Liverpool extends lead atop Premiership
Salah lifts Reds over Brighton • Arsenal slips up at West Ham • Chelsea overcomes Newcastle
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.