paulo, poaching a goal after Venezuelan defender Darwin Machis’ attempt to clear an Everton Ribeiro cross fell to him a few yards out.
Firmino’s 16th goal in 47 appearances for the Selecao was enough to maintain their 100 per cent record in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Brazil have already beaten Bolivia (5-0) and Peru (4-2) and top the South American qualifying table with Argentina second.
Venezuela, who lost their first two qualifiers, were set up to contain and held the Brazilians scoreless at half time in the deserted Morumbi stadium.
The hosts missed the injured Neymar’s creativity in midfield, but even with an attack sporting Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, they could find no way through the mass Venezuelan defence in the first half.
Richarlison did have the ball in the net early on but the Everton striker’s celebrations were cut short when Firmino was adjudged to have been narrowly offside in the buildup.
For all Brazil’s pressing, Wuilker Farinez had little enough to do in the Venezuela goal, but the keeper made a flying save to beat away a bouncing shot from Firmino just before the half-hour, the Liverpool striker heading the resulting corner well wide.
With 75 per cent possession but short of ideas in attack, most of Brazil’s threat came from the left and it was from there they worked their best chance on 32 minutes, Atletico Madrid’s Renan Lodi whipping in a cross that Gabriel Jesus and then Richarlison, at full stretch, failed to turn in to a gaping goal.
Venezuela’s only threat came from a break up the left wing by Yeferson Soteldo, whose cross for Salomon Rondon was hacked away by Marquinhos.
Rondon, formerly of West Bromwich Albion and now plying his trade for Chinese Super Lague club Dalian Professional, otherwise cut an isolated figure when not busy with defensive duties.
Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson, who hardly touched the ball during the whole match, reacted quickly to scramble the ball away when Rondon briefly threatened the Brazil goal at the death.
Venezuela’s Corinthians star Romulo Otero wasted Venezuela’s only other real chance when he fired a 25-meter free kick over Ederson’s bar in injury time.
A worried Brazilian coach Tite will have seen how sorely his side missed Neymar’s invention.
The Paris Saint-Germain star, who suffered a thigh injury in a Champions League match last month, is also set to miss Tuesday’s match with Uruguay in Montevideo.
Venezuela host a resurgent Chile in Caracas on Tuesday.
Jose Peseiro’s side are likely to maintain their uncomfortable record of being the only South American team never to qualify for a World Cup.
For the past three years, Manchester City and Liverpool have dominated the Premier League to an extent never seen before in English football.
But after three seasons in which the title winner has averaged 99 points, neither side carries the same fear factor in an unpredictable campaign that offers a series of challengers hope of winning the league.
Defending champions Liverpool still head to City on Sunday in second place, trailing surprise leaders Southampton only by goal difference.
But Jurgen Klopp’s men have already dropped more points in seven games than they did in their opening 27 in romping to the title last season.
Of more lasting damage to their title credentials, the Reds have also lost the towering presence of defender Virgil van Dijk for what looks set to be the lion’s share of the season.
Even when the giant Dutchman was still present, Liverpool suffered a historic 7-2 humiliation to Aston Villa a month ago that leaves them with still the worst defensive record in the league.
“So many things are different this year,” said Klopp on Friday in a season where a packed schedule and empty stadiums appear to be levelling the playing field.
“Nothing is to compare with last year. Nothing is to compare with the year before.
“We just have to make sure we get through very intense periods, line up the fittest players and play the best football we can. In this case, it is against Man City, which is obviously one of the most difficult games to play in the world.”
Fitness issues have also contributed to City’s shaky start.
After a two-week-long pre-season due to their Champions League commitments in August, Pep Guardiola’s men won just two of their opening five league games, including a 5-2 thrashing at home to Leicester.
Injuries to Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have left City often without a natural striker, while Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan also missed matches due to positive coronavirus tests.
City start the weekend down in 10th, albeit just five points off Liverpool and with a game in hand.
– Too early to call –
Both have steadied the ship in recent weeks and remain bookies favourites to fight for the title.
But they face stiff competition with Chelsea and Tottenham significantly strengthening for a title challenge, while Guardiola warned of the threat posed by Leicester and Arsenal.
“They (Liverpool) are the biggest favourite, but I think what happened with the pandemic this season is different, so I see other teams really strong,” said Guardiola.
Yet, the mutual respect between the two managers mean they continue to see each other as the biggest threat for the title.
Guardiola admitted earlier this year that Klopp’s Liverpool are “the toughest rival I have faced in my career.”
But City have never lost at home to Liverpool in the league since the Catalan arrived in Manchester, including a 4-0 thrashing of the newly-crowned champions when they last met in July.
Clashes between the two have gone a long way to settling the destiny of the title in recent years. After an uncertain start to the season, City’s 5-0 triumph over a 10-man Liverpool in September 2017 was the second of an 18-match winning run that catapulted them towards a record 100 Premier League points.
