Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a top-flight title will take a little longer after a frustrating goalless draw in the 236th Merseyside derby still left them five points short of guaranteeing the English Premier League trophy.
Jurgen Klopp’s champions-elect dominated on their return to competitive action but managed just three shots on target at Goodison Park, the same number as their hosts.
The stalemate means the Reds’ date with destiny will most likely have to wait until the trip to the Etihad Stadium on July 2, unless second-placed Manchester City slip up on Monday at home to Burnley.
“It was very intense. Both sides created small opportunities, they had a big one that hit the post,” Reds defender Virgil van Dijk told Sky Sports.
“Everyone is just happy to be back, we didn’t lose and it is another point towards our goal.”
Chelsea boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification after quick-fire goals from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud earned a 2-1 comeback success at struggling Aston Villa.
Veteran striker Giroud claimed the Blues’ second-half winner at Villa Park with a deflected finish, less than two minutes after substitute Pulisic had levelled.
“It has been the story of our season – to play well, concede and then have to fight your way to try and get the victory,” Chelsea coach Frank Lampard said.
“We haven’t always got the victory and that is the next step for us – to be clinical when we are on top.”
Beleaguered Villa had been on track to climb out of the Premier League relegation zone following Kortney Hause’s maiden top-flight strike shortly before the break.
Dean Smith’s men remain a single point from safety but have an inferior goal difference to their relegation rivals after their winless league run stretched to six league matches.
Chelsea’s first top-flight away victory of 2020, in Frank Lampard’s 100th game as a manager, moves them five points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United and to within three points of third-placed Leicester.
After Hause’s scruffy 43rd-minute opener, United States international Pulisic made an instant impact by crashing home a half volley via the underside of the crossbar only five minutes after coming off the bench before Frenchman Giroud swivelled to benefit from a ricochet off Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane moments later.
Earlier on Sunday, Joelinton scored only his second Premier League goal as Sheffield United’s European aspirations were damaged by a resounding 3-0 loss to Newcastle.
The Magpies striker completed the scoring at St James’ Park by ending a 300-day drought stretching back to August after second-half strikes from Allan Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie put the ten-man Blades on course for defeat.
Chris Wilder’s visitors played the final 40 minutes a man down following John Egan’s dismissal for a second bookable offence when the game was still goalless.
Victory for the mid-table hosts extinguishes any lingering relegation fears, while Blades remain seventh, two points adrift of fifth position.