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Unstoppable Liverpool go 9 pts clear

Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson (right), vies for the ball with Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, England on Dec 29. (AP)

Cardiff stun Foxes

LIVERPOOL Dec 29 (RTRS) – Roberto Firmino struck a hat-trick as rampant Liverpool opened up a nine point lead at the top of the Premier League after crushing Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield on Saturday.

Arsenal stunned the home crowd by taking the lead in the 11th minute – Ainsley Maitland-Niles scoring his first league goal for the club as he connected at the back post with an Alex Iwobi cross.

 It was the first time Juergen Klopp’s side had trailed at home since December 30, 2017 but just three minutes later they were back on level terms.

 Mohamed Salah jinked into the box and went down under a challenge but the ball fell to Firmino who made no mistake with a cheeky ‘no look’ finish.

 Firmino then showed his full range of skills with a brilliant solo goal as he dribbled past three Arsenal defenders before slotting home with his left foot.

 Sadio Mane made it 3-1, converting a low Salah cross after a brilliant cross-field pass from Andy Robertson and then on the stroke of halftime Salah made it 4-1 from the spot after he had been brought down in the box.

 Firmino completed his hat-trick, from the penalty spot, driving home in front of the Kop after Sead Kolasinac was ruled to have pushed over Dejan Lovren.

 Liverpool are nine points clear of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who lost 3-1 at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Third-place Manchester City, who are ten behind Liverpool, can close the gap if they beat Southampton on Sunday.

Leicester 0, Cardiff 1

A 92nd-minute goal from midfielder Victor Camarasa and a penalty save from goalkeeper Neil Etheridge ensured Cardiff City beat Leicester City 1-0 for their first away victory of the Premier League season.

Claude Puel’s Leicester, carrying momentum from consecutive wins against Chelsea and Manchester City, dominated the early exchanges at the King Power Stadium and came close with long-range efforts from James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira.

Leicester had their best chance of the first half in the closing stages when Jamie Vardy was slipped through by Maddison, only for the striker to shoot straight at Etheridge.

The hosts looked certain to claim consecutive home wins for the first time this season when Maddison was clipped inside the box by defender Sean Morrison but they were denied thanks to Etheridge’s heroics.

With Leicester supporters heading towards the exit, Camarasa curled the ball past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel from the edge of the box to secure a dramatic win for the Welsh side.

The victory takes Neil Warnock’s Cardiff up to 16th place in the league standings, four points clear of the relegation zone.

Fulham 1, Huddersfield 0

Fulham boosted their Premier League survival hopes after Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a stoppage time winner to give them a 1-0 win over bottom team Huddersfield Town at Craven Cottage.

The result lifted Fulham one place up to 18th on 14 points from 20 games, two more than Burnley who are at home to West Ham United in one of Sunday’s four fixtures. Huddersfield have 11 points after suffering their seventh successive defeat.

Having had a bullet of a header saved by Jonas Lossl, who also kept out an Aboubakar Kamara penalty, Mitrovic delighted the home fans after taking a Ryan Sessegnon pass in his stride and firing it past the visiting keeper.

Kamara will have been particularly relieved with the outcome as he snatched the ball away from Mitrovic to take the spot kick he earned after Chris Lowe handled the French forward’s attempt to control the ball.

Kamara was booed by the home fans every time he touched the ball in the closing stages and just when it seemed he would be left to rue his ill-judged perseverance, Mitrovic spared his blushes with a superb finish.

Huddersfield launched a dangerous raid at the other end and after Fulham cleared the danger, they launched a quick breakaway move with Sessegnon feeding Mitrovic to rifle the ball past Lossl from just inside the penalty box.

Meanwhile Manchester United forwards Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku will get all the help they need to improve their form but it is up to them to take their chances on the pitch, caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.

Sanchez has scored only one goal in the Premier League this season with injuries and patchy form restricting him to five starts, while Lukaku has not fired on all cylinders with six goals in 16 appearances.

Ahead of Sunday’s game against Bournemouth, Solskjaer was asked if he could have an impact on his front men just like he has done with midfielder Paul Pogba, who scored twice and made two assists in the last two games under the Norwegian.

“I don’t agree I’ve done that with Paul and I can do that with Romelu and Alexis. It’s up to them when they get a chance,” Solskjaer told a news conference.

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