A thrilling 2-1 win for Guardiola’s side in January 2019 was Liverpool’s only defeat of the season in which they still missed out on the title despite amassing 97 points.
Last season it was Liverpool’s 3-1 success early in the campaign that opened up a nine-point lead between the sides that City never recovered from.
This time, though, Guardiola believes it is too early to make conclusions this time, much like another battle for power this week.
“It’s an important game, but as the presidential elections in the United States of America, all the votes must be counted,” he said on Friday. “There are a lot of points to play (for).”
Manchester City’s bid to regain the Premier League title faces a defining moment against leaders Liverpool this weekend, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fights to silence the critics as troubled Manchester United take on Everton.
City are already five points behind Liverpool, albeit with a game in hand, and cannot afford to lose to the champions at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola’s side have allowed Liverpool to steal a march on them after winning just three of their first six league games.
Although City have won five of their last six games in all competitions, including a midweek Champions League success against Olympiakos, they remain some way short of their peak form.
Hampered by Sergio Aguero’s recurring injury problems, City have lacked a cutting edge at times.
Guardiola can take heart from the return to fitness of Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, who came off the bench to score against Olympiakos.
Acknowledging the significance of the Liverpool match to City’s title hopes, Jesus said: “It’s a very important game for us. It’s a direct confrontation against the leader of the table.
“We need to be very focused, especially playing at home. We need to play our way and try to win the game. We need to win those three points if we want to aspire to win the Premier League again.”
While City have made a spluttering start, Liverpool appear back to their best despite the absence of key defender Virgil van Dijk.
Klopp has been forced to alternate between inexperienced youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips as Joe Gomez’s partner in central defence, but the Liverpool machine is still running smoothly.
Jurgen Klopp’s team have won five games in all competitions and conceded just two goals since Van Dijk suffered the serious knee injury that is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season.
Liverpool, one point clear of second placed Leicester, crushed Atalanta 5-0 in the Champions League in midweek thanks to in-form Diogo Jota’s hat-trick.
“We are not a team of only one player. The last weeks have been difficult times because we have lost some important players in our team, but now we have many coming back as well,” Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker said.
– Under pressure – Meanwhile, Manchester United’s dismal start to the season has left Solskjaer in danger of the sack.
After two successive losses, another damaging defeat at Everton would put the Norwegian under intense pressure amid reports United’s board have made contact with representatives of former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.
United’s shock 2-1 defeat at Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League on Wednesday was an especially embarrassing night for Solskjaer as his team’s defensive frailties came back to haunt him yet again.
Beaten by Arsenal in the league last weekend, United are off to their worst start at home since 1972, so Solskjaer might welcome an away game against an Everton side who have lost their last two games.
But Solskjaer, whose side sit just four points above the relegation zone, will know the forthcoming international break potentially presents an opportunity for his dismissal if he doesn’t inspire a win against Everton.
United, losers in three of their six league games, have not been beaten in four of their first seven in a league campaign since 1989-90.
“I decline to comment on such a thing. Of course, it’s early on and opinions are out there all the time. You’ve got to stay strong,” Solskjaer said after the shambles in Istanbul.
“I’m employed by the club to do a job and I do that to the best of my ability with my staff.”
Elsewhere this weekend, if Liverpool drop points against City, then Leicester, who host Wolves, or Tottenham, who travel to West Bromwich Albion, could seize first place.
Fixtures (all times GMT):
Brighton v Burnley (1730), Southampton v Newcastle (2000)
Everton v Manchester United (1230), Crystal Palace v Leeds (1500), Chelsea v Sheffield United (1730), West Ham v Fulham (2000)
West Brom v Tottenham (1200), Leicester v Wolves (1400), Manchester City v Liverpool (1630), Arsenal v Aston Villa (1915)
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 Egyptians 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.
In the 85th minute, Jota ran onto Xherdan Shaqiri’s pass to score his fourth 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.
“It’s not about shining, or flying, or whatever, it’s about hard work. That was absolutely necessary against this opponent,” Klopp said after Liverpool equalled their club record of 63 home league games unbeaten.
“We had a lot of good football, not 500 chances or whatever but enough. I want to see us dig in and we did that, and I’m so happy.”
While Liverpool were completing their win, government officials confirmed the Premier League could continue despite a new national lockdown that will last until at least December.
“The world is in a difficult place and we are happy to be allowed to play football,” Klopp said.
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.
It was his first goal for a year in his 100th Premier League appearance for City.
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.”
– Chelsea hit their stride – 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.
Virgil van Dijk has undergone successful knee surgery and will begin rehabilitation, Premier League champions Liverpool said on Friday.
The club would not say how long the 29-year-old central defender would be out.
Van Dijk, who was pivotal in both Liverpool’s Champions League success in 2019 and their title triumph last season, suffered cruciate ligament damage after a tackle from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford earlier this month.
“Virgil van Dijk has undergone surgery on the knee ligament injury he sustained earlier this month,” read a club statement.
“The Liverpool defender’s planned operation took place in London and was conducted successfully.
