LONDON, June 22 — Liverpool’s march towards the Premier League title was delayed as the leaders returned to action with a goalless draw against Merseyside rivals Everton, while Chelsea fought back for a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side picked up following the top-flight resumption on Wednesday needing two wins to secure their first English title for 30 years.
But Liverpool looked rusty in their first game in 106 days following the coronavirus lockdown.
Despite their underwhelming display behind closed doors at Goodison Park, Liverpool are now 23 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City.
If City drop points at home to Burnley on Monday, then Liverpool can clinch the title against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.
A City victory would delay Liverpool’s coronation until at least their clash with Pep Guardiola’s side at the Etihad Stadium on July 2.
Liverpool have won just two of their last seven games in all competitions.
“It was a real fight. Both teams showed they understood it was a derby,” Klopp said.
“Most of the time we were dominant but they had the biggest chance. We were not smart enough to use the space.
“That is normal when you start to play again. Football looks slightly different (since the coronavirus) but I take that.”
Reds star Mohamed Salah was left on the bench due to fitness concerns, while Andrew Robertson was also sidelined and they were not at their best as a result.
Liverpool improved after the break and Naby Keita fired just wide before Virgil van Dijk’s header was saved by Jordan Pickford.
But it was Everton who came closest to a winner on the break when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s effort was saved by Alisson Becker and Tom Davies fired the rebound against the post.
Frank Lampard believes Christian Pulisic can be Chelsea’s trump card in the race to qualify for the Champions League after his decisive cameo at Villa Park.
Lampard’s side were rocked when Kortney Hause put Villa ahead against the run of play in the first half.
But Pulisic came off the bench to equalise after the break before Olivier Giroud bagged his fourth club goal of the season two minutes later.
Chelsea’s quick-fire blitz moved the fourth-placed west Londoners five points clear of Manchester United in fifth as they fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
A first away league win of 2020 was the ideal way for Chelsea to return to action in their first match since the Premier League was suspended in March due to the coronavirus.
It was Pulisic’s first appearance since January after an abductor muscle injury and Lampard feels the United States winger is ready to make an impact again.
“He will start games for us, of course, and I think he’s going to be a big player for us, not just in this run-in but going forward,” Lampard said.
“The ability he’s got to arrive in the box, it’s a big thing, I’ve spoken about it with him all season.”
Steve Bruce hopes Joelinton is finally ready to deliver after the Brazilian ended a Premier League goal drought stretching back to August in Newcastle’s 3-0 win over 10-man Sheffield United.
Joelinton’s close-range finish in the 78th minute completed the scoring after goals from Allan Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie.
It was a welcome boost for Joelinton, who has struggled since his move from Hoffenheim last year and missed a glorious opportunity in the first half at St James’ Park.
Joelinton was also at the centre of the game’s significant moment when he raced away from John Egan in the second half and was hauled back, triggering a red card for the Blades defender that sparked the visitors’ collapse.
“He personally has suffered in the lockdown more than anybody. He’s had no family here, no friends, holed up in an apartment somewhere,” Bruce said.
“He’s a really genuinely good lad and he gives his all for the team. We’re just delighted that he’s managed to score a goal. He can only get better. — AFP