Liverpool blow chance to go fourth

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LONDON: Liverpool suffered another setback in a tumultuous week as Joe Willock’s 94th minute equaliser earned Newcastle United a 1-1 draw at Anfield that prevented Jurgen Klopp’s men from moving into the Premier League top four.

Mohamed Salah had opened the scoring after just three minutes, but Liverpool wasted a host of chances to extend their lead and paid in stoppage time.

The Reds even had already had a reprieve when Callum Wilson’s equaliser was ruled out after a VAR review for handball, but still could not hold on as Willock’s deflected strike secured a vital point in the Magpies’ bid for survival.

Two more dropped points is a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a place in next season’s Champions League after their owners’ plans for ensuring they have top level European football every season without having to earn it on the field collapsed this week.

Liverpool were one of 12 clubs to initially sign up to proposals for a European Super League (ESL) last weekend, only to quickly withdraw within 48 hours after a backlash from their own players and fans.

A protest outside Anfield on Saturday was more muted than the ones seen ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal’s home matches in recent days, but a number of flags and banners were attached to the gates around the ground calling out the ‘greed’ of the club’s American owners Fenway Sports Group.

In his programme notes, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who spoke out against the ESL on behalf of the squad on Tuesday, called for calm.

“Being critical of my own employers isn’t something I do easily,” said Henderson. “It is good that Liverpool withdrew and the concept has collapsed. That’s good for football. It’s also good that our owners, via John Henry, have apologised unreservedly.”

Henry’s FSG helped deliver Liverpool’s first Premier League title for 30 years last season.

But many of the problems Klopp’s men have encountered in defending their title were in evidence again as they as failed to see off Newcastle long before a nervy finale.

The hosts could not have made a better start as a brilliant touch and finish from Salah opened the scoring after just three minutes.

The Egyptian’s 29th goal of the season set up a wide-open game with plenty of chances at both ends.

Salah should have had a second but fired too close to Martin Dubravka when clean through on goal. Sadio Mane also failed to round the Slovakian goalkeeper with a glorious chance.

Dubravka made a string of fine saves after the break to deny Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at his near post and a long-range effort from James Milner.

The tension in the Liverpool players was clear late in the game and Newcastle capitalised after manager Steve Bruce sent on Wilson and Willock.

Wilson bundled the ball home after Alisson had saved his initial effort, but the ball had rebounded off the Brazilian goalkeeper onto the former Bournemouth striker’s hand before he stabbed it into an unguarded net.

Seconds later, Liverpool failed to deal with another long ball into their box and the ball fell for on-loan Arsenal midfielder Willock, whose strike deflected in off Fabinho to leave Alisson helpless.

An own goal by Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno gave Everton a 1-0 win in their clash at The Emirates on Friday, gifting the Toffees three valuable points in their quest for European football next season and damaging the home side’s own hopes.

Leno bundled Richarlison’s low cross into the net in the 76th minute to decide the game

“To dig deep and get the win is massive. Arsenal want the same thing as we do [European football] so to take the points from them is massive. We’ve got to be consistent now,” Everton defender Mason Holgate said.

It was Everton’s first win at Arsenal since 1996 and condemned the Gunners to a seventh home defeat of the season, their worst record since the 1992-93 season.

Calum Chambers and Ceballos went close for Arsenal before Richarlison skipped past Granit Xhaka to the byline and sent a low cross into the six-yard box, which Leno misjudged and steered between his own legs and into the net.