Everton end 22-year jinx
Twelve months ago Liverpool were ripping up the record books on the way to their first English top-flight title for 30 years but defeat by Everton on Saturday left them mulling a host of far less flattering statistics.
Their 2-0 defeat at Anfield was their first loss at home to city rivals Everton since 1999 and was a fourth home league defeat in succession -- something they have not experienced since 1924.
Manager Juergen Klopp's hopes of retaining their Premier League crown were already effectively over after a spectacular drop in form since defeat by Burnley ended a 68-match run without a home league loss.
But Everton's win -- courtesy of a third-minute goal by Richarlison and a controversial penalty scored by Gylfi Sigurdsson -- means Liverpool are now in a scrap to even finish the season in the top four.
Everton's first win of any description over Liverpool since 2010 -- after a run of 23 games without a victory -- lifted Carlo Ancelotti's seventh-placed side level with the champions on 40 points although they have played a game less.
Liverpool remained in sixth spot but are three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea who drew 1-1 at Southampton.
Chelsea trailed to a goal by Takumi Minamino but Mason Mount levelled with a penalty after the break.
West Ham United, who are fifth with 42 points, host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Fulham's hopes of avoiding relegation were given a huge boost as Ademola Lookman's 61st-minute goal earned them a 1-0 win over bottom club Sheffield United to move Scott Parker's side to within three points of 17th-placed Newcastle United.
West Bromwich Albion appear set to join Sheffield through the relegation trapdoor as they could only draw 0-0 at Burnley, leaving them 11 points from the safety zone.
West Brom played with 10 men for an hour after Semi Ajayi was sent off but they still had the best chances to win the game.
Few could imagine Liverpool's fall from grace after their title-winning season featured a plethora of English top-flight records such as 24 successive home league wins and the best-ever start to a season in Europe's five top leagues -- 26 wins and a draw from their first 27 games.
On Saturday, they became the first reigning champions to lose four successive home league games since Everton in 1928-29 as their chronic injury jinx struck again with skipper Jordan Henderson forced off early on.
"We stand here having lost 2-0. I know how important it is. We feel it deep inside," Klopp said. "But from tomorrow on I have to use all the good stuff."
Apart from a Champions League win over RB Leipzig in midweek there is precious little good stuff for Klopp to use.
His side created plenty of chances against Everton but the cloak of invincibility they wore last season has disappeared.
They have lost five of their eight Premier League matches in 2021, as many as they lost in 72 games in 2019 and 2020.
Everton keeper Jordan Pickford made several world-class saves and Liverpool dominated for long periods after the break, but their luck appears to have run out -- illustrated by the penalty that sealed the game.
Keeper Alisson made a great save from Dominic Calvert-Lewin before the Everton forward went down as he tried to leap over the grounded Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Referee Chris Kavanagh reviewed the incident briefly on the pitchside monitor and confirmed his decision with substitute Sigurdsson sealing Liverpool's fate.
While it was despair for Liverpool, Everton can now dream of not only finishing above their rivals but also securing a place in the Champions League, although there is a long way to go.
"I am very pleased for the club and the supporters. I hope for sure that they are going to celebrate tonight," Ancelotti said. "It was a good performance. A lot of fight and spirit."
Chelsea held to 1-1 draw at Southampton
Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw away to struggling Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday after Takumi Minamino scored for the hosts with their only attack of the first half and Mason Mount levelled with a penalty after the break.
Chelsea remain in fourth place, a point ahead of West Ham United, who play on Sunday, and three points clear of Liverpool who host Everton later on Saturday. Southampton are 13th.
The Saints had lost six league games in a row before the visit of the Londoners - who were looking for their fifth straight win under new coach Thomas Tuchel - and they spent long periods of the game trying to get hold of the ball.
But for all of Chelsea's possession, the visitors laboured to create chances, something Tuchel once again highlighted as the main challenge for his side.
"We were very, very good in the first 80 metres of the pitch but in the last 20 I was not happy," the German told BT Sport.
"We were not decisive enough, we were not aggressive enough."
The Blues were punished for not turning their dominance into chances when in the 33rd minute Minamino ran on to a defence-splitting Nathan Redmond pass and coolly finished after wrong-footing keeper Edouard Mendy and Cesar Azpilicueta with a feint.
The Japan midfielder became the first opposition player to score against Chelsea since Tuchel arrived last month. The only goal they had previously conceded in that time was an own goal.
The German brought on Callum Hudson-Odoi for Tammy Abraham at the break and Chelsea briefly looked a bit sharper up front.
The equaliser came when Mount was felled in the box by Danny Ings and he got up to convert the spot kick in the 54th minute.
Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard hit the crossbar in the 71st with a header on another rare home attack.
"With a little more luck in the end we can nearly win the game with the header of Jannik," Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said.
"But I think the draw is for us like a win today."
Tuchel took the unusual step of replacing Hudson-Odoi little more than 20 minutes after he came on as a substitute, giving Hakim Ziyech a chance after his recovery from injury.
Tuchel said he made the switch because he was not happy with Hudson-Odoi's attitude.
Burnley held to stalemate at home by 10-man West Brom
BurnlLiverpool's Thiago Alcantara reacts Pool via REUTERS/Laurence Griffithsy were held to a 0-0 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday, despite the visitors being reduced to 10 men for an hour.
Burnley's task looked to have become easier when West Brom's Semi Ajayi was sent off on the half-hour mark, his handball deemed to have denied the hosts a goalscoring opportunity.
Despite enjoying plenty of possession, however, Burnley created very little in attack, disappointingly mustering just one shot on target all match.
The depleted visitors had two great chances to win it late on, but January signing Mbaye Diagne was unable to find the target from close range and Matheus Pereira's goalbound strike was cleared off the line by James Tarkowski.
Even though they failed to secure all three points, Burnley stretched their unbeaten run to four league games to sit 15th in the standings on 28 points, nine points clear of the relegation zone.
West Brom, however, will rue those missed chances as they remain in 19th on 14 points, 11 from safety having won just two of their 25 league games this season.
"The quality of the performance here today shows we have come a long way in a short period of time," West Brom boss Sam Allardyce told Sky Sports.
"The sad thing is it hasn't bought us three points. We have to start doing the final side of performances which is putting the ball in the back of the net and winning games."
Having opted out of last weekend’s games after he and his family received death threats in a backlash against controversial red card decisions, referee Mike Dean was again the centre of the attention early on at Turf Moor.
Dean made a trip to the pitch side monitor to have another look at whether Ajayi had prevented Matej Vydra running through on goal, before brandishing the red card.
Despite the visitors having a numerical disadvantage, Burnley laboured and ultimately were not deserving of the victory.
"It's the worst I've seen us in a while," Burnley defender Tarkowski told Sky Sports.
"You'd think we were the ones with 10 men. We were not as organised as we should be and we had to stick in the game. The only positive is that we didn't get beat."