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London (AFP) – Liverpool beat Newcastle 1-0 to overtake Manchester City at the top of the Premier League on Saturday, putting pressure on Pep Guardiola’s men ahead of their evening kick-off against struggling Leeds.
Naby Keita scored the game’s only goal in a rowdy St James’s Park as Jurgen Klopp’s men stayed on course for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.
At the other end of the table, managerless Burnley produced a stunning comeback against Watford to win 2-1 and pull five points out of the relegation zone, dooming Norwich to the downside.
Klopp made five changes to his starting line-up, keeping in mind Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Villarreal, with his side 2-0 down after the first leg.
Top scorer Mohamed Salah, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all on the bench against in-form Newcastle, but the visitors still ruled the game.
The decisive moment came in the 19th minute when, as the home side unsuccessfully called for a free kick, Jordan Henderson and Diogo Jota combined to feed Guinean midfielder Keita, who went inside before to send the ball past the helpless Martin Dubravka.
The Reds could have made life easier but Sadio Mane and Jota wasted chances and they survived a late scare when Alisson Becker saved from Bruno Guimaraes.
Klopp used his considerable quality on the bench, dispatching Salah, Fabinho and Thiago in the closing stages to help close out the game.
The win took Liverpool to 82 points, two clear of City, who will reclaim top spot if they beat Leeds at Elland Road late in the game.
A delighted Klopp said he was thrilled with his players’ ability to produce a winning performance after so many changes as they pursued sporting immortality.
“That’s the only reason we’re where we are,” he said. “That’s how it is. That’s the only reason – the boys are buying into the situation completely.
“The boys who didn’t come today, you should have seen their faces on the bench at the final whistle. It’s absolutely exceptional. We know that. The group is exceptional.”
Liverpool are once again locked in a thrilling battle with defending champions City for the Premier League title.
Any mistakes from Guardiola’s men and a Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup quadruple would be just seven games away for the Reds.
The two sides drew 2-2 in the league in early April before Liverpool edged their rivals 3-2 in the FA Cup semi-final – they could also meet in the Champions League final.
City, who are 14 points clear of Klopp’s men at one stage, will be keen to beat Leeds, who are still not safe from danger despite a recovery in their fortunes under new boss Jesse Marsch.
Burnley, who sacked longtime manager Sean Dyche two weeks ago, had climbed out of the relegation zone after two straight wins.
They fell behind in the eighth minute at Vicarage Road thanks to Burnley captain James Tarkowski’s own goal.
But Jack Cork headed home a Charlie Taylor ball in the 83rd minute and three minutes later Josh Brownhill fired into the bottom corner before sprinting the full length of the pitch to celebrate with the traveling support.
The result means Frank Lampard’s Everton, who host Chelsea on Sunday, are now in dire straits – five points from safety and facing playing outside of the English top flight next season for the first time since 1954.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Aston Villa beat Norwich 2-0 as the Canaries returned to the Championship after just one season in the Premier League.
Brighton beat Wolves 3-0 and Crystal Palace beat Southampton 2-1.
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