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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Liverpool’s lead grows to 22 points, Klopp’s never seen anything like his record-breaking Reds

Liverpool increased the gap at the top with a Mohamed Salah double leading a second-half blitz that secured a record-equalling 20th straight home league win.

By: Reuters | Published: February 2, 2020 10:31:48 am
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their fourth goal (Source: Reuters)

Liverpool quickened their march towards a first English title for 30 years as they stretched their lead at the Premier League summit to a staggering 22 points with a 4-0 win over Southampton at Anfield on Saturday.

With nearest pursuers Manchester City playing at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, Liverpool increased the gap at the top with a Mohamed Salah double leading a second-half blitz that secured a record-equalling 20th straight home league win.

In the Premier League era, only City between March 2011 and 2012 had previously enjoyed such a winning streak at home, with unbeaten Liverpool now the first English team ever to win 24 of their first 25 matches in a top-flight league campaign.

With the European champions on an unprecedented 73 points for this stage of the season, their distant chasers could only drift further behind with third-placed Leicester City and Chelsea, who are fourth, drawing 2-2 in an entertaining contest.

At the other end of the table, stranded Norwich City drew 0-0 at Newcastle United while 19th-placed Watford were left crestfallen after Everton fought from two goals down at Vicarage Road to win 3-2 despite playing the last 20 minutes with 10 men.

West Ham United dropped into the bottom three after Brighton & Hove Albion recovered from 3-1 down to earn a 3-3 draw, while Aston Villa are teetering above the drop zone after a 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth, who played most of the second half a man down.

At Anfield, even the doubters surely do not doubt any longer as Liverpool’s unreal season continued apace with a 42nd game unbeaten in the league, which came only after Southampton had given the champions-elect real problems.

The visitors, impressive in the first half, only capitulated when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put the hosts ahead following the break, moments after Saints felt they were denied a penalty.

Captain Jordan Henderson struck the second before Salah took his league tally for the season to 14 with two goals in the last 20 minutes.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY

At the King Power Stadium, Leicester missed out on the chance to join Manchester City on 51 points as an unlikely headed double from defender Antonio Rudiger earned Chelsea a draw.

The vibrant second-half fare demonstrated again why neither team have been able to muster a sustained challenge to Liverpool, with poor defending enabling Germany international Rudiger to swoop twice.

A header from a corner soon after the break was overturned by goals from Harvey Barnes and Ben Chilwell before Rudiger’s 71st minute equaliser ensured that Chelsea remain eight points behind Leicester’s tally of 49.

The results meant Liverpool need 21 points from their remaining 13 fixtures to be mathematically sure of winning their first title since 1990. “When we are rolling, it’s difficult to stop,” said manager Juergen Klopp.

Sheffield United provisionally moved into fifth spot on 36 points, at least until Manchester United’s late game at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, courtesy of a goalkeeping howler from Crystal Palace’s Vicente Guaita.

The Spaniard dropped the ball into his own net just before the hour mark when making a hash of collecting a corner to gift the Yorkshire side a 1-0 win.

The performance of the day was surely Everton’s comeback at Vicarage Road where two first-half stoppage time goals from defender Yerry Mina saw them claw back Watford’s advantage.

Even after Everton midfielder Fabian Delph was dismissed for a second yellow card foul after 70 minutes, Theo Walcott earned a 90th minute-winner on the counter-attack. The Toffees’ new manager Carlo Ancelotti, it seems, is already working wonders.

Klopp’s never seen anything like his record-breaking Reds

After watching Liverpool add another sweeping brush stroke to their masterpiece of a season, even manager Juergen Klopp had to concede on Saturday that he had never seen anything like the relentless, consistent excellence of his record breakers.

The 4-0 win over a Southampton side who had made life hard for the Reds until being swamped in the second half saw Klopp’s European champions pass yet more milestones in what increasingly promises to be one of English football’s landmark campaigns.

After agreeing that Liverpool’s 22-point lead in the Premier League — the biggest at the end of a day in the history of England’s top-flight — was ‘astonishing’, Klopp was also asked by reporters if he had seen such consistency from any team.

“I have never seen it, to be honest,” he conceded. “If I was asking from the outside, I would ask the same questions. It’s not that I feel stronger and stronger and stronger after each win, it’s not like this. It is just one great celebration, then it’s relief, settle and go again.

“We are not perfect, not even close to being perfect; we just try to make the best of our skills in the best possible way. The boys have done that now for a while pretty good and that’s why we have these kind of numbers — but it doesn’t feel a second like it’s really special. It just feels the hardest work.”

UNCHARTED TERRITORY

It is really special, though. The numbers tell of a team in uncharted territory.

Liverpool’s 73 points from their first unbeaten 25 matches — 24 wins and a draw — is the greatest tally of any team at this stage of the season in the history of Europe’s top five leagues.

They are on course to emulate Arsenal’s 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ by going a whole season unbeaten and Saturday’s 20th successive league win at Anfield meant they equalled Manchester City’s record in the Premier League era.

Bill Shankly’s 1972 Liverpool side, the all-time record holders with 21 straight home wins, could be the next to be eclipsed as Klopp’s side look, uniquely, to win every one of their 19 Anfield matches this season. Their run stands at 13.

Manchester City’s 2017-18 record winning tally of 100 points seemed incredible. Yet Liverpool could glean 112 by winning their remaining matches, after having dropped just two points all season so far at Manchester United in October.

Their overall unbeaten league streak stretches back for a year over 42 matches and, depending on FA Cup commitments, they could conceivably equal Arsenal’s 49-match landmark of 2004 at Manchester City on April 4.

Wouldn’t victory at the Etihad feel like the ultimate statement? It could even see Liverpool then power on to top the record 19-point championship-winning margin that City themselves had enjoyed over neighbours United in 2018.

Of course, Liverpool’s Champions League defence could see Klopp’s side take their eye off the record books should the title be wrapped up quickly and, anyway, the German does not sound remotely fussed about these statistical Everests.

“I know about it. Again, I have no clue how it should feel, but it is not that I think we are close to something really special,” he said with a shrug.

“The boys have now a week off, and then we go again. That’s the only thing I know. All the rest, we have to see.”

It should be fun watching.

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