LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool is on the verge of ending its 30-year league title drought after cruising to a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Wednesday with an attacking display that exemplified a dominant campaign.
Jürgen Klopp’s team can even clinch the Premier League title on Thursday without playing if Manchester City fails to beat Chelsea. It then plays City, the second-placed defending champion, next Thursday.
“I’ll watch the game tomorrow night not to prepare a celebration, I’ll watch the game because we play against City a week later,” Klopp said. “Whatever happens tomorrow night we have no influence on it, so I’m not too much interested to be honest.”
All that matters to Klopp is collecting the two points from seven remaining games to clinch the trophy. After stuttering in a 0-0 draw with Everton after the restart on Sunday, Liverpool was authoritatively rampant again against Palace.
Trent Alexander-Arnold curled in a free kick to start the rout against Palace and Mohamed Salah swept in the second before half time from Fabinho’s dinked ball.
Fabinho powered in the third from distance in the 55th minute and Sadio Mane raced onto Salah’s throughball to complete a counterattack in the 69th to make it 16 wins in 16 home games in the league this season.
“It was the best counter pressing behind closed doors ever,” Klopp quipped. “The attitude we showed tonight, the passion we showed, was exceptional and we played some outstanding football.”
The victory moved Liverpool 23 points ahead of City with seven games remaining of a campaign that will end without any fans in the stadium to celebrate the Reds’ first championship triumph since 1990.
“We’ve waited a long time for this and we’ve worked hard for this over the last few years as a team,” Salah said. “As a club this is what we’ve dreamed of and we’re in a good position, so hopefully we’ll be able to get it across the line very soon.”
Football returned to Anfield for the first time since March 11, when Liverpool lost in the Champions League to Atletico Madrid on the day the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic and some medical experts believed mass gatherings should already have been shut down in England.
One hundred and five days later, the Kop was silent for the visit of Palace. The seats were covered with a tapestry of banners and slogans rather than being packed with the fans who form the choir for club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“We showed our supporters the respect they deserve — that we can play like they are here even when they are not here,” Klopp said. “They can push us to incredible things and without them, it’s nothing like it is when they are here.
“I never miss them more than tonight because imagine this game would have happened with 55,000 people in the stadium and emotions that would have been there in the stadium. It would have been incredible.”
One Liverpool great among the 300 people allowed into the stadium was Kenny Dalglish — the manager who who won the league title in 1990, three years before the Premier League trophy was handed out for the first time.
Two Champions League titles have been won since then — including last year — but not the biggest prize in English football. What was once a record haul of 18 titles has been eclipsed by now 20-time English champion Manchester United.
One of the managers who tried — and failed — to win the Premier League with Liverpool was back at Anfield in the away dugout on Wednesday. Roy Hodgson was fired by Liverpool in 2011 after only 20 matches in charge, to be replaced by the returning Dalglish.
“Even in the last four or five minutes,” the Crystal Palace manager said, “they are desperately chasing every ball down, winning it back and trying to score again. With that type of attitude and desire there is no doubt the title is theirs, the big question is by how many points it is going to be.”
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