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Saturday, 19 September 2020

Watford snatch late point as Liverpool prepare for title push

AFP , Saturday 20 Jun 2020
Watford
Watford's defender Craig Dawson (L) celebrates his equaliser against Leicester (AFP)
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Premier League strugglers Watford rescued a dramatic 1-1 draw against Leicester thanks to Craig Dawson's last-gasp overhead kick at the start of a weekend which could see Liverpool move within one win of the title.

In the first full weekend of English top-flight matches since the coronavirus shutdown in March, Watford's hopes of avoiding relegation looked set to be dented by Ben Chilwell's superb 90th minute strike.

But in a remarkable conclusion, Hornets centre-back Dawson launched himself into an acrobatic effort moments later to claim his first goal for the club.

"It's something you practise in training and it probably doesn't go in very often. I'm delighted with my first goal. It was obviously a very important goal and it was good to get a point in the end," Dawson told BT Sport.

Watford climbed to 16th place, one point above the relegation zone, but they could be passed by West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa depending on their results this weekend.

Leicester remain third, six points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea, as they look to secure a spot in next season's Champions League.

With all games being played behind closed doors due to the health crisis, there was the now familiar sight of empty seats being covered over at an eerily quiet Vicarage Road.

Following the trend from the first four matches of the restart this week, a minute's silence was observed for victims of coronavirus and both teams took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter cause before kick-off.

- Liverpool back on Sunday -

On Sunday, Liverpool will play for the first time since the top-flight hiatus when the title chasers make the short trip to Merseyside rivals Everton.

Jurgen Klopp's side, 22 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, need two wins from their remaining nine games to end their 30-year wait to be crowned English champions.

If the Reds beat Everton, they can wrap up the title with another victory against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.

Klopp's men have not been in action for 106 days and the Liverpool boss is relieved to return after talk the season might be declared null and void, which would have deprived his team of the title their superb season deserves.

Liverpool had been on course to become the first English champions to be crowned in March after recording 27 wins from 29 matches.

However, Liverpool's inevitable title will now come with an asterisk according to some pundits, who claim the Premier League's new normal of matches behind closed doors with more substitutes allowed has taken the shine off the leaders' achievements.

- Back in full swing -

Klopp doesn't care about those critics and, on the eve of Liverpool's return, the German hit back.

"Now I have had a lot of time to read. I had to Google the word 'asterisk'. I only knew the word from a comic!" Klopp said.

"This is the most difficult year and season to become champions, 100 percent. It is an interrupted season, like has never happened before.

"Whoever will be champions, it will be historic because it is a year that we will never forget.

"Give us an asterisk, yes. We cannot do a lot of things that we usually can do but in this specific case at least we can say this is really special.

"That's why we enjoy the little asterisk there."

Liverpool's derby clash comes at the conclusion of a busy weekend that confirms the Premier League is back in full swing.

Following four midweek matches on Wednesday and Friday, this is the first Saturday since March 7 that top-flight games have been played in England.

Brighton, two points above the bottom three, return to action at the Amex Stadium against Arsenal, who are reeling from their 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday.

Arsenal are eight points adrift of the top four and another loss would effectively extinguish their faint hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

West Ham, level on points with Brighton, host Wolves, who are bidding for an unexpected European berth, while Bournemouth face Crystal Palace.

Chelsea play for the first time since the lockdown on Sunday when Frank Lampard's men head to struggling Aston Villa.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sportsand on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 
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