Liverpool (AFP) – Mohamed Salah’s penalty ensured Steven Gerrard’s return to Liverpool as Aston Villa manager ended in a 1-0 defeat while Manchester City and Chelsea also needed spot-kicks to avoid slipping up in the Premier League title race on Saturday.
City edged 10-man Wolves 1-0 thanks to Raheem Sterling‘s controversial winner, while Chelsea required two Jorginho spot-kicks to see off Leeds 3-2.
Gerrard was given a subdued reception at Anfield as the former Liverpool captain faced his old side for the first time in his playing or coaching career.
His side were largely outplayed, but stayed in the game thanks to a combination of dogged defending, good goalkeeping from Emiliano Martinez and couple of calls in their favour from referee Stuart Attwell, who dismissed two first-half appeals for a Liverpool penalty.
However, Gerrard’s men did not escape for a third time when Tyrone Mings pulled down Salah inside the box 25 minutes from time.
Salah smashed home his 21st goal in 22 games this season to ensure Liverpool remain just one point behind City at the top of the table.
The champions had fortune on their side to see off Wolves thanks to Sterling’s 100th Premier League goal.
Wolves boss Bruno Lage was furious as Raul Jimenez was dismissed for two quickfire yellow cards before half-time.
The Mexican was booked for a trip of Rodrigo and then sent-off for preventing the Spaniard taking a quick free-kick.
“The first yellow card is a crazy decision for me, in my opinion. A hard decision to accept,” said Lage.
The visitors’ anger was compounded by the origin of the winning goal as Joao Moutinho was judged to have handled Bernardo Silva’s cross despite the ball appearing to come off the Portuguese midfielder’s body onto his upper arm.
Sterling showed no mercy as he coolly slotted home from the spot to bring up his century of Premier League goals.
“His contribution to this club is massive,” said City boss Pep Guardiola, who has routinely left the England international out over the past year. “He is back scoring goals, has confidence. It’s good.”
Jorginho saves Chelsea
Chelsea needed late drama at Stamford Bridge to prevent their title challenge stumbling for the fourth time in six games.
Leeds took the lead through a penalty of their own converted by Raphinha.
Mason Mount levelled for the European champions and order seemed to have been restored when Jorginho slotted home the first of his two spot-kicks just before the hour mark.
However, an injury ravaged Leeds hit back once more when teenager Joe Gelhardt came off the bench to level with his first touch seven minutes from time.
But four minutes into stoppage time a third penalty of the game was awarded for Mateusz Klich’s challenge on Antonio Rudiger.
Jorginho has missed a number of high-profile penalties for Italy of late, but is yet to miss for his club this season and converted to keep Chelsea just two points off the top.
Arsenal shrugged off the absence of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to a disciplinary issue to ease past Southampton 3-0.
Aubameyang was not included in Mikel Arteta’s squad after reportedly missing training on Friday.
The Gunners comfortably bounced back to winning ways as Alexandre Lacazette and Martin Odegaard struck before half-time.
Gabriel then rounded off the scoring on 62 minutes as Arsenal moved up to fifth and within one point of the top four.
Manchester United can go level on points with fourth-placed West Ham when they travel to Norwich later on Saturday.
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