Liverpool miss chance to stretch lead, Tottenham held at Wolves

Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - December 27, 2020 Liverpool's Sadio Mane in action with West Bromwich Albion's Darnell Furlong Pool via REUTERS/Stu Forster

LIVERPOOL (Reuters) – Liverpool’s hopes of opening up a menacing five-point lead at the top of the Premier League were scuppered in unlikely fashion as struggling West Bromwich Albion snatched a 1-1 draw at Anfield to leave manager Juergen Klopp scowling on Sunday.

Leading through Sadio Mane’s early goal, Klopp’s side appeared to be heading for an eighth successive home league win but a late header by Semi Ajayi left Liverpool frustrated.

Not that the weekend’s most odd result will cause Klopp a sleepless night, even though it left them with only a three-point lead over neighbours Everton.

With Leicester City and Manchester United sharing the spoils on Saturday, Tottenham Hotspur had the chance to move into third spot on Sunday but conceded a late goal in a 1-1 draw away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Liverpool lead the standings with 32 points from 15 games, with Everton on 29, Leicester on 28 and United on 27.

Tottenham have 26 points alongside Manchester City.

Leeds United beat Burnley 1-0 on Sunday with an early penalty by Patrick Bamford while Brighton and Hove Albion twice led at West Ham United but had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Tomas Soucek scoring late on for the hosts.

The hectic Christmas programme continues on Monday with the standout game being Everton’s home clash with Manchester City.

Klopp criticised West Brom’s defensive approach at Anfield but what soured the taste of his Christmas was the way his side tossed away two points by failing to kill off the game.

“The problem that I have is I think West Brom deserved the point — it’s our fault, but they deserved a point in the second half,” Klopp conceded.

“We don’t live in dream-land and just win football matches because we want to win them: we have to work for it and we have to play for it and we have to finish the situations off and we have to pass in the right moments.”

Klopp’s mood was hardly helped by a groin injury to central defender Joel Matip — one of his few options with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez long-term absentees.

“It is a massive worry but it is not a new worry,” former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher said, saying Klopp must sign a defender in January.

While West Brom remain in deep trouble having picked up only eight points from 15 games, the result will give the fans some hope that new manager Sam Allardyce, who has never experienced relegation with 11 previous clubs, can inspire a great escape.

Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham have now gone four games without a Premier League win and once again their defensive tactics came under scrutiny against Wolves.

Tottenham were given a perfect start when Tanguy Ndomeble thumped home a shot after 57 seconds but they spent most of the game thereafter soaking up Wolves pressure.

They failed to have a shot on target from the 21st minute onwards. Wolves were rewarded for their relentless attacking when defender Romain Saiss glanced in a header from a corner in the 86th minute.

Wolves almost snatched all three points when Fabio Silva headed a glorious chance straight at Hugo Lloris.

“One point against Wolves normally wouldn’t be a bad result because they are a strong opponent,” Mourinho said.

“But scoring in the first minute and having 89 minutes to score more, there’s a sense of feeling frustrated. We didn’t have that ambition or desire to go for more.”