London (AFP) – Liverpool offered the chasing pack in the Premier League title race a late Christmas gift by throwing away two points at home to struggling West Brom in a 1-1 draw on Sunday, as Leeds eased fears they could be dragged into a relegation battle with a fortunate 1-0 win over Burnley.
The defending champions edged three points clear at the top of the table, but dropped points in the league at Anfield for just the second time in 34 games after failing to make the most of a dominant first-half performance.
Sadio Mane opened the scoring with a classy finish on 12 minutes as Jurgen Klopp’s men had West Brom camped inside their own half until the break, but eased off in the second-half and were made to pay.
Karlan Grant gave the Reds a warning when he was denied when one-on-one with Alisson Becker.
Sam Allardyce was taking charge of West Brom for just the second time and the former England manager’s excellent recent record at Anfield continued when Semi Ajayi rose to head home from a corner and give the Baggies a valuable point in their battle to avoid relegation.
Allardyce has now not been beaten in his last four away league games against Klopp’s Liverpool with four different clubs.
“It was our own fault,” said Klopp. “We gave them simple corners and that’s the only thing they wanted to have tonight. That’s why it is only one point instead of three.”
West Brom remain second bottom, but are now within five points of safety.
“Every man today showed the spirit this team needs to get out of this position,” said Allardyce. “I saw a lot of guts, a lot of determination and a lot of quality.”
– Leeds ride their luck –
Earlier, Patrick Bamford’s penalty earned Leeds a controversial 1-0 win over Burnley to move Marcelo Bielsa’s men up to 11th, nine points clear of the relegation zone.
However, Leeds needed luck on their side as Burnley were denied an equaliser through Ashley Barnes by a refereeing error.
The only goal at Elland Road came after just five minutes when Bamford latched onto a long ball over the top and was wiped out by the onrushing Nick Pope.
Bamford fired home the resulting penalty into the top corner for his 10th goal of the season.
Burnley felt doubly aggrieved when Barnes smashed home after Illan Meslier fumbled a high ball into the box on 17 minutes.
The French goalkeeper was awarded a free-kick for backing in by Ben Mee and despite Meslier appearing to be the aggressor, the goal could not be reviewed by VAR as referee Robert Jones had blown for the foul before the ball hit the net.
“Not only is it a penalty, we put it in the goal and he doesn’t give it one second to review it,” said Burnley boss Sean Dyche.
“Ironically, it’s been taking hours to make a decision and you get a really important decision and they can’t look at it. The referee played a big part, but we still have to focus on our part.”
Defeat sees the Clarets drop to 17th, still just two points above the relegation zone.
Brighton edged ahead of Burnley thanks to a 2-2 draw at West Ham, but will be disappointed to have thrown away the chance of just a second win in 14 games.
Twice the Seagulls led through Neal Maupay and Lewis Dunk. West Ham had been dire for the first 45 minutes, but two half-time changes by David Moyes sparked a second-half response as Ben Johnson slotted home his first senior goal to make it 1-1 before Tomas Soucek’s header earned a point eight minutes from time.
Tottenham can move up to third later on Sunday when they travel to Wolves hoping to end a three-game winless run in the league.
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