December 30, 2017 / 6:55 PM / 19 days ago

Salah fires Liverpool to victory, Chelsea close gap at top

LONDON (Reuters) - Mohamed Salah took his goal tally to 23 in all competitions with a second-half double to help Liverpool come from behind to beat Leicester City 2-1 at Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday.

Chelsea had no such struggles at home to Stoke City, with Mark Hughes’ men thrashed 5-0 at Stamford Bridge, as the league’s most porous defence couldn’t cope with their rampant hosts.

Chelsea climbed to second, above Manchester United, after Jose Mourinho’s men were held to their third successive draw following a 0-0 stalemate against Southampton at Old Trafford in Saturday’s late kickoff.

Romelu Lukaku was carried off on a stretcher in the first half and United looked toothless in attack in the Belgium international’s absence, mustering just three shots on target.

A win for neighbours Manchester City at Crystal Palace on Sunday will see Pep Guardiola’s men move 16 points clear at the top of the standings and 17 ahead of United.

One of the performances of the day came at Vicarage Road where Swansea City netted two late goals to come from behind to beat Watford and climb off the bottom of the table, as Carlos Carvalhal’s tenure got off to a winning start.

However, the spotlight once again was on Liverpool striker Salah, who continues to look unstoppable in front of goal.

Jamie Vardy once again scored against a “big six” side after being picked out by Riyad Mahrez in the first half at Anfield, and Leicester held on until Salah took centre stage.

Two neat second-half finishes took the Egypt international to 17 for the season, one behind Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, with the goals sealing the victory that sees Liverpool move to 12 unbeaten in the league – their best run under Juergen Klopp – and opens up a four-point gap over Spurs in fifth.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea vs Stoke City - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - December 30, 2017 Chelsea's Pedro scores their third goal as Stoke City's Jack Butland attempts save REUTERS/Toby Melville

“He (Salah) can keep this standard for sure, he’s young, improving - it’s not only about scoring goals,” Klopp said.

“He’s so important for us. He knows and I know he couldn’t score so many without the fantastic support from the other boys. I think he can keep the standard.”

RAMPANT CHELSEA

Slideshow (18 Images)

Four points ahead of Liverpool, Chelsea were out of sight after 23 minutes against Stoke with goals from Antonio Rudiger, Danny Drinkwater and Pedro putting the champions in command.

Willian’s second-half penalty and a Davide Zappacosta goal put the seal on a fourth win in five league games for Antonio Conte’s men.

“We know we must continue to work and improve, and prepare for a very difficult game against Arsenal,” said Conte, whose second-placed side are now 13 points behind Manchester City.

“Every win is important for us, today it was important to get three points to continue our positive run.”

There was plenty of movement down at the bottom of the table, with Swansea no longer propping up the division after goals from Jordan Ayew and Luciano Narsingh in the final four minutes of the match cancelled out Andre Carrillo’s opener for Watford to seal a first win for Carvalhal.

Bournemouth were also big movers, as two goals from Ryan Fraser ensured Eddie Howe’s men climbed out of the bottom three and up to 13th after a 2-1 victory over Everton, with Sam Allardyce tasting defeat for the first time as Everton manager.

Newcastle missed their chance to climb clear of the relegation zone after being held to a 0-0 draw by Brighton at St James’ Park, while Huddersfield and Burnley also played out a stalemate at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Rex Gowar

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