Liver­pool ex­tends lead atop Premier­ship

Salah lifts Reds over Brighton • Arse­nal slips up at West Ham • Chelsea over­comes New­cas­tle

The Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS -

Liver­pool opened up a seven-point gap at the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Brighton & Hove Al­bion on Satur­day, while Arse­nal’s poor away form con­tin­ued with a 1-0 de­feat at West Ham United.

With near­est chal­lenger Manch­ester City not play­ing un­til Mon­day, Liver­pool went into its clash at Brighton on the back of two suc­ces­sive de­feats over all com­pe­ti­tions and was made to work hard for the three points.

Nei­ther side had a sin­gle shot on tar­get in the first half, with the match set­tled by a Mo­hamed Salah penalty in the sec­ond half. Liver­pool’s 50th clean sheet un­der Juer­gen Klopp car­ried the Reds home.

Fourth-place Chelsea opened up a six-point gap over Arse­nal in fifth with a 2-1 win over New­cas­tle United in the day’s late fix­ture.

Arse­nal’s de­feat means it has now won just one of its last seven matches on the road in the Premier League. If Manch­ester United beat third-place Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur at Wem­b­ley on Sun­day, the Red Devils had a chance to draw level on 41 points with Arse­nal.

There was no such slip-up from Liver­pool, even if Brighton did not make it easy for the league leader.

Roberto Firmino came close to giv­ing his side the lead early in the first half, but could not con­nect with An­drew Robert­son’s low cross.

For all its pos­ses­sion, though, it strug­gled to cre­ate any mean­ing­ful chances. Pas­cal Gross’s clumsy chal­lenge on Salah – who was voted as the African Foot­baller of the Year for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive year last week – earned Liver­pool the penalty which the Egyp­tian con­verted with aplomb.

Once again, Liver­pool’s de­fense stood firm as it saw out the win. Liver­pool has con­ceded just 10 goals in its 22 league matches this sea­son; only Chelsea in 2004/05 had con­ceded fewer after 22 matches in an English top-flight sea­son.

“You have to work hard if you want to be suc­cess­ful and we were ready for it,” said man­ager Juer­gen Klopp. “Be ready for the de­fend­ing, be ready for the counter-press and be ready to make so­lu­tions.

“I think it was the most ma­ture per­for­mance we have made so far. We take all the points. That’s the sit­u­a­tion. It’s cool but we know that the dif­fer­ence to­mor­row and Mon­day night could be dif­fer­ent. We can only con­cen­trate on our­selves.”

After its 22-match un­beaten run over all com­pe­ti­tions came to an end at Southamp­ton in mid-De­cem­ber, Arse­nal has strug­gled to find its form, with its away per­for­mances of par­tic­u­lar con­cern.

On Satur­day, mus­ter­ing just two shots on tar­get against West Ham at the Lon­don Sta­dium, Arse­nal’s de­cline con­tin­ued.

West Ham com­fort­ably held on after De­clan Rice got his first goal for the side – be­com­ing the first teenager to score a Premier League goal for the club in al­most 10 years.

“It’s a bad re­sult for us,” Arse­nal man­ager Unai Emery said. “It’s con­cern­ing be­cause we need to be com­pet­i­tive at home and away. At home we feel good but away we are not get­ting the re­sults we want.”

Pe­dro came in for Bay­ern Mu­nich tar­get Cal­lum Hud­son-Odoi for Chelsea against New­cas­tle at Stam­ford Bridge, with the Spaniard open­ing the

scor­ing in the ninth minute be­fore Ciaran Clark lev­eled for New­cas­tle five min­utes be­fore half­time.

Wil­lian was the match win­ner for Chelsea as he bril­liantly curled the ball into the net to score his first league goal since the end of Oc­to­ber to se­cure the points for Chelsea.

“I think it’s al­ways dif­fi­cult in the Premier League,” Wil­lian said. “We have to be more clin­i­cal.

“I think the char­ac­ter was good and the most im­por­tant thing is to win the game. I scored a good goal. I found the space and put the ball ex­actly where I wanted.”

At the bot­tom, Southamp­ton con­tin­ued their fine form away from home as they earned a hard-fought 2-1 win at Le­ices­ter City, de­spite hav­ing played half of the match with 10 men.

Burn­ley’s fourth win in a row lifted it to 15th in the ta­ble after it came from be­hind to earn a 2-1 vic­tory over fel­low strug­gler Ful­ham, while bot­tom side Hud­der­s­field Town was held to a 0-0 draw at Cardiff City. (Reuters)


CHELSEA FOR­WARD Eden Haz­ard (left) vies for the ball against New­cas­tle United’s Ay­oze Perez dur­ing the Blues’ 2-1 home vic­tory on Satur­day in Premier League ac­tion at Stam­ford Bridge.

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