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, Norwich were relegated after they lost 2-0 at Aston Villa and managerless Burnley came back from the dead to beat struggling Watford 2-1.
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.
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 –
Any slip-up from 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.
City, who were 14 points clear of Klopp’s men at one stage, will fancy their chances of beating Leeds, who are still not out of danger despite an upturn in their fortunes under new boss Jesse Marsch.
Norwich are heading back to the Championship after just one season in the top flight after goals from Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings sealed their fate on manager Dean Smith’s return to Villa Park.
“I’m disappointed with our result,” said Canaries captain Grant Hanley. “It is probably fair, we haven’t been good enough this season.
“It is difficult for me to comment on anything right now. Emotions are high, we gave our all but it wasn’t enough and it’s the story of our season.”
Burnley looked to be heading towards the trap door when they sacked long-serving boss Sean Dyche two weeks ago but two late goals at Vicarage Road lifted them five points clear of the drop zone.
James Tarkowski’s early own goal gave the visitors an uphill task but late goals from Jack Cork and Josh Brownhill turned the match on his head.
“Credit to the boys, the staff, everybody — we have rallied each other and we want to be in this division,” said Brownhill. “We are hard-working and we deserve to be in this division.”
The result means Watford are all but doomed while 18th-placed 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.
Brighton hammered Wolves 3-0 and Crystal Palace beat Southampton 2-1.
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