Liverpool’s march to a first English league championship in 30 years is turning into a procession.
Manchester City certainly looks in no state to stop it happening.
The gap between the two main title contenders in the Premier League grew to a remarkable 11 points on Saturday, with a match-winning performance by Liverpool’s commanding center back, Virgil van Dijk, highlighting the difference between the teams.
Hours after City’s shaky defense conceded an 88th-minute equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Newcastle, Van Dijk ventured forward to power home two headed goals from set-pieces and lead Liverpool to a 2-1 win over Brighton at Anfield.
Liverpool finished the match with 10 men after goalkeeper Alisson Becker was sent off in the 76th for handball outside the area, from which Brighton scored its goal at a free kick.
If third-placed Leicester, which was tied on points with Man City, fails to beat Everton on Sunday, Liverpool will own a double-figure lead after just 14 of the 38 rounds.
“We don’t think about these things,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “It was just to win this game.”
Even with their recent history of agonizing misses in Premier League title races, the Reds would be hard-pushed to mess this one up — especially with their class of 2019-20 still unbeaten and having dropped only two points all season.
Kevin De Bruyne’s rasping strike that flew in off the crossbar gave City a 2-1 lead at Newcastle in the 82nd but it proved to be in vain as Jonjo Shelvey, a former Liverpool player, equalized after makeshift City center back Fernandinho conceded a sloppy free kick.
How City, deprived of star center back Aymeric Laporte because of a long-term knee injury, would love a defender like Van Dijk to shore up its creaky backline that’s also missing Vincent Kompany after the long-time captain’s departure at the end of last season.
“To concede the goals we did today was frustrating,” City defender John Stones said. “It’s something that is hard for me to explain.”
City failed to win at St. James’ Park for the second straight season. Pep Guardiola’s side lost 2-1 in January, which sparked a 14-match winning run that took City to the title — a point ahead of Liverpool.
City might have to go unbeaten for the rest of this season to even get close to threatening Liverpool this time round.
MOURINHO WINS AGAIN
It’s three straight wins for Jose Mourinho as Tottenham manager — and much of that is down to Dele Alli.
The midfielder has been revitalized since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino last week, playing in a more attacking role close to striker Harry Kane. He starred in the 3-2 win at West Ham in Mourinho’s first game in charge, scored the goal that started Spurs’ recovery from 2-0 down in the 4-2 win over Olympiakos in the Champions League, and on Saturday scored twice in a 3-2 win over Bournemouth.
“He plays in a position where he feels happy and comfortable,” Mourinho said of Alli. “We give him space for his creativity which he always has.”
Alli scored the opening two goals before Moussa Sissoko volleyed in a third.
Harry Wilson netted twice late on but Spurs held on for a win that lifted them to fifth place, having been in 14th place when Mourinho took over.
The Champions League qualification positions are suddenly in sight for Tottenham after a surprise loss for Chelsea.
Knowing he was in line to make his Premier League debut at age 33 for the club where his father was a great, David Martin struggled to eat for the past two days.
Martin didn’t show any nerves in goal for West Ham on Saturday, keeping a clean sheet as the team upset London rival Chelsea in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
Aaron Cresswell scored West Ham’s winner in the 47th to leave fourth-placed Chelsea six points ahead of Tottenham.
Martin, whose father Alvin played 20 straight years for West Ham from 1976, replaced Roberto after a series of woeful performances by the Spanish goalkeeper, and said he was just glad “I didn’t let anyone down.”
The victory ended West Ham's streak of eight matches without a win in all competitions, stretching back more than two months.
WINS FOR PALACE, SOUTHAMPTON
Wilfried Zaha scored for the second straight game as Crystal Palace won at Burnley 2-0 to climb into the top half.
Southampton rallied to beat Watford 2-1 at home and move four points clear of the last-place visitor in a match between teams in the relegation zone. James Ward-Prowse curled in the 83rd-minute winner from a free kick.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80