Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool earned a record-equalling 18th consecutive Premier League win as the runaway leaders came from behind to beat West Ham 3-2 thanks to Sadio Mane’s late strike on Monday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were in danger of dropping Premier League points for the first time since their draw at Manchester United on October 20 after falling behind in the second half at Anfield.
Georginio Wijnaldum put Liverpool ahead early on but Issa Diop equalised soon after.
Pablo Fornals gave struggling West Ham a stunning lead, but Lukasz Fabianski’s woeful blunder allowed Mohamed Salah to equalise with his 19th goal of the season.
Mane completed the fightback with nine minutes left as Liverpool moved 22 points clear of second placed Manchester City.
The Reds’ dramatic escape ensured they equalled Manchester City’s English top-flight record of 18 consecutive league wins set between August and December 2017.
Their 21st successive league victory at Anfield also equalled their own English top-flight record for consecutive home wins, set by Bill Shankly’s team between January and December 1972.
Liverpool need four victories from their final 11 games to guarantee a first English title since 1990.
They are unbeaten in their last 44 league matches, just five short of Arsenal’s all-time English record of 49.
Klopp’s men found themselves in the rare position of coming off a defeat, for only the third time in all competitions this season, after Tuesday’s 1-0 Champions League last 16 first leg loss at Atletico Madrid.
And third bottom West Ham gave them all they could handle in a thrilling clash that suggested Liverpool are not invincible just yet as they try to emulate Arsenal’s unbeaten 2003-04 top-flight campaign.
Liverpool took the lead in the ninth minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold showed great agility to whip a cross from an acute angle into the six-yard box, where Wijnaldum stooped to head past Fabianski’s weak attempted save.
The Reds had kept a clean-sheet in 10 of their last 11 league matches, but they were guilty of switching off for once as West Ham grabbed the equaliser three minutes later.
West Ham fans protested against co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan by releasing black balloons and displaying a ‘Run like a circus, owned by clowns’ banner before kick-off.
But they were celebrating when Robert Snodgrass’s corner curled towards Diop and the defender rose higher than Joe Gomez to beat slow to react Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker with a powerful header.
Liverpool were unusually vulnerable at the back and Tomas Soucek’s header caused panic before an offside flag stopped Diop from scoring again.
Virgil van Dijk was inches away from settling Liverpool down when his header from Alexander-Arnold’s corner cannoned off the bar just before half-time.
Having turned the title race into a procession, there was a distinct lack of edge about Liverpool, who were also hampered by the absence of their tireless captain Jordan Henderson due to a hamstring injury.
The subdued atmosphere at the normally raucous Anfield suggested Liverpool’s fans were getting complacent as well.
The malaise extended into the second half as Liverpool struggled to put West Ham to the sword.
Sensing an unexpected opportunity, West Ham mounted an incisive raid that brought them an improbable lead in the 54th minute.
Mark Noble found Declan Rice on the right and he quickly swivelled to whip in a cross that substitute Fornals swept home from eight yards.
That was the signal for Liverpool to finally wake from their slumber and Fabianski saved Alexander-Arnold’s pile-driver before Roberto Firmino headed over from close-range.
Liverpool’s pressure was rewarded in the 68th minute with a huge helping hand from Fabianski as Salah’s shot from Andy Robertson’s cross somehow squirmed through his legs into the net.
That set the stage for a late Liverpool barrage and West Ham were unable to stem the tide when Alexander-Arnold shot goalwards in the 81st minute and Mane tapped into the empty net to give the Reds another landmark moment in an incredible season.
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