Liverpool bounce back, Arsenal close gap on top four

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Liverpool moved to within nine points of claiming the Premier League title by coming from behind to beat Bournemouth 2-1 as Arsenal boosted their charge towards the Champions League places with a 1-0 win over West Ham.

Jurgen Klopp’s men had suffered three defeats in four games in all competitions, including their first in the Premier League for 45 matches at Watford last weekend.

Callum Wilson’s controversial early opener threatened another major upset. But all of Liverpool’s setbacks of late have come away from Anfield and they set an English top-flight record for 22 consecutive home league wins as two quickfire goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane turned the game around.

The runaway league leaders still needed a miraculous goal-line clearance from James Milner to deny Ryan Fraser an equaliser, but defeat keeps Bournemouth marooned in the bottom three.

“There’s nothing good in losing football games but it makes you aware of how special it is to win football games. That’s what we had in the last 10 days or two weeks when we lost games,” said Klopp.

“I was absolutely happy about the result, the three points and the performance because I knew it would be tricky for different reasons.”

– Top four race tightens –

The spread of the coronavirus could have a big impact on the Reds’ title celebrations in the weeks to come with the possibility of games being played behind closed doors.

But the abandonment of the normal pre-match ritual of handshakes was the only disruption to the Premier League calendar this weekend.

AFP / Ian KINGTONAlexandre Lacazette (C) scored the only goal as Arsenal beat West Ham 1-0

Despite the coronavirus risk there was no halt to players celebrating wildly with each other and Arsenal players piled on top of Alexandre Lacazette after a long VAR review of the Frenchman’s winner at the Emirates.

West Ham were made to rue a series of missed chances as they remain just outside the relegation zone on goal difference.

Jarrod Bowen hit the woodwork and Bernd Leno made a string of saves from Michail Antonio and Sebastien Haller, but it was Arsenal who made the breakthrough 12 minutes from time.

Mesut Ozil was originally flagged offside as he latched onto Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s deflected shot and headed down for Lacazette to sweep home.

But the goal was finally given after a delay of several minutes to move Arsenal to within five points of the top four.

“They deserved more because of the chances they created. This is football, sometimes you don’t get what you deserve,” said Lacazette.

Wolves missed the chance to move into the top four as a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Brighton left them still two points adrift of Chelsea in fifth.

A vital point for the Seagulls edges them two points clear of the relegation zone.

Sheffield United moved above Manchester United and Tottenham into sixth to further their dreams of Champions League football next season thanks to captain Billy Sharp’s winner to beat bottom-of-the-table Norwich 1-0.

Roy Hodgson celebrated his new contract as Crystal Palace boss with a 1-0 win over Watford as the Eagles moved into the top half of the table.

Newcastle also secured the win that should guarantee their survival courtesy of Allan Saint-Maximin’s strike to beat 10-man Southampton 1-0.

Moussa Djenepo gave the Saints a mountain to climb when he was shown a straight red card for a lunge on Isaac Hayden on 28 minutes.

Alex McCarthy kept Southampton in the game as he saved Matt Ritchie’s penalty, but Saint-Maximin stabbed home the winner 11 minutes from time to take the Magpies eight points clear of the drop zone.