Liverpool overcome Luton scare to go four points clear

Liverpool reasserted their control on the Premier League title race by overcoming a first-half scare to beat Luton 4-1 at Anfield.

Luton led through Chiedozie Ogbene after 12 minutes, as two early missed chances by Luis Diaz only served to highlight the absences of Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota for Liverpool.

Virgil van Dijk’s headed equaliser from a corner turned the game for Liverpool 11 minutes after the restart, with Cody Gakpo nodding in 125 seconds later to put Liverpool in control.

Ogbene heads in at the back post to put Luton ahead at Anfield
Chiedozie Ogbene headed in at the back post to put Luton ahead at Anfield

Diaz scored a third with less than 20 minutes to go, before Harvey Elliott added another at the death to send Liverpool four points clear of second-placed Man City ahead of Sunday’s Carbao Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley – live on Sky Sports.

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Luton, who held their own for the best part of an hour, suffer a third consecutive defeat and stay in the relegation zone due to Everton’s far superior goal difference.

Player ratings

Liverpool: Kelleher (6), Bradley (8), Van Dijk (8), Quansah (6), Gomez (7), Endo (7), Mac Allister (8), Gravenberch (6), Elliott (8), Gakpo (8), Diaz (7).

Subs: Robertson (7), Clark (5), Danns (N/A), McConnell (N/A).

Luton: Kaminski (7), Mengi (5), Osho (5), Bell (5), Ogbene (7), Lokonga (6), Barkley (7), Doughty (5), Chong (6), Morris (5), Woodrow (5).

Subs: Mpanzu (5), Townsend (5), Clark (5), Kabore (5).

Player of the match: Harvey Elliott.

How Liverpool recovered to go four points clear

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Luton Town, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Liverpool responded to Man City’s win over Brentford

Liverpool needed a fast start to put the crowd at ease with Man City hot on their heels after Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Brentford, but early missed chances by Diaz set a nervous tone at Anfield.

A ball over the top from Caoihmin Kelleher, standing in for the injured Allison in goal, put the forward through but his miscontrol saw the opening vanish and moments later he fired wide with his left foot in the box.

Team news

Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez were missing for Liverpool to add to their injury troubles as the Reds made five changes from the 4-1 win over Brentford.

Luton were unchanged from Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at home against Manchester United.

Luton punished Liverpool’s uncharacteristic wastefulness as Ogbene headed in at the back post after Kelleher saved Tahith Chong’s shot with his legs and the ball sat up for the winger to score his third league goal of the season.

Diaz had six shots in the first 35 minutes, hitting the target once, as he registered an Expected Goals tally of 0.67, compared to Luton’s 0.68 in the same period. Groans could be heard from the stands, which appeared to rile up Klopp on the touchline.

Liverpool's Luis Diaz takes a shot at goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Luton Town, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Luis Diaz endured a difficult first half but eventually got his goal

Luton took chances at the back in their build-up but Liverpool failed to capitalise and had little luck from set pieces either, unable to convert from their seven first-half corners.

The tide turned for Liverpool, ironically, from a corner as Van Dijk rose highest to meet Alexis Mac Allister’s delivery to level the score in front of the Kop. Barely had the supporters sat down before they were on their feet to celebrate another.

Connor Bradley took advantage of a Luton change as his quick throw found Mac Allister in space down the right and the midfielder picked out Gakpo this time, who nodded in to complete the turnaround.

Luton kept fighting but there was an inevitability to Liverpool after they took the lead, which helped settle Diaz’s nerves. He kept his cool after being played in by substitute Andrew Robertson to add a third with less than 20 minutes to go.

The visitors suffered a further blow when Alfie Doughty pulled up injured soon after Liverpool’s third. Issa Kabore was brought on to replace him.

In the final minute of normal time, Elliott marked his 100th appearance for the club with a goal to put Anfield in a jubilant mood ahead of Sunday’s trip to Wembley.

Klopp had made up with the crowd by full-time as he delivered his customary post-match fist pumps. No wonder, the victory ensures Liverpool will remain top until they return to league action.

Liverpool’s win in stats

  • Liverpool have recovered 22 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, more than any other side, and their joint-most in a single campaign in the competition (also 22 in 2008-09).
  • With an average age of 25 years and 68 days, Liverpool named their youngest starting XI for a Premier League game since February 2018 against Southampton (24y 355d).
  • Luton are one of two sides, along with Sheffield United, yet to keep a clean sheet away from home in the Premier League this season. The Hatters have shipped 29 goals in 12 away games in the division this season, the joint-most of any side on the road, along with Bournemouth and Sheffield United.
  • There were just 125 seconds between Virgil van Dijk’s equaliser and Cody Gakpo putting Liverpool 2-1 ahead against Luton.

What’s next?

Liverpool take on Chelsea on the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm), while Luton host Man City in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday February 27 (kick-off 8pm).

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