Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool closed to within three points of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League as Sadio Mane’s goal secured a nervy 1-0 win over West Ham at Anfield.
Defeat leaves West Ham still two points outside the top four having played more games than all their competition for a place in next season’s Champions League.
But David Moyes’ men will rue a host of missed chances to salvage a point, which would have given City breathing space at the top of the table.
Pep Guardiola’s men can restore their six-point advantage when they host Manchester United in a derby at the Etihad on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp made mass changes to his side in midweek for an FA Cup win over Norwich which kept alive hopes of a historic quadruple of trophies for Liverpool.
The pursuit of City may be the biggest challenge as the Reds attempt to follow up last weekend’s League Cup win with three more trophies in the remainder of the season.
However, a run of seven straight league wins has at least enlivened a fight for the title after City looked set to cruise towards a fourth league win in five seasons at the turn of the year.
Restored to full strength, Liverpool roared out of the blocks and should have been in front within seconds when Mohamed Salah fired wastefully straight at Lukasz Fabianski with just the ‘keeper to beat.
West Ham were without the influential presence of Declan Rice in midfield due to illness, while Jarrod Bowen limped off early in the second half with a nasty looking injury.
Should Bowen be sidelined for a lengthy spell, Michail Antonio will be even more crucial to any remaining dreams of a place in the Champions League next season.
Antonio has only scored once in the Premier League in 2022 but showed signs of regaining his best form as he twice forced Alisson Becker to turn the ball behind for a corner.
– Mane on target –
Liverpool went in front on 27 minutes when Mane was in the right place to tap in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
Another Alexander-Arnold burst caused chaos in the visitors’ box moments later as Aaron Cresswell cleared off the line, while Salah and Luis Diaz had efforts blocked from point-blank range.
Yet, West Ham should have levelled seconds later when Alexander-Arnold cleared Pablo Fornals’ chip off the line before Ibrahima Konate and Alisson scrambled to block two follow-up efforts.
The Hammers are one of only two teams to beat Liverpool since April having edged a 3-2 thriller at the London Stadium in November.
And they should have come away with at least a point as they enjoyed the better chances after the break.
A last ditch challenge from Andy Robertson forced Bowen into slashing wide as Liverpool’s high line was repeatedly caught out on the counter-attack.
Manuel Lanzini had the biggest chance to provide another twist in the title race when the Argentine somehow side-footed over with the goal gaping 20 minutes from time.
Klopp took the brave decision to take off Salah with the game still in the balance 10 minutes from time, much to the Egyptian’s displeasure.
Antonio had another late chance to claim a point as he burst clear on goal only to be foiled by a combined effort of Robertson and Naby Keita as Liverpool held on.
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