Liverpool were made to work to clinch a record-equalling 18th-straight Premier League win on Monday, needing a second-half rally to see off struggling West Ham 3-2 at Anfield.
Sadio Mane scored in the 81st minute to secure three more points on the march to a first title in 30 years, though they were made to work hard against opponents struggling at the wrong end of the table.
Jurgen Klopp’s runaway leaders took an early lead but benefited from a nightmare outing for Lukasz Fabianski to match Manchester City’s streak of victories in the competition.
It appeared set to be business as usual for the Reds when they claimed a ninth-minute lead on Merseyside, Georginio Wijnaldum nodding them in front.
The Dutchman stooped to convert Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inviting cross, Fabianski only able to paw the ball into his net.
Home fans responded to the goal by chanting, ‘We’re going to win the league’ – only to be quickly silenced by an equaliser at the Kop end.
Issa Diop met Robert Snodgrass’ corner at the near post and his header squeezed beyond Alisson, meaning Liverpool’s advantage had lasted for a mere 174 seconds.
Substitute Pablo Fornals – on for the injured Tomas Soucek – then put West Ham ahead in the 54th minute, providing a well-placed, first-time finish when picked out by Declan Rice’s cross.
Yet with David Moyes perhaps contemplating a first Anfield win in his managerial career at the 16th attempt, Fabianski’s struggles continued.
Having just produced a spectacular save to tip away a drive from Alexander-Arnold, the usually reliable goalkeeper allowed a drive from Mohamed Salah to spill between his legs and cross the line.
The comeback was complete for Liverpool when Fabianski’s ill-advised decision to come out and meet Alexander-Arnold allowed the full-back to clip a bouncing ball back inside for Mane to turn home.
Mane had a second goal ruled out by VAR for offside, but Liverpool were still able to celebrate a 21st successive home triumph, an English top-flight record they share with the legendary Bill Shankly’s side from 1972.
What does it mean? Four. More. Wins.
The procession to the crown nearly hit an unexpected stumbling block, but Liverpool move a step closer to their goal.
If they and nearest rivals City keep on collecting wins in the coming weeks, the Reds’ home clash with Crystal Palace on March 21 is the date to mark in the calendar, as they need a further 12 points to be certain of glory.
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After a poor showing in a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, Liverpool were lethargic until West Ham’s second goal finally woke them up. However, Alexander-Arnold was bright and busy throughout, with his awareness teeing up Mane’s winner and taking his tally of Premier League assists to 25.
Not so Fab for the Hammers
Another defeat for Moyes and West Ham, though they demonstrated far more fighting spirit after a meek performance away at City last Wednesday. They will hope this was merely a blip for keeper Fabianski, who will no doubt be required at key moments during his team’s attempts to beat the drop.
Key Opta Facts
– West Ham manager David Moyes remains without an away win against Liverpool in all competitions, failing in 16 attempts (D7 L9) and losing the last four in a row with Manchester United, Sunderland and the Hammers.
– Liverpool have scored 14 headed goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
– Trent Alexander-Arnold has provided 25 Premier League assists, the joint-most by a Liverpool defender in the competition along with Stig Inge Bjornebye. Only Cesc Fabregas (20y 134d) and Wayne Rooney (21y 63d) have reached that tally at a younger age than the Reds right-back (21y 140d).
– Since his Premier League debut in August 2014, Liverpool’’s Andrew Robertson has registered 27 assists in the competition, more than any other defender in that time.
– Liverpool’s Sadio Mane has been directly involved in eight goals in his past six Premier League appearances against West Ham (5 goals, 3 assists), scoring in each of his most recent four appearances against the Hammers.
Both teams play on Saturday, with Liverpool having a trip to another Premier League struggler in Watford. As for 18th-place West Ham, they host Southampton.