Llorente equaliser dents Liverpool’s top-four hopes

Mane had ended eight-game spell without a goal for Reds
Llorente equaliser dents Liverpool’s top-four hopes

Leeds United's Diego Llorente celebrates scoring the equaliser in the Premier League clash at Elland Road. Picture: Lee Smith/PA Wire.

Leeds 1 Liverpool 1

Diego Llorente’s 87th-minute equaliser cost Liverpool the chance to return to the top four of the Premier League, although at least recent events mean that Jurgen Klopp may not face the disappointment of missing out on next season’s Champions League.

The Leeds centre-half rose powerfully to head in Jack Harrison’s brilliant late corner from just six yards out, a deserved equaliser for the hosts after a much-improved second half.

And it marked the end to an unsatisfactory 24 hours for Klopp who has found his employers at the centre of seismic events which have left the very future of the Champions League in jeopardy — or, at least, Liverpool’s participation in it.

Liverpool had taken the lead impressively on the half-hour with Sadio Mane ending an eight-game spell without a goal, the longest drought of his Liverpool career, from a move sparked by a brilliant long ball from Diogo Jota.

That allowed Trent Alexander-Arnold to breeze past tracking defender Jack Harrison and, as keeper Illan Meslier rushed to meet him on the edge of the area, a simple square ball presented Mane with an open net.

The goal came a few minutes after Leeds had missed their best opening of the first half, thanks to a Fabinho error, which led to Patrick Bamford’s progress being blocked by Alisson, with the ball rebounding off Liverpool’s Brazilian defender and flying narrowly wide.

But that was a rare moment of concern for Klopp in a half in which his team looked like they had bought into the siege mentality their manager had tried to inspire with pre-match comments.

Klopp felt his players were being unfairly blamed for their club’s involvement in the European breakaway league — Leeds director of football even held up a t-shirt bearing the slogan “Football is for the fans” before kick-off —  and they certainly played as if they had a point to prove.

And Firmino might have wrapped up the three points early after the restart, creating space for himself before Meslier blocked at the near post, conceding a corner from which Jota should have done better than head over.

In reply, Leeds finally looked more like their usual aggressive selves, forcing a series of corners, appealing for a penalty after the ball brushed Alexander-Arnold and then watching Alisson make a great save from Harrison’s close-range effort.

Bamford was close to a simply sensational equaliser 15 minutes from time when he controlled a Luke Ayling ball beautifully and volleyed against the bar while Alisson’s block from Roberts was equally impressive.

As Leeds pressed for an equaliser, Meslier might have gifted Jota a second but recovered well to tip over and substitute Mo Salah raced clear on the Leeds goal only to poke his shot wide.

LEEDS (4-1-4-1): Meslier 6; Ayling 6, Llorente 7, Struijk 5, Alioski 7; Phillips 6; Costa 5 (Poveda-Ocampo 67, 6), Dallas 6, Roberts 5 (Hernandez 85), Harrison 7; Bamford 7. Subs (not used) Koch, Casilla, Davis, Berardi, Gelhardt, Klich, Shackleton.

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 9; Alexander-Arnold 8, Fabinho 6, Kabak 6, Robertson 7; Milner 7, Wijnaldum 6, Thiago 6; Jota 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 81), Firmino 7, Mane 7 (Salah 71, 6). Subs (not used) Keita, Adrian, Tsimikas, Shaqiri, Davies, R Williams, N Williams.

Referee: A Taylor 7

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