London, Dec 30 (AFP/APP): Liverpool needed the aid of VAR to re-establish their 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Wolves on Sunday as a late Chelsea fightback inflicted a 2-1 defeat on Arsenal in Mikel Arteta’s first home game in charge.
Manchester City remain 14 points adrift of the runaway league leaders, but closed the gap on second-placed Leicester thanks to second-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne to beat Sheffield United 2-0.
Sadio Mane scored the only goal of a controversial clash at Anfield as Liverpool extended their unbeaten run at home in the league to 50 games.
“If it would be easy to win that number of games a lot more teams would have done it,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
“It is not easy and you have to fight with all you have. Sometimes we have more and sometimes less and the boys do that all the time, so I couldn’t be more proud of what they did again.”
Mane’s strike three minutes before half-time was initially ruled out for a handball by Adam Lallana in the build-up, but a VAR review overturned referee Anthony Taylor’s on-field decision.
Moments later Wolves thought they had levelled when Pedro Nieto fired low past Alisson Becker, but again the VAR review went against the visitors as the goal was ruled out for a fractional offside against Jonny.
“We feel massively hard done by, I can’t get my head around it. It is ridiculous,” said Wolves captain Connor Coady.
“For me it is not working. Some people are saying it gets the right decision but we’re the players on the pitch and it doesn’t feel right to me.”
Wolves had less than 48 hours to recover from a thrilling 3-2 victory over City on Friday, but still had plenty of chances to secure at least a point after the break as Becker denied Diogo Jota before Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore had shots deflected wide in the closing stages.
Just a second league defeat in 15 games means Wolves fall five points behind Chelsea in the fight for a top-four finish after Frank Lampard’s men staged a dramatic turnaround at the Emirates.
– ‘Awful’ Chelsea beat Arsenal –
Arsenal seemed set to give Arteta a first home win in the league since October as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener was just reward for one of the Gunners’ best performances of the season.
However, the defensive blunders that have blighted Arsenal’s season under three different managers cost them again when goalkeeper Bernd Leno came and missed a Mason Mount free-kick to allow Jorginho to tap home an equaliser seven minutes from time.
Chelsea capped the comeback four minutes later when Tammy Abraham led a counter-attack from one end to the other before finishing from Willian’s cross.
“We were so awful for 30 minutes; slow, lethargic, nervous,” said Lampard, who made a tactical change to bring on Jorginho after just 34 minutes.
“The second half was nothing to do with tactics, it was all to do with spirit and desire.”
However, Arsenal were furious Jorginho was still on the field to equalise as he escaped a second yellow card at 1-0 for a foul on Alexandre Lacazette.
VAR also had a big role to play at the Etihad where City were again far from convincing but did enough to inflict a first away defeat in nearly a year on Sheffield United.
The Blades had a goal ruled out by a VAR review before half-time for another close offside call against Lys Mousset.
The Frenchman also wasted another good chance when one-on-one with Claudio Bravo and the visitors were punished by a characteristically clinical finish from Aguero as he rifled home De Bruyne’s through ball.
De Bruyne then doubled City’s advantage eight minutes from time as Pep Guardiola’s men bounced back from defeat at Molineux less than two days ago.
“After 48 hours we recovered for an incredible game after more than 80 minutes with 10 men, so compliments to the team,” said Guardiola.
“But compliments to Sheffield United, they were amazing. This team is newly promoted and are eighth in the table, it is an incredible team.”