LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Another win for Liverpool. Another step toward a first English championship title in 30 years and a rare undefeated league campaign.
If only it were that easy for the Reds at Anfield on Monday.
The runaway Premier League leaders were given a shock for the first time in months, requiring second-half goals by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to complete a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over West Ham.
“I didn’t feel any nerves around Anfield,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “I don’t think anyone in the stadium thought it wasn’t possible.”
Liverpool tied the record for consecutive top-flight wins at 18 and successive top-flight home victories at 21 – but not without a scare against an opponent languishing in the relegation zone.
When Pablo Fornals gave West Ham a shock 2-1 lead in the 55th minute, Liverpooltrailed in the league for the first time since November and its ambitions of becoming only the second team to go through a Premier League campaign unbeaten – after Arsenal in 2003-04 – was under serious threat.
But the Reds were stirred into action and after Salah’s 68th-minute shot squirmed through the arms and legs of West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and over the line in front of The Kop, Mane completed the comeback in the 81st.
“We just tried to keep going, that’s the mindset drilled into us by the manager,” said Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, who set up the team’s first and last goals. “It paid off in the end.”
A 26th win in 27 league matches restored Liverpool’s 22-point lead over Manchester City and left Klopp’s team needing only four more victories to clinch a first English championship title since 1990.
City is about to loseits crown- and might also lose its record for successive top-flight wins next week. Liverpool, chasing a 19th league title, can move onto 19 wins in a row by beating another side fighting relegation, Watford, away on Saturday.
“I never thought it would be broken or equalled,” Klopp said. “We did it and I cannot believe it happened, to be honest.”
It looked like it was going to be business as usual for the Reds when Georginio Wijnaldum stooped to head home a right-wing cross from Alexander-Arnold, who claimed his 11th assist of the season from full back. Fabianski got a hand to the ninth-minute effort, yet couldn’t keep it out.
But the majority of Anfield was stunned into silence as Liverpool conceded a home goal for the first time in almost 11½ hours in the Premier League, with Issa Diop pulling away from his marker to glance a corner from Robert Snodgrass inside the near post.
Missing captain Jordan Henderson because of injury, Liverpool wasn’t as authoritative as usual in midfield and was sloppy in possession, especially wide players Salah and Mane.
West Ham also continued to be dangerous at set pieces, though nearly conceded from one at the other end when Virgil van Dijk headed Alexander-Arnold’s corner against the crossbar.
Ten minutes into the second half, Liverpool fell behind in a league game for the first time since Nov. 2 at Aston Villa as Fornals – only just on as a substitute – turned in a low cross from Declan Rice.
Liverpool was staring at its first loss in nearly 14 months – since a 2-1 defeat at Man City on Jan. 3 last year – but was handed a gift by the usually reliable Fabianski.
Salah met a cutback from left back Andrew Robertson with a shot that headed straight for the Poland goalkeeper, who inexplicably let the ball go through his grasp and roll slowly over the line. Fabianski fell to the ground and put his head in his hands.
Worse was to come for West Ham, which would have climbed out of the bottom three with a point.
A deflected long-range shot span into the path of Alexander-Arnold inside the area on the right, and his lofted cross left Mane the easiest of opportunities in front of an empty net. He made no mistake.
“The disappointing thing is the individual mistakes,” said West Ham manager David Moyes, who is still to win at Anfield in 22 years as a coach, 11 of which were across Stanley Park at Everton.
“I thought we did a really good job. We performed really well as a team but we go away with no points and it’s the points we need.”
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