Mohamed Salah stunner helps Liverpool beat Chelsea and top Premier League

Mohamed Salah duels for the ball with Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek. (AP)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Mohamed Salah stunner helps Liverpool beat Chelsea and top Premier League

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp hailed "fantastic" Mohamed Salah as the key to Liverpool's title dreams as they powered back to the top of the Premier League thanks to the Egypt star's stunning strike in a 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday.
Klopp's side had surrendered pole position a few hours earlier when Manchester City won 3-1 at Crystal Palace, piling pressure on the Reds to respond as the title race heats up.
But Liverpool rose to the challenge as Sadio Mane's opener five minutes after the break and a blistering long-range drive from Salah two minutes later moved them two points clear of second-placed City on a raucous afternoon at Anfield.
"It was a fantastic goal from Mo. I had the best view," Klopp said after Salah's first goal from outside the area in the league since January 2018.
"What a finish, what a shot. But the whole move around it. Wow, brilliant.
"I'm so proud of the team, it was a fantastic performance. I'm so thankful I can be a part of this. It's overwhelming at times."
City have five games left compared to just four for Liverpool, leaving the destiny of the title in the hands of the champions.
But there is a growing feeling at Anfield that this will be the season Liverpool finally end their 29-year wait to be crowned kings of English football.
With City having difficult league fixtures looming against Tottenham and Manchester United, Klopp's men are convinced they can hold onto pole position.
Their run-in is undoubtedly less daunting than City's, with Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle on the schedule before a potential title party against Wolves at Anfield.
"The first question in the meeting today was 'what is the City score?'. You cannot avoid knowing about it," Klopp said of a gripping title battle.
"We expect them to win all their games so we just need to get as many points as possible.
"If we're champions then great, but if not we are still a really good football team."
For fourth-placed Chelsea, the loss was a blow to their bid for Champions League football next season and they will drop to fifth if Arsenal win at Watford on Monday.
Claiming that Liverpool's first goal should have been ruled out for a foul on Emerson, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri grumbled: "In my opinion there was a foul. I think the level in Premier League is the best in the world but not for the referees.
"We stayed in the match for 50 minutes. It's not easy of course but we have to fight to the end (for the top four)."
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 Liverpool fans and in the week that club legend Tommy Smith passed away, there was even more emotion at Anfield than usual.
After a minute's silence featuring mosaics reading "30 years" and "96" held up by fans around the ground, Liverpool's focus was trained on avenging one of the more painful defeats in the club's recent history.
Steven Gerrard's infamous slip in 2014 led to a defeat against Chelsea that effectively gifted the title to Manchester City when Liverpool had looked odds-on to lift the trophy.
But Klopp insisted his players wouldn't be haunted by the ghosts of that collapse and they were true to his word.
"We have closed the book on that now, Klopp said about Liverpool's Chelsea demons.
The crucial opener arrived in the 51st minute.
When Salah scampered onto Roberto Firmino's flick in the Chelsea area, Blues defender Emerson could only prod the ball to the influential Jordan Henderson and his deft cross reached the unmarked Mane, who headed home at the far post.
Any Liverpool nerves had been wiped away by jubilant celebrations and soon after Salah blew the roof off Anfield with a moment of pure genius.
Taking possession wide on the right flank, Salah cut inside and glided away from Emerson before unleashing a sumptuous 25-yard drive that arrowed past Kepa Arrizabalaga into the far corner.
It was a sweet moment of vindication for the Egypt forward after a group of Chelsea fans were filmed chanting "Salah is a bomber" before their team's Europa League tie at Slavia Prague on Thursday.
And Salah, a practising Muslim, celebrated his 22nd goal of the season by adopting a prayer position in front of the Kop as Liverpool moved a step closer to their holy grail.


Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

Updated 18 April 2019
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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

  • Medvedev eliminates 6th seed Tsitsipas in three sets

MONTE CARLO: Top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in dominating wins to power into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Thursday.

Djokovic extended his winning streak against US players with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz.

The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon in 2016 to Sam Querrey.

“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball.

“We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.

“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.

“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”

Nadal repeated last year’s semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4, 6-1.

“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament.

“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me.

“I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.

“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”

Spain’s 17-time Grand Slam champion started his clay season this week after missing a month with another knee problem and has title-holder points to defend here plus Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.

The king of clay is bidding for a 12th trophy in the principality. His record at the event is a staggering 70-4.

Nadal spent almost an hour in securing the first set but picked up the pace in the second as he ran out the winner.

He next faces Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic will be playing his ninth quarterfinal here from 13 appearances at his home event.

Djokovic turned in a steady performance with a dozen winners and unforced errors, while his opponent committed nearly 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Daniil Medvedev continued his run of form.

The Russian will next line up against Djokovic after losing to him in January in the Australian Open fourth round.

Tsitsipas was caught on the back foot facing three match points as he trailed 0-40 on his serve late in the second set. After saving the first two, the Greek botched the third to seal his exit after an hour and three-quarters.

Medvedev increased his leading total of ATP season match wins to 20 as a result after he beat Tsitsipas for the fourth time in as many attempts.

“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.

“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court.

“I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”

The player who stands a career-high 14th credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport.

“I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months —  since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” Medvedev said.

“I had my best season last year — hopefully this year will be better.”

The Russian reached his first quarterfinal at the Masters 1000 level after winning his second match against a Top 10 opponent.

Tsitsipas, runner-up last season to Nadal in Toronto, suffered his eighth defeat of the season against 18 wins and will try and lift his game next week on the clay of Barcelona. 

Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.