Liver­pool’s path to ti­tle smooth after beat­ing Manch­ester City

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - ROB HAR­RIS

LIVER­POOL, ENG­LAND — Liver­pool surged eight points clear at the top of soc­cer’s Premier League by beat­ing Manch­ester City, 3-1, on Sun­day, es­tab­lish­ing a strong lead after 12 rounds. Fabinho and Mo­hamed Salah scored in­side the open­ing 13 min­utes, be­fore Sa­dio Mane headed in after the break to make it 11 wins out of 12 for un­beaten Liver­pool, which is chas­ing its first cham­pi­onship since 1990.

Fur­ther hin­der­ing City’s pur­suit of a third straight ti­tle, Le­ices­ter and Chelsea are di­rectly be­hind Liver­pool, while the cham­pi­ons are nine points be­hind in fourth place.

Just a point sep­a­rated City and Liver­pool when the sea­son ended in May. The gulf is vast now be­tween the English and Eu­ro­pean cham­pi­ons.

Where last sea­son’s ti­tle race was tense and thrilling, Juer­gen Klopp’s path to the ti­tle looks smooth.

Even the Liver­pool fans reined in their ran­cour for the City bus ar­rival at An­field. No hurl­ing of ob­jects or smash­ing of win­dows like in 2018. Just a cho­rus of jeers as the vis­it­ing coach snaked around the nar­row streets into the sta­dium as a haze of red smoke formed.

City thought it was the ref­eree’s vi­sion ob­scured after five min­utes when a penalty wasn’t awarded for Trent Alexan­der Arnold’s out­stretched right arm han­dling the ball. But City mid­fielder Bernardo Silva had al­ready helped the ball on with his hand in con­tra­ven­tion of the new laws of the game.

With play con­tin­u­ing, Liver­pool launched a coun­ter­at­tack that saw Mane charge down the left flank from in­side his own half.

A cross into the penalty area was half-cleared to Fabinho who struck from dis­tance past Clau­dio Bravo, who was fill­ing in for the injured Eder­son.

A VAR review con­firmed ref­eree Michael Oliver was right not to roll back play and award City a penalty at the other end, much to Pep Guardi­ola’s fury on the City bench.

And City’s makeshift de­fence was breached again in the 13th minute, again from a rapid move down the left.

When Andy Robert­son sent a cross into the penalty area, Salah got ahead of Fer­nand­inho to head past Bravo.

But far from be­ing de­mor­al­ized, City made the rest of the half un­com­fort­able for Liver­pool.

Left back An­gelino, on only his second Premier League start, saw a shot de­flect off the post. And Ser­gio Aguero dragged a shot wide in a sta­dium where he has not scored now in eight ap­pear­ances.

Any prospect of a come­back ap­peared to be ex­tin­guished six min­utes into the second half when City was picked apart from another cross.

Mane got on the end of Jor­dan Hen­der­son’s de­liv­ery from the right, head­ing in at the back post.

On a frus­trat­ing trip across the north­west for City, Bernardo Silva pulling one back in the 78th minute with a low strike was as good as it got.

JON SU­PER THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Liver­pool’s Vir­gil van Dijk cel­e­brates at the end of his English Premier League soc­cer match against Manch­ester City, at An­field Sta­dium in Liver­pool on Sun­day. Liver­pool won the game, 3-1.

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