Liverpool (AFP) – Diogo Jota’s double kept Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes alive with a 2-0 win over Leicester, while Arsenal’s 1-0 victory at Wolves gave the Gunners the advantage in the race for the top four.
Liverpool still trail Manchester City at the top of the table by nine points, but have a game in hand on the champions to come and were impressive in securing a fifth consecutive win.
With Mohamed Salah left on the bench from the start after his exertions at the Africa Cup of Nations and Sadio Mane still celebrating his success with Senegal, Jota took centre stage to continue his excellent season.
The Portuguese produced two predatory finishes as he smashed home a loose ball from close range to open the scoring in the first half before firing into the far corner three minutes from time to take his tally for the campaign to 17 goals.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers returned to Anfield under pressure to turn around the Foxes’ floundering season after an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Championship side Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Rodgers made a statement with his team selection with a number of first-team regulars left out, including Youri Tielemans, who had captained Leicester at the weekend.
In the absence of Salah and Mane, Jurgen Klopp handed a first Liverpool start to January signing Luis Diaz.
Salah’s missed penalty in a 1-0 defeat to a depleted Leicester on December 28 played a major part in allowing City to pull clear at the top of the table as Liverpool took two points from three games over the festive period.
Diaz’s direct running caught the eye, but the Reds were struggling for the breakthrough until Leicester’s weakness from set pieces was exposed for the opener.
Virgil Van Dijk shrugged off the attention of Wilfried Ndidi and after his header was parried by Kasper Schmeichel, Jota was in the right place to smash home.
Klopp introduced Salah to a huge reception on the hour mark and the Egyptian should have made the points safe when he raced clean through on goal only to be denied by Schmeichel spreading himself to block.
Salah then hit the bar with a stunning strike from a narrow angle before Diaz stung the palms of Schmeichel again.
The Dane even got a hand to Jota’s powerful effort, but could not keep it out as Liverpool’s dominance finally told with a second goal.
– Controversial calls –
Arsenal moved into pole position to claim the fourth place in next season’s Champions League as they closed to within a point of fourth-placed West Ham with two games in hand to come.
The Gunners had fortune on their side in a game dominated by controversial calls.
Referee Michael Oliver saw no infringement when Alexandre Lacazette’s boot collided with Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa and Gabriel gratefully tapped into an unguarded net.
For the fourth time in six games Arsenal ended with 10 men as Gabriel Martinelli was shown two yellow cards at the same time by Oliver for trying to prevent Wolves taking a throw in then bundling over Chiquinho.
Granit Xhaka’s own goal from the resulting free-kick was ruled out for offside against Raul Jimenez and Wolves failed to make the extra man count in the final 20 minutes to deal a blow to their own ambitions of a top-four finish.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Euro titles ‘no help’ to Mourinho ahead of Conference League final
- Premier League approve Boehly’s takeover of Chelsea
- Premier League board approve Chelsea takeover by Boehly group
- Top 15 US TV markets for Premier League viewership
- England boss Southgate concerned by rise in fan disorder
- Who is the greatest soccer player of all time?
- Spurs make £150m investment as Conte eyes transfer splash
- Real Madrid will keep winning without Mbappe, says Casemiro
- New CEO aims to make Bundesliga world’s ‘most digital league’
- UK government in talks with ‘international partners’ over Chelsea sale