Liverpool are still “chasing like mad” after Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, said Juergen Klopp after coming from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Tuesday.
The top two are now level on points, but City stay at the top of the table on goal difference and had a game in hand away to Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday.
Liverpool could not afford another slipup after being held 1-1 at home by Tottenham Hotspur over the weekend and got off to the worst possible start when Douglas Luiz fired Villa in front after three minutes.
However, Joel Matip quickly leveled and Sadio Mane’s fine header 25 minutes from time kept the Reds in contention for a historic quadruple of trophies.
“We are still chasing like mad,” Klopp said. “We just know we have to win — that didn’t change — and now we have to recover to play the FA Cup final. There is no mercy.”
However, victory came at a cost as Fabinho limped off with a muscle injury that makes him a major doubt for Saturday’s FA Cup final and the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28.
“He felt a muscle — not too much,” Klopp said. “He is quite positive, but I’m not sure what I can make of that to be honest.”
With one eye on Wembley, Klopp rolled the dice with his team selection as Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara were left on the bench, while there was no place in the squad for Andy Robertson.
The visitors looked like a much-changed side, as Villa sprang out of the traps and caught them cold.
Alisson Becker had denied Ollie Watkins by the time Steven Gerrard’s men took the lead on three minutes.
Luiz’s header was parried by Alisson, but only back into the path of his Brazilian international teammate to hammer the rebound high into the net.
Villa won this fixture 7-2 last season, but Liverpool this time bounced straight back from the early blow of conceding.
The hosts did not deal with a free-kick into the box and the ball eventually broke for Virgil van Dijk to square for his center-back partner Matip to apply the finishing touch.
Chances continued to come at both ends in a frantic first half.
Mane headed inches wide and Naby Keita missed his kick with the goal gaping for Liverpool, while, at the other end, Danny Ings just failed to keep his header down from Lucas Digne’s inviting cross.
Liverpool’s heavy schedule began to show physically when Fabinho limped off with a hamstring injury midway through the first half, but Klopp’s men went through the gears in the second period to show the gulf in class between the sides.
“We’ve got to take the big moments we created in the game,” Gerrard said. “I’m frustrated we didn’t score more than once. We were ambitious, brave and courageous against one of the best teams in the world.”
Luis Diaz’s arrival in January has played a huge part in keeping Klopp’s men in contention for four trophies. The Colombian created the winner as he teased Tyrone Mings before delivering a pinpoint cross for Mane to head in his 22nd goal of the season.
There were still nervy moments for Liverpool to see out in the final quarter as Villa sought to expose their high line.
Twice Ings failed to capitalize when played through on goal before being flagged offside when he did finally put the ball in the net.
However, Liverpool held on and will hope Gerrard can finally come to their rescue in a title race.
Gerrard famously never won a league title during his decorated playing career at Anfield, but is to take Villa to face City at the Etihad on the final day of the season.
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