Premier League leaders Liverpool were forced to be patient in their 1-0 win at bottom-placed Norwich on Saturday, but substitute Sadio Mane rescued them with a late goal to send the team 25 points clear in the Premier League. Liverpool dominated possession and fired off 17 shots, while the hosts only managed one on-target effort, but Jurgen Klopp's players lacked a clinical edge. Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul also pulled off an astonishing double save around the hour mark, denying Mohamed Salah before smothering Naby Keita's close-range rebound. It was not until the 78th minute that the European champions were finally able to break down the Norwich defence, finding the net through Mane. It was the Senegal international's 100th goal in all competitions since arriving in England. The win gave Liverpool a 25-point lead over defending Premier League champions Manchester City, who this week were banned from the Champions League for two seasons. The result is Liverpool's 34th in their last 35 league games and their 17th in succession and means they have already qualified for next season's Champions League after just 26 matches if City's aforementioned ban is upheld. Meanwhile, 15 more points will guarantee them a first English top-flight title in 30 years. "It was a difficult game for different reasons," Klopp said. "The wind, the organisation of the opponent and the way we played in the first half made it tricky for us. "The good thing is when you don't play too well in the first half it's easy to improve. Sadio was fresh and made the difference." Norwich, for whom Alexander Tettey struck the woodwork in the second half, remain seven points adrift of 17th-placed Aston Villa who host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. They battled until the end, however, and Teemu Pukki fired straight at Alisson in the 89th minute after a flowing move. "It was moment of magic from Mane to win the game," Norwich boss Daniel Farke said. "We were pretty close to coming away with a good result. The lads left their hearts on the pitch." Liverpool began the match 55 points ahead of Norwich, the biggest ever gap between top and bottom after 25 games in the Premier League, but lacked their usual cutting edge. They enjoyed overwhelming territorial superiority in the first half with Trent Alexander-Arnold especially dangerous in the wide open spaces down the right flank. Yet Liverpool struggled to create clear-cut chances and it was Norwich who should have taken the lead when Lukas Rupp was picked out by a long ball but, with Liverpool's defence nowhere having pushed up for offside, his attempted lay-off to Pukki was superbly read by Alisson who saved his side's blushes. "It was a must goal," Farke said of the glaring chance. "Two-on-one on the keeper. We should have been a bit more tidy." The second half was a Liverpool siege with keeper Krul saving Norwich on several occasions. The Dutchman produced a fingertip save to keep out Keita's powerful effort then a magnificent double stop to deny Salah and Keita again. Norwich's excursions into Liverpool territory were few and far between but one ended with Tettey's slightly miscued effort thudding against Alisson's near post. It was Sane, on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who eventually broke the deadlock with a superb finish. Bringing down Jordan Henderson's flighted pass with his outstretched right leg, he then swivelled on to his left foot and crashed a low shot past the helpless Krul. With the title virtually assured, Liverpool turn their attention to their defence of the Champions League on Tuesday when they visit Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, scene of their triumph in the final last season.
Football PREMIER LEAGUE