Liverpool seal Christmas No.1 spot as Tottenham run riot

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores their third goal against Bournemouth. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2019

Liverpool seal Christmas No.1 spot as Tottenham run riot

  • Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores their third goal against Bournemouth
  • Son Heung-min scores with amazing solo effort in rout of Burnley

LONDON: Rampant Liverpool beat Bournemouth 3-0 to lock down the Christmas number one spot ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby as Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham blitzed Burnley 5-0 to climb to fifth in the table.
Interim boss Duncan Ferguson lifted Everton’s spirits, condemning Chelsea to their third Premier League defeat in four matches while bottom club Watford battled to a goalless draw against Crystal Palace.
Liverpool took advantage of playing before their closest rivals to widen the gulf at the top of the table to 11 points, meaning they cannot be caught by December 25.
Jurgen Klopp, mindful of a fixture pile-up for his side, made seven changes from the 5-2 midweek victory against Everton, with Sadio Mane dropping to the bench and Alisson Becker back in goal following suspension.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring for the European champions in the 35th minute after poking home Jordan Henderson’s long ball, moments after Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake left the pitch injured.
Liverpool made it 2-0 just before the break when Naby Keita played a fine one-two with Mohamed Salah and finished from close range, with Keita turning provider for Salah in the 54th minute.
It was Liverpool’s first clean sheet in any match since late September.
“It is not about being constantly exciting, it is about doing the right stuff,” Klopp told Sky Sports. “There were not a lot of difficult moments to defend and that is good, important. Nearly a perfect day.
“I don’t want to blame or whatever the groups I had before but this is a special group. Without that we have no chance to fulfil the Liverpool dreams. You need a strong character and this team has a strong character.”
Spurs lost their first match under new boss Mourinho at Old Trafford in midweek but flew out of the blocks at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.
Harry Kane put them ahead with his 14th goal of the season in the fourth minute and Spurs doubled their lead when Lucas Moura tapped home at the far post following a goalmouth scramble.
Son Heung-min added a third with a brilliant solo effort shortly after the half-hour, running from deep in his own half before slotting past goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Kane made it 4-0 in the 54th minute with his second goal of the game and turned provider for Moussa Sissoko to score Spurs’ fifth.
Spurs are still six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea but will fancy their chances of closing the gap on their London rivals, who are stumbling after a six-game winning run earlier in the season.
“A perfect day,” Mourinho told the BBC. “No injuries, a clean sheet, goals, perfect football, kids coming on for first Premier League football.
“Sean Dyche is always honest and told me after the game we were too good for them. I thank him for that.”
Everton made it a miserable day for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea thanks to an early strike from Brazil forward Richarlison and two goals from England under-21 international Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Mateo Kovacic scored his first Premier League goal to pull the score back to 2-1 but the Toffees wrapped up victory six minutes from time, Calvert-Lewin latching on to a loose ball in the box to finish underneath Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Former Everton player Ferguson, who celebrated the goals wildly, refused to talk up his chances of getting the job full-time despite the win, telling BT Sport: “I’m here for Everton. I’m here for as long as they want me here.
“I’m sure they’re out there looking for other candidates, and rightly so. We want the best guys in the world managing our football club.”
Watford, who appointed former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson as their new manager on Friday, were unable to force their second win of the season, drawing 0-0 with Crystal Palace.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, in third place, 14 points behind Liverpool, faced Manchester United at the Etihad in the late kick-off on Saturday.
Second-placed Leicester are in action on Sunday, away to Aston Villa, while struggling Arsenal travel to West Ham the following day.


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 44 min 6 sec ago

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”