“Van Dijk will now immediately focus on the beginning of his rehabilitation with the support of the Reds’ medical department.
“No timeframe has been placed on the Dutchman’s return to action.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told his press conference on the eve of their Premier League home game with West Ham that Van Dijk was doing okay.
“This time (after a operation) is always unpleasant,” said Klopp.
“You don’t just wake up and everything is fine, you still feel the surgery. But he’s as good as can be.
“It’s clear to say he is a quick healer. That’s all clear, all these things help.”
The 53-year-old German said it was time to move on even though Liverpool have spoken to referee chief Mike Riley about why VAR was not referred to.
Pickford’s challenge has been labelled as “stupid” by Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum but Klopp drew a line under it.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I would immediately if it would change anything but it doesn’t,” he said.
“I’m not sure the world is in a place right now where we have to keep this story going.
“Yes we still feel something about it, but nothing that will happen will change that. So I’ve nothing else to say.”
The Dutch international’s absence adds to Liverpool’s problems in central defence.
Joel Matip has missed the last three games injured and makeshift centreback Fabinho limped off in the first half of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Midtjylland with what is believed to be hamstring injury.
“Fab (Fabinho) is not in, he has a little injury,” said Klopp.
“He’s out for the weekend and slightly longer but all the others are in contention.”
Klopp said that rather than letting the increasing number of injured players get to him he embraces the problem.
“Do I see the challenge in the situation? Yes,” said Klopp.
“Do I see it as an opportunity? Yes.
“But still we play games every three days and this will stay a challenge.
“I am fine, we are fine. We will deal with the situation and make the best of it. That’s the plan.”
Liverpool were denied a cathartic victory against Premier League leaders Everton by VAR and Chelsea drew 3-3 with Southampton on another day of breathless drama in the English top-flight on Saturday.
Manchester City beat Arsenal 1-0 as Pep Guardiola got the better of former assistant Mikel Arteta, while misfiring Manchester United prepared to take on Newcastle in the late kick-off.
Jurgen Klopp’s champions were desperate to atone for their 7-2 mauling against Aston Villa before the international break but were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw after Jordan Henderson’s late strike was chalked off for offside.
Everton, who have not beaten Liverpool since 2010, remain three points clear of their Merseyside rivals at the top of the table after a number of controversial calls went their way at Goodison Park.
But Klopp was mystified that Henderson’s potential winner in added time against 10-man Everton was ruled out for a barely perceptible offside decision against Sadio Mane.
He was also at a loss to explain how Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had not been dismissed and had not conceded an early penalty for a knee-high challenge on Virgil van Dijk.
“There were a number of big moments in the game,” said a baffled Klopp. “The only situation I saw back is the Henderson goal and I didn’t see offside. The picture I saw is no offside, but it was offside because somebody decided it.”
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti was delighted with his side’s performance, even though they were denied a fifth straight Premier League win.
“We competed with them,” he said. “We were 1-0 down and equalised, 2-1 down and equalised. It was a good test and I have a good feeling.
“To know we can compete with the champions of the last season it gives us more confidence for the future.”
Sadio Mane, who missed the Villa Park mauling after testing positive for coronavirus, put Liverpool ahead in the third minute.
But the pivotal moment in the match came when Van Dijk was on the receiving end of a dangerous late lunge from Pickford inside the box minutes later.
However, no penalty was awarded after a VAR review because Van Dijk had been marginally offside and Pickford was lucky to avoid a red card.
The Dutchman was substituted and his towering presence was missed at the other end as Michael Keane equalised in the 19th minute.
Mohamed Salah put Liverpool back in front 18 minutes from time but Dominic Calvert-Lewin netted his 10th goal of the season to pull Everton level again.
Richarlison was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle on Thiago Alcantara in the 90th minute and Everton were grateful for the intervention of VAR in the final seconds.
Chelsea looked to be in total control after cruising into a 2-0 lead against Southampton at Stamford Bridge, courtesy of new signing Timo Werner’s first Premier League goals.
But a goal from Danny Ings shortly before half-time and a second-half strike from Che Adams wiped out their lead.
Frank Lampard’s side rallied immediately to regain the lead, Werner teeing up Kai Havertz for a neat dinked finish to make it 3-2.
But Southampton were not to be denied and Jannik Vestergaard bludgeoned home an added-time equaliser for Saints from a free-kick that Chelsea failed to clear.
Lampard said his side had to tighten up at the back after conceding three goals for the second time this season.
“We are seeing lots of goals across the league and no manager is happy” he said.
“I don’t know why it is. There are attacking players in this league and maybe pre-season and lack of working time plays a part. But we have to get better at it.”
City returned to winning ways after an indifferent start to the season, courtesy of a first-half goal from Raheem Sterling.
Aguero drove forward and fed Phil Foden on the left, with the England midfielder cutting in to shoot. Bernd Leno could only parry his effort, which fell kindly for Sterling to sidefoot home.