Liverpool helps title push by edging Manchester City
LIVERPOOL, England — Juergen Klopp has turned Liverpool into credible English Premier League title contenders again.
A season that began for Liverpool with a victory over Arsenal reached its midway point on Saturday by edging Manchester City 1-0 through Georginio Wijnaldum's early header.
Klopp has also seen off leader Chelsea and only been beaten twice through the first 19 games. Just six points separate Liverpool from Chelsea despite the London club being on a league-equaling 13-game winning run in a single season
"Can you imagine how annoying it is when you have won 13 games in a row and another team is only six points behind," Klopp said. "It is unbelievably difficult this league but we cannot have a look at Chelsea, they are unbelievably strong and they are on an outstanding run. We have to win our games and see where that takes us."
To a first title since 1990, Liverpool fans hope, in Klopp's first full season in charge. Under the former Borussia Dortmund coach, Liverpool is certainly better placed than Pep Guardiola's third-placed City, which slipped 10 points behind Chelsea.
"We have to wake up and, of course, in two days we have another game (against Burnley on Monday)," Guardiola said. "We have to focus and work because we cannot think about the big goals (the title). It's game by game. Forget about talking about the big things."
In a New Year's Eve game of few scoring chances, Liverpool completed the job after eight minutes as Klopp renewed his former Bundesliga rivalry with Guardiola, the ex-Bayern Munich coach.
Wijnaldum will take the plaudits for providing his second goal of the season, but Adam Lallana's contribution underscored how the midfielder is an essential ingredient in the title bid.
It was Lallana's seventh assist of the season — he has also scored seven — that set up Wijnaldum. The Dutch midfielder climbed above City defender Aleksandar Kolarov to meet Lallana's well-placed cross from the left flank before planting a header beyond goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
While Liverpool was pressing with rhythm, the visitors looked ragged. Even with striker Sergio Aguero back from suspension, the attacking threat was minimal.
There wasn't even a shot on target from City until the 54th minute. Even then Aguero struck centrally and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet easily gathered into his hands.
There was an encouraging moment for City when Silva provided some menace with a run through the Liverpool defense before firing just wide of Mignolet.
The momentum was with City, a team transformed after its disjointed first half but it couldn't penetrate the Liverpool defense.
Neither, though, could Liverpool build on its advantage. Fortunately for Klopp it wasn't necessary.
"Games like this are very, very difficult and it's not that we had a clear plan from the first second to stay deep or be deeper than in other games but you have to learn in the game, you have to adapt to the game," Klopp said. "We were the whole night not cool enough in possession.
"We lost the ball in the wrong moment. But they couldn't create real chances because we defended really well. It was kind of a wild game. It was intense. It's not about having a philosophy, it's about adapting to the quality of the opponent and in this case we needed to defend from a compact formation."