Liverpool have discovered the goalscoring alternatives needed in the absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane as their stand-ins stepped up in a 3-0 Premier League win over Brentford.
And Leeds have discovered a new goal-scoring hero in midfielder Jack Harrison whose hat-trick earned them a 3-2 at West Ham in Sunday’s other excellent EPL encounter.
Midfielder Fabinho is proving an unlikely solution for Liverpool’s striking difficulties, scoring his third goal in eight days with the opener just before halftime, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and substitute Takumi Minamino netted in the second half at Anfield.
A 0-0 draw against ten-man Arsenal in the League Cup on Thursday had raised questions about how Jurgen Klopp’s side would cope while Salah and Mane remain at the African Cup of Nations, but this result offered more hope for the coming weeks.
With a first clean sheet in five league matches and a first league win since mid-December, Liverpool moved above Chelsea into second place but still 11 points behind Manchester City, although with a game in hand.
Trent Alexander-Arnold produced his tenth assist in 21 matches with the corner from which Fabinho headed home at the far post in the 44th minute.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, only Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller (64) and Paris Saint-Germain’s Lionel Messi (47) have had more assists in Europe’s big five leagues than the right back (42).
Liverpool’s second goal eventually arrived in the 69th minute when Andy Robertson’s left-wing cross was met by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s diving header at the far post.
It was his last intervention as he departed with an ankle injury to further increase Klopp’s headache up front.
But his replacement, Minamino, made an instant impact by side-footing the ball into the net in the 77th after a mistake in the Brentford defence.
“In a normal world, nothing happens any more (with the title) but what is normal nowadays? We try to do our part, there is nothing else to do,” said Klopp, when asked about Liverpool’s title chances.
At the London Stadium, Leeds overcame a long list of absentees to earn a big win which puts Marcelo Bielsa’s side nine points clear of the relegation places.
HAT-TRICK HERO JACK HARRISON ⚽️⚽️⚽️
The Leeds midfielder walked out onto the London Stadium and made it his own.
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) January 16, 2022
West Ham hit back twice through Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals, but Harrison’s well-taken third goal ended the London club’s four-match winning streak.
Leeds had travelled to West Ham without nine first-team players, two others went off injured before halftime and they had seven teenagers, including 15-year-old Archie Gray, on the bench.
But unlike Arsenal, who got Sunday’s game at Tottenham postponed due to a player shortage, Bielsa said: “There’s rules to ask for that type of thing and we didn’t meet the criteria to ask for a suspension of the game.
“I think it was a triumph for the players. Each of them did things which indicated a very big desire to win.”
The Hammers are also low on numbers, missing Tomas Soucek through COVID-19 again, and three matches in a week looked to have caught up with them as they remain fourth on 37 points, two clear of Arsenal having played two more games.