EPL

Premier League Review: Van Dijk inspires Liverpool win, Manchester City falter

By Sports Desk November 30, 2019

Liverpool remain on course for a first ever Premier League title after a nervy 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion, while Manchester City could only manage a 2-2 draw at Newcastle United.

Jurgen Klopp's side endured a tense finish at Anfield after goalkeeper Alisson was dismissed with 14 minutes remaining, but they held on for a 13th win in 14 games this season.

City, meanwhile, were far from their fluid best at St James' Park and were denied a vital win by Jonjo Shelvey's superb late strike.

Jose Mourinho racked up a second consecutive Premier League win since taking over at Tottenham, Dele Alli proving to be the star man in a 3-2 win over Bournemouth, while West Ham pulled off a surprise 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

REDS SURVIVE ALISSON RED CARD

Runaway leaders Liverpool survived a nervy finale to equal their longest unbeaten run in the top flight and capitalise on City's slip-up.

A Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick set up the opener for Van Dijk in the 18th minute and the same combination soon provided a second goal as Brighton were found wanting at a corner.

Brighton were given an unexpected lifeline when Alisson was sent off for handling outside his box – meaning he will miss Wednesday's derby clash with Everton – and Lewis Dunk caught out replacement goalkeeper Adrian with a quick free-kick.

The Seagulls could not find a late equaliser, though, and while Leicester City can cut Liverpool's advantage at the summit to eight points by beating Everton on Sunday, there looks to be no stopping a team who have now gone 31 league games unbeaten, matching their record streak from May 1987 to March 1988.

CITY'S TITLE HOPES SLIP AWAY

City's hopes of claiming a third consecutive Premier League title suffered a fresh blow, with Shelvey's late intervention leaving them 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola's side looked set to cruise to all three points when Raheem Sterling scored his eighth Premier League goal of the campaign midway through the first half, but they were pegged back by Jetro Willems' fierce drive three minutes later.

Kevin De Bruyne restored City's lead with a sumptuous half-volley in the 82nd minute, the Belgium international using his chest to control a headed clearance before unleashing a stunning effort that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.

Newcastle bounced back in style to ensure a share of the spoils two minutes from time, though, when Shelvey whipped home from 25 yards after Christian Atsu had picked him out with a short free-kick.

MOURINHO'S PERFECT START CONTINUES

Tottenham beat West Ham and Olympiacos in Mourinho's first two matches and were good value for their latest triumph at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, despite another late collapse.

The hosts made a slow start but took the lead midway through the opening period through Alli, who slotted the ball underneath Aaron Ramsdale after being teed up by Son Heung-min's first-time pass.

The England international scored a second early in the second half before Moussa Sissoko added a third with his first league goal in his past 69 appearances.

Harry Wilson pulled two goals back for Bournemouth in the closing stages - one of which was a superb free-kick - but Tottenham held on for back-to-back league wins for the first time since April to climb to fifth, six points off a Champions League place.

PRESSURE EASES ON PELLEGRINI AFTER FINE WIN

Aaron Cresswell scored the only goal of the game as West Ham eased the pressure on Manuel Pellegrini and ended their seven-game Premier League winless streak at Chelsea.

The Hammers became only the second side to win at Chelsea in the league this season and Frank Lampard's side, who lost at Manchester City a week prior, could have few complaints about the result.

Cresswell scored the winner early in the second half and West Ham could have extended their lead before surviving a late rally from the hosts to secure their first victory since they beat Manchester United on September 22.

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, beat Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor courtesy of goals from Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp.

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  • Liverpool were 'vulnerable' against Ajax, says Ten Hag Liverpool were 'vulnerable' against Ajax, says Ten Hag

    Erik ten Hag felt Liverpool were "vulnerable" against Ajax as he rued bad luck in the 1-0 Champions League loss on Wednesday.

    Ajax had their chances but Nicolas Tagliafico's first-half own goal was enough for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in the Group D clash in Amsterdam.

    Liverpool were winless in three games heading into the encounter, and in action for the first time since Virgil van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury on Saturday.

    Ten Hag said he felt the Eredivisie giants could have taken advantage of the Premier League champions.

    "It would have been a big bonus if we had taken one or more points," the Ajax head coach said.

    "I think Liverpool was vulnerable. Unfortunately, we didn't make the most of that."

    Ten Hag added: "We were unlucky. We performed well collectively. We were convincing, but that last one per cent was missing – we didn't score even though we created many chances.

    "That's the story of this game, I think."

    Tagliafico turned in a miscued Sadio Mane effort 10 minutes before half-time for the game's only goal.

    Ten Hag said there were elements of Ajax's performance he was pleased with.

    "We knew Liverpool's strength, we wanted to prevent their full-backs, who are their playmakers, from going forward. That was one," he said.

    "The second thing is that we wanted to control the midfield. Daley [Blind] is very good at that, he's so calm on the ball. And in that way, we wanted to attack their defence with deep runs. I think we did that quite well a couple of times."

    While Trent Alexander-Arnold had a quieter performance for Liverpool, left-back Andy Robertson impressed.

