Monday 24 February, 2020

Liverpool beat Bournemouth to reclaim Premier League lead

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

Liverpool reclaimed the Premier League lead with a convincing 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday as Juergen Klopp's team showed no sign of jitters in the tightening title race.

With Manchester City having gone top on goal difference on Wednesday — after erasing a seven-point gap since January — Liverpool responded with a confident and rampant display at Anfield to provisionally go three points clear again. Goals from Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum essentially decided the game after just 34 minutes, and Mohamed Salah added the third in the 48th.

The vital win came after two straight 1-1 draws for Liverpool in the league and puts the pressure back on City ahead of their home game against Chelsea on Sunday.

The Reds' recent stumbles had raised questions about whether the team was starting to wobble as it seeks a first league title since 1990. But they rediscovered their usual attacking verve at Anfield, with Sadio Mane heading home the opening goal from James Milner's cross to score for the fourth game in a row.

Wijnaldum doubled the lead with a smart lob over Artur Boruc, and Salah then made it four goals in five games by finishing off a flowing team move shortly after the restart. Naby Keita fed the ball to Roberto Firmino, who set up Salah with a clever back-heel for a low finish past Boruc.

Klopp's side continued flowing forward and Mane easily could have had a second goal, but he headed wide from Wijnaldum's cross. Salah then hit the crossbar after another great pass from Firmino to cut open the Bournemouth defense.

Bournemouth struggled badly to create chances but forced Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson into action near the end when he had to produce a save to deny Lys Mousset, before Keita shot over the bar at the other end moments later.

Boruc also made saves to deny Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold in the final minutes to prevent an even bigger scoreline.

Meanwhile, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette scored first-half goals to set up Arsenal's 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town and earn their first away Premier League victory since November.

The Gunners had taken a single point from their past five away league games and were without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey for Saturday's trip to Yorkshire.

Huddersfield, rock bottom of the Premier League, offered little resistance but did at least score for the first time since Jan Siewert replaced David Wagner as head coach thanks to Sead Kolasinac's late own goal.

Victory moves Arsenal a point behind fourth-placed Manchester United in the congested race for Champions League qualification, with Chelsea going to Manchester City on Sunday.

OVER AT SELHURST PARK: Wilfried Zaha scored a crucial equaliser on his return from suspension as Crystal Palace drew 1-1 with West Ham.

West Ham captain Mark Noble's first goal of the season came via the penalty spot and ensured the visitors held the half-time advantage.

Palace dominated after the break, but just as it looked like a leveller would elude them – James McArthur having missed a glorious chance – Zaha's heavily deflected effort secured a valuable point.

Roy Hodgson's men are now unbeaten in four games, while West Ham have failed to win any of their past five matches in all competitions.

OVER AT VICARAGE ROAD: Everton slumped to a third straight Premier League defeat as Marco Silva's first visit to Vicarage Road ended in a forgettable 1-0 loss to Watford.

Dismissed by the Hornets in acrimonious circumstances just over a year ago, Silva has not enjoyed the kind of progress he would have expected during his maiden season in charge of Everton and his current club are now four points adrift of his former employers.

Andre Gray, introduced at the interval, provided the lone goal - his fifth in all competitions this term - by capping off Craig Cathcart and Will Hughes' classy combination in the 65th minute.

A game otherwise short on attacking quality ended with Everton mustering little beyond a misdirected Dominic Calvert-Lewin header and seeing Kurt Zouma sent off after full time for two yellow cards following a confontation with the referee. 

They remain ninth, while Watford's second win in eight Premier League engagements lifts them to within a point of seventh-placed Wolves.

OVER AT ST MARY'S: Cardiff City stole an incredible 2-1 win at Southampton after stoppage-time goals at either end saw the visitors complete an emotional week outside the relegation zone.

The Bluebirds looked to have been denied at St Mary's as their supporters chanted the name of club-record signing Emiliano Sala throughout the first match since his body, discovered in plane wreckage in the English Channel, was identified.

Sol Bamba's scarcely deserved opener was cancelled out by Jack Stephens in the 91st minute, but Cardiff still had time to rally once more.

Substitute Kenneth Zohore prodded a tame effort past stranded goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, allowing Neil Warnock's men to celebrate an improbable triumph that sees them leapfrog Southampton and move up to 15th.

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