Football: Two-horse race forming between Blues and Reds?

Georginio Wijnaldum's thumping header in the eighth minute turned out to be Liverpool's winning goal against Manchester City. The three points kept the Reds on Premier League leaders Chelsea's tails, six points behind.
Georginio Wijnaldum's thumping header in the eighth minute turned out to be Liverpool's winning goal against Manchester City. The three points kept the Reds on Premier League leaders Chelsea's tails, six points behind.PHOTO: REUTERS

Reds stay in touch with Blues by beating City but Klopp refuses to think about catching up

LIVERPOOL • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said his team could not afford to think about league leaders Chelsea, despite Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win over Manchester City which strengthened their position as the main challengers to the London club.

Chelsea beat Stoke 4-2 earlier on Saturday to extend their winning streak to 13 league games but an eighth-minute header from Georginio Wijnaldum earned Liverpool a win that kept them within six points of Antonio Conte's team, who have 49 points.

"We cannot look at Chelsea, they are unbelievably strong of course, on an outstanding run with 13 wins in a row," Klopp told reporters.

"Can you imagine how annoying it is when you win 13 games in a row and we are only six points behind?

"But I am pretty sure they don't think about this, so why should we? The league is unbelievably difficult this season, but for me to beat City was the perfect way to end the year."

KEEPING UP THE CHASE

Can you imagine how annoying it is when you win 13 games in a row and we are only six points behind?

JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, on getting under the skin of the league leaders Chelsea.

The win moved Liverpool four points ahead of City but Klopp still highlighted some areas for improvement.

"The problem we had tonight was that we were not as good as we could have been (in possession)," he said. "We created a few moments, we had a wonderful goal, we had our counter-attacks... but we passed too late, or not in the right direction.

"We were not as confident as we could have been in our possession, sometimes we lost the ball too easily."

The German, however, did praise Wijnaldum for his "wonderful" goal scored via a bullet header from Adam Lallana's cross that sealed the three points.

"It was difficult. We couldn't create too many chances. We defended really well. It was a wonderful goal," Klopp said.

City have been beaten four times in the league this season and although they improved in the second half, they never seriously looked like forcing their way back into the match.

City manager Pep Guardiola looked deflated after the game, unable to put much of a positive spin on a defeat his players accepted too meekly.

"We started the game well, we wanted to play with courage," the Spaniard said.

"Then the first chance Liverpool have, they score, so it was always difficult. We had a long time to react to going behind but we were not able to create many opportunities."

Guardiola was also reluctant to admit that the gap to Chelsea was now too large at 10 points, though he did start to turn his attention to some of the other prizes on offer.

"The second leg of the season starts tomorrow and there are still many things left to fight for," he said.

"We are still in the Champions League and we have the FA Cup to come. You must expect a gap to exist when one team wins 13 matches in a row.

"Maybe a team that can do that does not have too many weaknesses, but when you are behind all you can do is focus on your own games, beginning with the next game."

Following the busy festive period in the Premier League, City will host Burnley today, while Liverpool travel to Sunderland.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

MAN CITY V BURNLEY

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SUNDERLAND V LIVERPOOL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Two-horse race forming?'. Print Edition | Subscribe