Draws for Liverpool, Spurs cap tough weekend for EPL powers

Sports

Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp gestures during the English Premier League soccer match between Fulham and Liverpool, at Craven Cottage stadium, London, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp had just seen his team fall behind after getting outplayed in the opening 25 minutes by a supposed contender for relegation, and he’d had enough.

“WAKE UP!” Klopp barked to his players, his chest out and his teeth gritted.

Liverpool ended up escaping from Craven Cottage with a 1-1 draw against Fulham thanks to a late penalty by Mohamed Salah but it was hardly the stuff of champions from Klopp’s team.

They weren’t alone, in what has proved a tough weekend for the Premier League’s likely title candidates. And for Arsenal, too.

Earlier Sunday, Tottenham, the league leader, was held to a 1-1 draw by Crystal Palace.

On Saturday, Chelsea lost for just the second time in the league this season, 1-0 at Everton, and the two Manchester clubs played out a drab 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.

If this was some kind of hangover from the teams’ latest midweek exertions in European competition, then the schedule is only going to get more hectic now English soccer is entering the festive period where the show goes on unlike with many leagues on the continent.

“I don’t want to make excuses — I’ll let you all talk about that and the amount of games players are playing, especially European teams,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. “We’ve just got to prepare and play whenever we’re told. That’s all we can do.”

As it was, there was no harm done by the champions for what was one of their sloppiest displays of the season.

Liverpool ends the weekend in second place after 12 games, tied on 25 points with Tottenham.

The pair meet at Anfield on Wednesday in the headline fixture in a midweek round of games in the Premier League where rotation might be heavy across the division.

Arsenal can no longer be described as a title contender but was another team playing after a European match in midweek. Mikel Arteta’s team fell to the worst defeat of the lot, 1-0 at home to Burnley after going down to 10 men following Granit Xhaka’s red card.

SALAH TO RESCUE

Salah moved to 13 goals for the season in all competitions with Liverpool’s 79th-minute equalizer at Fulham, with the Egypt forward scoring for the third straight game.

Liverpool looked to be heading for the second loss of its title defense, when a shot by Georginio Wijnaldum at a free kick struck the outstretched elbow of Fulham substitute Aboubakar Kamara, who was jumping in the defensive wall.

A penalty was awarded and Salah struck his attempt low and down the middle, with goalkeeper Alphonse Areola getting a hand to the ball but unable to keep it out.

Bobby De Cordova-Reid gave Fulham the lead in the 25th minute with one of a series of chances created by the home team in a one-sided first half.

Liverpool played the second half with two central midfielders — Fabinho and Henderson — at center back after Joel Matip went off with a back issue. Matip had been the only fit, senior center half available to Klopp, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez out with long-term injuries.

UNSTOPPABLE PARTNERSHIP

There’s just no stopping Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

They teamed up for a goal for the 12th time this season, as Kane opened the scoring for Tottenham at Palace by collecting a pass from Son and smashing a fierce, swerving shot from about 30 meters that goalkeeper Vicente Guaita lost track of.

Only Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, with 13, have combined for more goals in a single top-flight season than Kane and Son. That came in the 1994-95 title-winning campaign for Blackburn.

Guaita made amends with two outstanding saves, denying first Kane and then Eric Dier at a free kick, to preserve a point for Palace after Jeffrey Schlupp’s 81st-minute equalizer at Selhurst Park.

Tottenham’s only loss this season remains against Everton on the opening weekend.

AUBAMEYANG OWN-GOAL

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been struggling to find the net this season. He did against Burnley, but unfortunately it was at the wrong end.

Aubameyang inadvertently glanced a Burnley corner past his goalkeeper, Bernd Leno, for what proved to be the deciding goal in the 73rd minute at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal was a man down by that point after Xhaka was shown a straight red card for grabbing Burnley’s Ashley Westwood by the throat.

Arsenal is languishing in 15th place on just 13 points, and has scored only 10 goals all campaign.

BLUNT BLADES

Sheffield United became the first Premier League team since Queens Park Rangers in 2012 to fail to win any of its first 12 games in a season after losing 3-0 at Southampton.

Goals by Che Adams, Stuart Armstrong and substitute Nathan Redmond consigned United to an 11th loss so far, leaving Chris Wilder’s beleaguered side in last place on one point — five behind nearest team West Bromwich Albion.

Southampton, meanwhile, is a beneficiary of the poor returns this weekend from the league powerhouses and has climbed to fourth, just two points behind Tottenham and Liverpool.

Just above Southampton is Leicester, which beat Brighton 3-0 at home as James Maddison scored either side of a clinically taken goal by Jamie Vardy.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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