    Robertson had the most key passes (five), passes (78), passes in the opposition half (56) and touches (104) of any player on the ground.

  • Klopp hails Fabinho performance against Ajax Klopp hails Fabinho performance against Ajax

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised Fabinho's performance against Ajax, while insisting he was unsurprised by the Brazilian's display.

    With Virgil van Dijk sidelined due to a serious knee injury, Fabinho started at centre-back alongside Joe Gomez as Liverpool opened their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

    As well as producing a goal-line clearance to deny Dusan Tadic, Fabinho had four tackles, nine clearances and four interceptions.

    Klopp was pleased with the Brazil international as Nicolas Tagliafico's first-half own goal proved to be enough for Liverpool in Group D.

    "This combination with Joey and Fabinho, I don't think they played together before if I'm 100 per cent right. Maybe once but I don't really know," he told a news conference.

    "So they need to get used to each other, they need to get used to the verbal demands in that position – what you have to say there to help the midfielders and all these kind of things.

    "It was a really good performance but there's a lot to improve – how high or how low is the last line in which moment, in protection situations, in the pressing, 'How do we react there?' But it's no problem. It was absolutely good and now we carry on."

    With Van Dijk set to miss most, if not the remainder, of the rest of the season, Fabinho will play a key role for Premier League champions Liverpool.

    Klopp, whose team host Sheffield United in the Premier League on Saturday, said while the 26-year-old's performance was a boost, he was unsurprised.

    "Look, in our situation it helps. Of course, was there pressure on the situation? Yes, it's clear for the two in the back there, 100 per cent. First game together," he said.

    "Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it actually. If I would have asked him to play right-back I don't think he would enjoy it as much as he's enjoying the centre-half position. In our situation in the moment we have to keep those boys fit and then they can of course help us a lot. I'm not surprised he plays well in the position otherwise we would have thought about a different solution, even when that would have been properly tricky.

    "I'm really pleased for tonight, pleased for him, yes it gave him confidence, for sure helped us. These situations [goal-line clearances], Millie [James Milner] had last season one against Bournemouth, which was a massive one. That tonight was a massive one. And so he had not only because of this a big hand in this victory."

  • Guardiola expects Fernandinho to be out for up to six weeks in latest injury blow Guardiola expects Fernandinho to be out for up to six weeks in latest injury blow

    Pep Guardiola is expecting captain Fernandinho to be out of action for between four to six weeks after the midfielder sustained another injury in Manchester City's win over Porto.

    The Brazil international was brought on in the 85th minute of Wednesday's Group C clash at the Etihad Stadium but failed to see out the game after pulling up with a suspected leg injury.

    He has suffered several muscle issues in recent seasons, seeing him sit out 15 games two seasons ago as City won a clean sweep of domestic honours.

    And Guardiola, who was also without Gabriel Jesus, Nathan Ake, Benjamin Mendy, Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte against Porto, is predicting another lay-off for the versatile midfielder.

    "It is bad news. It is in the place he was injured before," Guardiola told BT Sport. "He will be out a long time. It's happened."

    Fernandinho has made 228 Premier League appearances for City since joining the club in 2013, often filling in as an auxiliary centre-back in recent times.

    Providing a further update at his post-match news conference, Guardiola added: "It will be four to six weeks. It's a big blow as we have a run of games ahead and no people there."

    However, Guardiola delivered more positive news on the fitness of De Bruyne and Laporte, with the key pair possibly in contention for Saturday's league trip to West Ham.

    "I think Kevin and Laporte start training tomorrow but I don't know how they will be tomorrow and the next days so we will see," he said.

    "Unfortunately people came back and now we have lost another but it is really important to come back. 

    "In three days we go to London and after we travel to France to play against Marseille and then Sheffield [United] three days after.

    "The schedules are so demanding and we need all the players."

    City trailed to Luis Diaz's impressive early solo strike against Portuguese champions Porto but soon hit back through Sergio Aguero's penalty, awarded for Pepe's sloppy challenge on Raheem Sterling.

    Ilkay Gundogan then put his side in front with a dipping free-kick and substitute Ferran Torres added a third 17 minutes from time as the hosts made a winning start to their 10th successive Champions League campaign.

    "This is a good start for us. The last 10-15 minutes of the first half and the start of the second we played well," Guardiola said.

    "Obviously we concede the first goal so it was even more difficult to come back. In periods we played quite well and in periods we can still improve. 

    "So at the end the most important thing is we have the three points and started well to the competition."

    Gundogan's stunning free-kick was the turning point in the contest, the German midfielder sending his effort up and over the wall as Guardiola was preparing to replace him.

    "I'm glad he didn't [make the substitution]!" Gundogan told BT Sport. "I was quite sure he was going to take me off but saw there was an opportunity for me so thankfully he didn't sub me.

    "I have to admit I don't practice it a lot but there are certain distances I feel comfortable with a free-kick. 

    "That was the perfect distance for me. I had a little discussion with Raheem and I was quite confident to take it. Thanks to him for allowing me to take it. Obviously I'm very happy I could score."

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