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Liverpool pile pressure on City as Burnley earn vital win


London (AFP) – Liverpool beat Newcastle 1-0 to leapfrog Manchester City at the top of the Premier League on Saturday, heaping pressure on Pep Guardiola’s men ahead of their evening kick-off against struggling Leeds.

Naby Keita scored the only goal of the game at a boisterous St James’ Park as Jurgen Klopp’s men remained on track for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.

At the other end of the table, managerless Burnley produced a stunning comeback against Watford to win 2-1 and pull five points clear of the relegation zone, condemning Norwich to the drop.

Klopp made five changes to his starting line-up, mindful of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Villarreal, with his side 2-0 up after the first leg.

Top scorer Mohamed Salah, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all on the bench against in-form Newcastle but the visitors still bossed the game.

The decisive moment came in the 19th minute when, with the home side appealing in vain for a free-kick, Jordan Henderson and Diogo Jota combined to feed Guinea midfielder Keita, who stepped inside before dispatching the ball past the helpless Martin Dubravka.

The Reds could have made life easier for themselves but Sadio Mane and Jota squandered chances and they survived a late scare when Alisson Becker saved from Bruno Guimaraes.

Klopp used his considerable quality off the bench, sending on Salah, Fabinho and Thiago in the latter stages to help close out the game.

Victory took Liverpool to 82 points, two points clear of City, who will retake top spot if they beat Leeds at Elland Road in the late game.

A delighted Klopp said he was delighted with his players’ ability to produce a winning performance after so many changes as they chase sporting immortality.

“That’s the only reason why we are where we are,” he said. “That’s how it is. That’s the only reason — the boys buy completely into the situation. 

“The boys who didn’t come on today, you should’ve seen their faces on the bench when the final whistle went. It’s absolutely outstanding. We know that. The group is exceptional.”

– Title race –

Liverpool are once again locked in a gripping battle with defending champions City for the Premier League title.

Any slip-up by Guardiola’s men and a quadruple of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup would be just seven games away for the Reds.

The two teams drew 2-2 in the league in early April before Liverpool edged their rivals 3-2 in the FA Cup semi-finals — they could also meet in the final of the Champions League.

City, who 14 points clear of Klopp’s men at one stage, will fancy their chances of beating Leeds, who are still not clear of danger despite an upturn in their fortunes under new boss Jesse Marsch. 

Burnley, who sacked long-serving manager Sean Dyche two weeks ago, had clambered out of the relegation zone after two straight wins.

They went behind in the eighth minute at Vicarage Road thanks to Burnley captain James Tarkowski’s own goal.

But Jack Cork headed home a Charlie Taylor ball in the 83rd minute and three minutes later Josh Brownhill fired into the bottom corner before sprinting the length of the pitch to celebrate with the travelling support.

The result means Frank Lampard’s Everton, who host Chelsea on Sunday, are now in desperate trouble — five points from safety and facing playing outside the English top flight next season for the first time since 1954.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Aston Villa beat bottom side Norwich 2-0, with the Canaries returning to the Championship after just one season in the Premier League.

Brighton hammered Wolves 3-0 and Crystal Palace beat Southampton 2-1.

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