Premier League: Klopp confident Liverpool will hold their nerve in title race
Anfield side return to the top of the table after gritty victory at Fulham
Reds leapfrog City with Fulham win
Liverpool moved back to the top of the Premier League on Sunday but it was a hard-fought 2-1 win for the Reds against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
They are now on 76 points, two more than Manchester City who were in FA Cup action at the weekend and so have a game in hand.
Sadio Mane, inevitably, put the visitors ahead on 26 minutes, his 11th goal in as many games. But a shocking defensive lapse allowed Fulham to level on 74 minutes.
Former Red Ryan Babel capitalised on the confusion between defender Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson but any hopes the Cottagers had of securing a point were soon dashed by a blunder in their own penalty box.
Keep calm and carry on
Sergio Rico fouled Mane as the Senegal forward pounced on a fumble from the Fulham keeper and substitute James Milner held his nerve to hammer home the penalty.
“The goal was important to put away,” said Milner. “You have to go back to what you practise, be calm and do what you do.”
It may not have been the prettiest of wins, but as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp acknowledged, four days after the excitement of their Champions League victory at Bayern Munich all that mattered were the three points.
“First half a bit rusty,” said Klopp. “Second half we could have finished it off and then it is clear at 1-0 if you don’t kill it off that can happen… they deserved a goal but we deserved three points. A brilliant afternoon I have to say.”
Asked if he believed the win would dispel the doubters who think Liverpool will crack under pressure, Klopp replied: “I am not in any doubt about my players’ nerves. It is about intensity. We go for perfection but it is rare that you get it.
“Burnley, [Bayern] Munich, Fulham – you have to adapt. People will say we need to be more convincing, but we are at the start of a development, not the end.”
Toffees too good for Chelsea
If Liverpool recovered from their midweek exertions in Europe, the same can’t be said for Chelsea who three days after qualifying for the Europa League quarter-final slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Everton.
The Toffees’ goals came from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. They now move above Bournemouth into 11th place. Chelsea stay in sixth, but having blown their game in hand on Arsenal and Manchester United they are now three points behind the fourth-place Gunners and a point adrift of United.
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri offered no defence of the way his side had played, expressing only his bemusement at a game of two halves.
“We played the first half really, really well, we could have scored in five or six different situations,” he said.
“After a first half that was so good, the level of motivation was very high and the level of application was very high then suddenly we stopped. It is very difficult to explain. We stopped playing. We didn’t defend. It is incredible.”
One of those Chelsea defenders, Antonio Rudiger, admitted the squad had let themselves down in the manner of their second-half capitulation.
“It is unacceptable the way we came out [after half-time] and we lost the game in ten minutes,” he said. “I’m sorry. We still have eight games to go but we cannot always say ‘next week’. We really have to do better because we normally aren’t allowed to lose this match.”
- AFC Bournemouth 2 Newcastle United 2
- Burnley 1 Leicester City 2
- West Ham United 4 Huddersfield Town 3
- Fulham 1 Liverpool 2
- Everton 2 Chelsea 0
FA Cup quarter-finals
- Watford 2 Crystal Palace 1
- Swansea City 2 Manchester City 3
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Manchester United 1
- Millwall 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2 (AET, Brighton won 5-4 on penalties)
FA Cup semi-final draw
The semi-finals will take place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 6 April and Sunday 7 April. The 2019 FA Cup Final will be on Saturday 18 May at Wembley.
- Watford vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Manchester City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion