April 7, 2018 / 5:21 PM / 3 months ago

Soccer-Merseyside stalemate lets Spurs into runners-up fight

LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) - Everton and Liverpool served up a goalless, and surprisingly bloodless, affair in the 231st Merseyside derby on Saturday with Juergen Klopp’s Reds missing their chance to jump into second place in the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspur then won 2-1 with a double from the in-form Christian Eriksen at Stoke City to join third-placed Liverpool on 67 points and take closer order in the three-way battle for the runners-up spot.

With all eyes on the late game as champions-elect Manchester City aim to lift the title by beating neighbours and nearest challengers Manchester United at the Etihad, the lunchtime derby 35 miles away at Goodison did not prove much of an appetiser.

The draw, which did not feature a single booking — a remarkable occurrence amid one of England’s fiercest derbies — maintained Liverpool’s third position on 67 points after 33 games.

They had to soak up a late spell of Everton pressure to stretch their record unbeaten run in Merseyside derbies to 17 games.

Yet without the league’s top scorer Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in a very different starting XI to the one that outplayed Manchester City 3-0 in midweek, Liverpool looked to have Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg weighing on their minds.

Klopp, though, reckoned he was satisfied with a performance that saw Liverpool largely control proceedings. “For 75 minutes, we were completely in charge. I am absolutely OK, it’s not the best day in my life, but let’s carry on,” he told the BBC.

“Now we have to focus immediately and be ready again on Tuesday (for the second leg of the Champions League showdown with City). Let’s fight for the next round.”

The draw, though, allowed Spurs to move alongside them with a sixth straight league win as they outclassed Stoke City, whose relegation fears in 19th place were only heightened.

Harry Kane made his return for Spurs after nearly a month out with injury but it was Eriksen who orchestrated the victory with two goals in 11 second-half minutes, taking his goal tally to five in three games in all competitions.

Kane claimed the final touch — and a 25th league goal of the season — from the Dane’s 63rd minute freekick but replays showed the ball had gone straight in.

It meant Spurs now have an advantage over Klopp’s side, as they also have a game in hand.

At the other end of the table, bottom club West Bromwich Albion’s plight only worsened as Swansea City came from behind to draw 1-1 and keep the seemingly-doomed Baggies 10 points from safety with just five games left.

Albion went ahead with Jay Rodriguez’s second-half goal, offering Darren Moore the prospect of victory in his first match as caretaker manager following Alan Pardew’s midweek departure, only for Tammy Abraham to equalise with a 75th minute header.

Burnley maintained their unlikely push for European football, coming from behind with two goals from Sam Vokes and Jack Cork in three second-half minutes to win 2-1 at Watford.

It secured their fourth straight league victory, the first time they have achieved the feat in the top flight since 1968, and saw them close to within two points of sixth-placed Arsenal.

Leicester City’s Europa League ambitions, though, were jolted by a 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle United, who earned a third consecutive league win with goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Ayoze Perez. (Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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