The title race heats-up

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson hailed as “really big” the 2-0 victory over Chelsea yesterday that sent them back top of the Premier League in their gripping battle with Manchester City.

The Reds’ dreams of their first Premier League crown are still alive after the win, which puts them back two points ahead of City, who have a game in hand and had briefly gone top earlier on Sunday thanks to a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.

However, second-half goals from Sadio Mane — created by Henderson’s pinpoint cross — and Mohamed Salah wrapped up three points for Liverpool.

“It’s really big,” Henderson told Sky Sports.

“It’s another big game we have won.

“We have to concentrate on ourselves, work hard on training pitch and the focus is on the next game.

“We are enjoying it and that’s the main thing.” The 28-year-old midfielder said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had given them a firm talking to at halftime, with the match still goalless.

“There were a couple of things we needed to work on and create space for one another,” said the England international.

“There was a period when we blew them away a little bit but they had a couple of chances as well so we need to be careful.”

Henderson’s teammate Virgil van Dijk said he preferred to focus on Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg at Porto — Liverpool lead 2-0 — than what the victory meant with regard to the title race. “We just focus on our games, we have a massive game next in the Champions League then to Cardiff which will be tough as well,” said the Dutch international.

“So we will see. I’m always excited, I’m always happy when my team wins, but it can change, for now we just need to enjoy it and we have a big game on Wednesday again.”

Meanwhile, Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling struck twice as the Premier League champions beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park yesterday to go top of the table and heap pressure on title rivals Liverpool.

Victory left City on 83 points from 33 matches, one point above Liverpool although the Merseyside club can leapfrog Pep Guardiola’s team with a win over third-placed Chelsea later on Sunday.

The victory was the ninth straight win for City in the Premier League.

Having missed an easy chance early on, Sterling put City ahead in the 15th minute when he ran on to Kevin De Bruyne’s inch-perfect pass from behind the halfway line and fired past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

The England international added a second for his 17th league goal of the season after the break, meeting Leroy Sane’s first-time cross into the box with a calm left-footed finish that wrong-footed Guaita as it rolled in.

Palace ensured an entertaining finish to the contest when Luka Milivojevic scored from a free kick with nine minutes to go after midfielder James McArthur was brought down on the edge of the penalty area.

City, however, sealed the deal with their third of the match as De Bruyne latched on to a poor pass from defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka before feeding substitute Gabriel Jesus who finished emphatically.

“We controlled the ball really well but one moment in the game and they are back in it. But we responded again and got the third goal,” said Sterling, who added his belief that the title race will go down to the wire.

“100 percent the way Liverpool have been playing. It will go down to the wire. I don’t see us slowing down now. Liverpool have a great squad, great self-belief, but so do we,” said the former Liverpool forward.

Pep Guardiola’s side now face a crucial ten days starting with a home game against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday in their Champions League quarterfinal second leg, trailing 1-0 from the opening game.

City then play Spurs at the Etihad again, in the league, on Saturday before the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on April 24.

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