‘No opera’ as Liverpool extend lead while Arsenal suffer Hammers blow

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Mohamed Salah’s second-half penalty was enough to give Premier League leaders Liverpool a 1-0 win away to Brighton on Saturday that saw them go seven points clear at the top of the table.

Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, admitted it had been “no opera” watching his side struggle on the south coast in a match that was goalless until Egypt forward, Salah, scored from the spot after being brought down in the box by Pascal Gross.

“It was very hard but that is how it is. It wasn’t an opera of football but it was a really nice song.” says Klopp. He is looking to guide the Reds to their first English title of the Premier League era.

Second-placed reigning champions, Manchester City, fresh from a 9-0 rout of Burton Albion in the first leg of a League Cup semi-final will look to close the gap at home to Wolves, who knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup on Monday.

“It means nothing. We know that the difference tomorrow and Monday night could be different,” says Klopp.

Saturday’s early kick-off saw teenage midfielder Declan Rice score his first West Ham goal in a 1-0 win at home to London rivals Arsenal. Victory, in front of a London Stadium record crowd of over 59,000, cemented the Hammers’ place in the top half of the table.

Rice’s 48th-minute strike saw the midfielder give himself an early present ahead of his 20th birthday on Monday.

West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic waved to home fans when substituted in the 71st minute which suggested the Austria forward, linked with a move to the Chinese Super League, may have played his last game for the club.

“We will see what happens in the next days,” said Manuel Pellegrini, the Hammers manager, when asked about Arnautovic’s future.

Defeat dented Arsenal’s bid for Champions League football ahead of next week’s clash at home to Chelsea. The fourth-placed Blues will be six points clear of the Gunners if they win at home to relegation-threatened Newcastle in Saturday’s late kick-off.

“This afternoon is a bad result for us,” said Arsenal manager Unai Emery.

At the other end of the table, 10-man Southampton moved a point clear of the bottom three with a 2-1 win away to Leicester. James Ward-Prowse’s penalty gave the Saints an 11th-minute lead.

But the visitors found themselves a man down when Yann Valery was shown a red card for a second bookable offence after tugging the shirt of Marc Albrighton.

Southampton still doubled their in first half stoppage-time time when Shane Long pounced on a mistake by Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The Foxes scored a second-half goal through Wilfried Ndidi but it wasn’t enough and defeat saw Leicester, managed by former Saints boss Claude Puel, booed by their own fans come full-time at the King Power Stadium.

“I’m unbelievably proud of my players. To go 2-0 in the lead at Leicester is not easy and we defended with fantastic commitment,” says Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Fulham remained in the relegation zone after a 2-1 loss to Burnley that saw them concede two own-goals in three minutes at Turf Moor against a Clarets side who didn’t manage a shot on target.

Andre Schurrle put Fulham ahead in just the second minute but Burnley equalised in the 20th minute through Joe Bryan’s own-goal and were soon in the lead when Denis Odoi also put through his own net.

“It is unbelievable. We scored a geat goal and then suddenly two own-goals,” said Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri.

Craig Cathcart scored at both ends as Watford won 2-1 away to Crystal Palace in a match coinciding with the second anniversary of former Hornets manager Graham Taylor’s death.

Cathcart gave Palace, whose manager Roy Hodgson, like Taylor, had an ill-fated spell as England boss, a 38th-minute lead with an own-goal.

However, the defender equalised midway through the second half before Tom Cleverley volleyed in Watford’s winner with 16 minutes left at Selhurst Park. Huddersfield remained bottom of the table following a goalless draw away to Cardiff.

Third-placed Tottenham Hotspur face Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday when Everton are at home to Bournemouth.