Manchester City were challenging for the Premier League summit but were quickly knocked out by Liverpool on Saturday, a sign of what is likely to lie ahead in the coming weeks in the title race.
Erling Haaland’s brace – his first goals since returning from a foot injury – gave champions City a 2-0 win over a resolute Everton at the Etihad Stadium.
That piled the pressure on Liverpool, but Jurgen Klopp’s side responded appropriately to beat Burnley 3-1, with Dioga Hota, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunes on target.
It meant the day ended as it had started, with Liverpool two points clear of City, who have played a game less.
Liverpool have 54 points from 24 games, City have 52 from 23 and third-placed Arsenal, who play West Ham United on Sunday, have 49 from 23 games.
Klopp’s side, beaten by Arsenal last week, were once again not at their best and had to work hard to subdue Burnley, who effectively equalized through Dara O’Shea’s header and looked capable of taking home something in their relegation battle.
Hota put Liverpool ahead in the 31st minute and Diaz and Nunes, also with headers, secured the win after the break to put Liverpool back above City.
“It’s not just about three points. You can’t have guaranteed momentum all the time,” said Klopp, whose side host City on March 10. “It’s always a different challenge. If it doesn’t click right away, fight it. Today was very difficult, but the boys persevered and got three points.”
However, Klopp was concerned that Trent Alexander-Arnold was out for the second half due to injury.
City also found Everton a tough nut to crack and they didn’t have a shot on target in the first half.
Pep Guardiola has such firepower that even the strongest opposition usually breaks through, and Haaland’s return to the fold was inevitable.
His 15th and 16th goals of the season saw the Norwegian regain the sole top spot in the league’s top scorers list – his second substitute Kevin De Bruyne, who also recently returned from injury.
“I can’t imagine him stopping for two months, moving that huge body and being fit again, but he’s back,” Guardiola said. “I think he’s going to help.”
Tottenham Hotspur moved back into the top four, pipping Aston Villa, thanks to Brennan Johnson’s stoppage-time strike to earn a 2-1 home win over Brighton & Hove Albion.
Pascal Gross’ penalty gave Brighton the lead but Pape Matar Sarr equalized on the hour mark and Tottenham talisman Son Heung-min, who started on the bench after returning from the Asian Cup, put Johnson on the clock with 96 minutes left.
Tottenham have 47 points from 24 games, although Villa, who has 46, takes on sixth-placed Manchester United on Sunday.
Last-placed Sheffield United gave themselves a glimmer of hope in their survival fight with a 3-1 win at Luton Town to move level on 13 points with 19th-placed Burnley.
17th-placed Luton squandered their golden chance to move away from the relegation zone as goals from Cameron Archer, James Makati and Vinicius de Souza earned Sheffield United their first away league win of the season and just their third overall.
“They’ve got two fours in their last two games so they’re not cartoons… For us, this win gives us a bit of belief and a bit of confidence,” said United boss Chris Wilder, referring to Luton’s four-goal haul in the previous two matches championship
Fulham picked up their first Premier League win of 2024 with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth, with Rodrigo Muniz scoring twice to lift the London side above their visitors to 12th.
Ivan Toney was on target for Brentford as they snapped a six-game losing streak with a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Nottingham Forest host Newcastle United later in the day. – REUTERS