By STEVE DOUGLAS – Japan Today
Liverpool hasn’t been this close to Manchester City since Christmas Day.
The gap is now down to three points in the Premier League title race — which once looked heavily in favor of City — after Liverpool demolished Leeds 6-0 on Wednesday.
Mohamed Salah, naturally, inflicted most of the damage by scoring two goals from the penalty spot and playing a part in two more. Sadio Mane also scored twice.
Liverpool has finally caught up to City in games — they’ve both played 26 in the 38-game season — and nearly on points.
With Liverpool still to visit City’s Etihad Stadium on April 10, there’s little to choose between the top two — the last two winners of English football’s biggest prize.
At one stage in the middle of January, City held a 13-point lead, though Liverpool always had games in hand and just needed to keep in sight of the defending champions.
On a run of six straight victories, Jurgen Klopp’s team has done just that and looks in prime shape heading into Sunday’s League Cup final against Chelsea.
“I think for people outside, it is better to have three or six-point gap than to have a 20 or 30-point gap so it is more exciting,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said of the title race, “but we have to win a lot of the games against all the difficult opponents and that will be a tricky task.
“We will give it a try.”
Salah’s league-high goal total is up to 19 after being gifted two penalty chances by Leeds’ frail defense that has now conceded 16 goals in the team’s last four games.
Stuart Dallas blocked Andrew Robertson’s cross with his hand to give away the first spot kick that was dispatched by Salah in the 15th minute.
Salah slipped in Joel Matip, marauding forward from center back, for the second goal in the 30th and then converted a second penalty five minutes later after Luke Ayling tripped Sadio Mane, who was bearing down on goal.
Mane added two late goals while there was also time for Virgil van Dijk to head home a corner in the third minute of stoppage time.
“It can happen, but I didn’t expect it,” Klopp said of the big win. “It’s really difficult to defend man-marking against us for 90 minutes.
“You cannot defend Mo Salah in all challenges of a game. That is the problem Leeds has and that is why the result is the result.”
Tottenham followed up a stunning win at City on Saturday with a 1-0 loss at next-to-last Burnley four days later in a result that shakes up the relegation fight.
Ben Mee headed home a free kick in the 71st minute to earn Burnley a second straight win that moved the team up one place to 18th and to within two points of safety.
Burnley also has games in hand over most the teams near the bottom.
Replacing Burnley in 19th spot was Watford, which lost 4-1 at home to Crystal Palace, for whom Wilfried Zaha scored two late goals.
Leeds is in 15th place and has slipped to within three points of the relegation zone. The bottom seven teams are separated by seven points.