LIVERPOOL (REUTERS) – Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty – and Manchester City their chance of pulling ahead in the Premier League – as the champions could only draw 0-0 with Liverpool in a tightly contested game at Anfield on Sunday (Oct 7).
With Chelsea making up ground by winning 3-0 at Southampton, the league’s three unbeaten teams go into the international break locked together on 20 points.
City are top on goal difference, with Chelsea second and Liverpool dropping to third, two points ahead of Arsenal, who routed Fulham 5-1 for their ninth successive win in all competitions.
Mahrez has now missed five of his past eight Premier League penalties – one for City and four for his previous club Leicester City – and seems highly unlikely to be given another chance after blasting the ball over the bar in the 86th minute.
City’s normal penalty taker, Sergio Aguero, had already been substituted when Virgil van Dyke clattered into Leroy Sane in what the defender later admitted was “not a smart move”.
City defender John Stones said the players had decided among themselves that Mahrez would take the kick after impressing with his spot-kicks in training last week.
“Riyad feels deflated, he feels he has let us down,” he said.
Stones said City were delighted to keep a clean sheet after conceding seven goals in their past two visits – one game in the Premier League and one in the Champions League – but Mahrez’s miss took the gloss off their performance.
Liverpool’s front three had been deadly in those Anfield games last season but they created little on Sunday, with the home side’s rhythm further disrupted by a first-half injury to James Milner.
There was no shortage of goals at Craven Cottage where Arsenal, who lost their opening two league games, provided further proof that they are starting to gel under new manager Unai Emery.
SWIFT GOAL FOR RAMSEY
Alexandre Lacazette and substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both scored twice, with Aaron Ramsey also netting just 39 seconds after coming on as a second-half replacement.
Ramsey started and finished one of the goals of the season, scoring with the sort of flick that even Johan Cruyff would have approved of. The Welshman also provided a delightful chipped pass for Aubameyang to run to for Arsenal’s fifth goal, underlining what a big loss he will be if, as expected, he leaves at the end of the season.
“For me it was very important for (Ramsey) to take confidence and take that first goal,” said Emery. “He did not start in the first 11 today but when he was on he scored within a minute and that gives confidence for both him and us.”
Fulham, who equalised through Andre Schurrle, have the worst defensive record in the Premier League and have now conceded 21 goals this season. They remain on five points, one place above the relegation zone.
Their west London neighbours Chelsea have made an altogether more impressive start to the season and remain undefeated with nine wins from 11 competitive games this season.
Ross Barkley scored his first goal for the club since joining from Everton, with Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata also netting.
Barkley’s goal came via his knee from a few metres out and completed a memorable few days for the midfielder who has been recalled to the England squad for the forthcoming games against Croatia and Spain.
Hazard was once again at his imperious best to net his seventh league goal and remain this season’s top scorer. The Belgian said he did not know if he had ever played better than this season.
“I’m just playing good football because we are playing good football,” he said. “I want to keep doing it and keep everyone happy.”
Southampton manager Mark Hughes said he believed they paid Chelsea “too much respect” and pointed to a first-half miss by Danny Ings, who blasted over from a couple of metres, as a game-changer.
“We had a chance at 0-0 for Danny Ings, if that goes in we get a different frame of mind,” he said. “We never got any momentum. Sometimes you have to be brave and we weren’t able to do that.”