Liverpool keeps City in view; Newcastle clear of bottom 3, West Ham-Leicester share spoils




West Ham's Craig Dawson, center, scores his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and West Ham United at King Power stadium in Leicester, England, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

LONDON (AP) – The wind was howling. The rain was lashing down. The challenges were flying in. And, for once, Mohamed Salah was having a quiet day.

Everything was set up at Turf Moor for Liverpool to drop vital points against Burnley in its improbable attempt to reel in Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Salvation came in the unlikely form of Fabinho.

Or perhaps not unlikely, given the defensive midfielder’s scruffy winner in the 1-0 victory on Sunday was actually his fifth goal in his last seven games in all competitions.

Who needs Salah?

“I am surprised at my form,” Fabinho, a player known for his tackles rather than goals, said with a smile.

What didn’t come as a surprise for Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was the fierce examination his team faced — and passed — against the league’s last-place team which didn’t really play like it.

“Everything today was set up to be a banana skin for us,” Klopp said. “The balls in the air were so tricky to defend because the wind came from all directions. We played the circumstances rather than suffered from them.

“We like each other, we respect each other. We had to work incredibly hard and that is what the boys did. We made our shirts dirty.”

The Reds aren’t letting up in their pursuit of City.

The lead is back down to nine points between the top two — City briefly made it 12 by beating Norwich 4-0 on Saturday — and Liverpool has a game in hand, at home to struggling Leeds on Feb. 23. Crucially, Klopp’s team also has to play away to City in April.

Much has been made of City’s 15-game unbeaten run in the league but Liverpool has quietly put an impressive streak together, winning six in a row in all competitions and losing just once since Nov. 7.

Both teams now see their fixture schedule get even more condensed with the return of the Champions League. City plays Sporting away on Tuesday and Liverpool is at Inter Milan the following day.

As for Burnley, the team remained in last place but is showing the sort of defensive resilience to perhaps stay up. Whether Burnley has enough goals in the side to make up a seven-point deficit to safety is another thing, especially with Newcastle — the team just outside the relegation zone — having won three straight league games on the back of some heavy spending in January.

“We looked a threat with some nearly moments,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. “There is not a lot I can fault with that performance.”

TRIPPIER’S FREE KICKS

A couple of free kicks from Kieran Trippier have helped Newcastle pull clear of the relegation zone.

His first was in a 3-1 win over Everton on Tuesday. On Sunday, he smashed one through the defensive wall, via a slight deflection, and high into the net to earn his team a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.

Newcastle, boosted by five arrivals — including Trippier — in January thanks to the recent Saudi-funded buyout, has won three straight league games and is four points clear of the bottom three.

TOP-FOUR RACE

Wolverhampton was the big winner Sunday in the race to finish in the top four.

2-0 win at defensively hapless Tottenham lifted Wolves above its beaten opponent and into seventh place, four points off fourth-place West Ham.

A few hours later, West Ham drew 2-2 at Leicester and is clinging onto the final Champions League qualification spot, a point ahead of fifth-place Manchester United.

Wolves scored both their goals in the opening 18 minutes, through Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker. Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was at fault for both of the goals, flapping twice at shots before Jimenez drove home a finish in the sixth minute and then executing a poor pass out prior to Dendoncker eventually scoring a scrappy second following a deflection off the post.

West Ham squandered a lead given to the team in the 10th minute by winger Jarrod Bowen’s seventh goal in his last seven games. Leicester turned the game around thanks to Youri Tielemans’ penalty on the stroke of halftime and Ricardo Pereira’s 57th-minute header, before Craig Dawson bundled in an equalizer in stoppage time.

ZOUMA UNWELL

Kurt Zouma was named in West Ham’s starting lineup but pulled out during the warm-up, having complained of feeling unwell.

The France international had been jeered by fans for the second straight game after being filmed kicking and slapping a cat, conduct which is the subject of an animal-abuse inquiry and led to him being fined two weeks’ salary and losing his sponsorship deal with Adidas.

West Ham’s week of controversy ended with some relief after Craig Dawson scored a late equalizer off his shoulder to earn a 2-2 draw against Leicester in the Premier League after Kurt Zouma pulled out in the warmup at King Power Stadium on Sunday.

Dawson salvaged a point in the first minute of second-half stoppage time after Jarrod Bowen put the Hammers ahead in the 10th.

Youri Tielemans’ 45th-minute penalty made it 1-1 before Ricardo Pereira’s header appeared to clinch Leicester’s first win in five matches in all competitions.

Zouma was named in the team but reported to be feeling sick with problems with his vision, so substitute Issa Diop started instead with goalkeeper Darren Randolph making up the bench.

Zouma’s withdrawal came at the end of a week that saw him fined two weeks’ wages and lose Adidas as a sponsor after he was filmed kicking and slapping his cat. Two cats have been removed from his property and an animal charity has launched an investigation.

West Ham seemed unaffected by the late change to the team and settled quickly before taking the lead.

Diop lofted the ball forward and Leicester’s defense was caught napping as Bowen controlled before firing a left-footed drive across Kasper Schmeichel for his ninth league goal of the season.

It was Bowen’s seventh goal in as many games, making it 12 in all competitions this season.

Leicester, short of confidence after three defeats in its last four including a hammering at second-tier Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, struggled early on and its supporters were quick to show their frustration with pockets of boos around the stadium.

The home side gradually improved, with Tielemans and Harvey Barnes both off target with angled shots from distance.

The equalizer came in the 45th minute after Leicester was awarded a penalty as Aaron Cresswell handled as he tried to head away James Maddison’s corner on the edge of the six-yard box.

Tielemans confidently drove the spot kick low to the right of Lukasz Fabianski, who guessed correctly but was beaten by the power and accuracy of the shot.

Leicester began the second half with much more purpose than the first and soon put West Ham under pressure.

Barnes was the dangerman, with one of his several crosses leading to Leicester’s second goal. Ricardo beat Cresswell to plant a bullet header into the top corner of the net.

Tielemans flashed a rising shot just wide as Leicester sought a third goal but, after Hammers substitute Said Benrahma produced two efforts, the visitors salvaged a point when Bowen’s corner went in off Dawson’s upper arm, looping high into the net.