LONDON – Chelsea complained about having to play with a coronavirus-depleted squad in drawing at Wolverhampton. Liverpool grumbled about the refereeing in being held by Tottenham.
And Manchester City just strolled further in front at the top of the English Premier League. The champions eased past Newcastle 4-0 after brushing aside Leeds 7-0 in midweek.
Pep Guardiola’s side moved three points in front of Liverpool, which drew 2-2 at Tottenham after having defender Andrew Robertson sent off and being infuriated that opposing striker Harry Kane didn’t also see red.
“I have no problems with any referees – only you,” Jurgen Klopp bellowed to referee Paul Tierney after the final whistle.
Liverpool had already conceded for the final time — Son Heung-min’s equalizer in the 74th minute – when Robertson was dismissed for a wild kick on Emerson Royal three minutes later.
But Robertson’s exit brought into sharper focus Kane staying on the pitch in the first half for a lunge on Robertson.
Kane had already put Tottenham in front – after latching onto Tanguy Ndombele´s through ball – for only the striker’s second league goal of the season in his 15th game.
“We can give Robbo a red card, it´s not the smartest challenge of his life, but that (from Kane) is definitely a red card,” Klopp said according to AP. “People will say his leg is in the air, but it´s pure coincidence. Harry cannot judge that, if Robbo´s leg is on the ground it´s a broken leg.”
Liverpool did go in front, with Diogo Jota heading in the equalizer in the 35th and Robertson nodding in from close range in the 69th.
But Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker missed an attempt to clear Harry Winks´ long ball, giving Son the opportunity to seize possession and slot into an empty net.
“It was an exciting game and we created many, many chances,” Tottenham manager Antonio Conte said.
“We have to be a bit disappointed with the draw. We played against a really strong team, this team is amazing and they are working for many years.”
But Liverpool is losing ground on City in its bid to regain the trophy.
The draw left Liverpool three points behind Manchester City, who won earlier in the day, while Tottenham is in seventh spot with 26 points, but with games in hand over the teams immediately above them.
Both sides’ starting lineups were impacted by COVID-19 with Tottenham having some regulars fit only for the bench, while Liverpool’s Thiago joined Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones on the absent list after being forced to isolate.
The changes affected Liverpool more as their defence was continually breached by the home side’s counter-attacks.
While Kane looked more like his old self with a well-taken goal, the England skipper was extremely fortunate not to be sent off for dangerous studs-up tackle on Robertson shortly after, Reuters reported.
On an afternoon of several contentious decisions, Liverpool manager Klopp was booked for protesting after Jota was pushed over in the area in the first-half but was not awarded a penalty.
Kane had only scored once in the league this season and that was two months ago, but produced a clinical finish after being played in by Tanguy Ndombele’s through ball.
Kane then set up Son who missed from point-blank range while Dele Alli, given a rare league start, looked certain to score but had his shot from Son’s pass superbly saved by Alisson.
Son was guilty again when presented with another chance and the misses came back to bite Spurs as Jota met Robertson’s clipped cross to head past Hugo Lloris.
The pace was just as fast in the second half with Kane denied by Alisson after being played in by Alli and then heading a close-range reflex header over the bar.
Alli then went down under a challenge from Trent Alexander-Arnold and with Spurs still claiming a penalty, Liverpool went down the other end and took the lead with Alexander-Arnold crossing for Robertson to head in.
Tottenham levelled, however, when a through pass by Harry Winks should have been claimed by Alisson, but the Brazilian spilled the ball into the path of Son who calmly rolled in his shot from a tight angle.
An eighth straight league win for City was started by defender Ciaran Clark allowing Ruben Dias to head in the opener at Newcastle before Joao Cancelo struck powerfully.
Riyad Mahrez´s 50th league goal since joining City in 2018 came in the 63rd before Raheem Sterling tapped in a fourth in the 86th.
It was City’s 34th league victory in 2021, surpassing the previous calendar year record in England set by Liverpool in 1982.
“I am aware still of the margin that we have to be a better team,” Guardiola said, “and we are working on that.”
It left Newcastle next-from-last approaching the midway point, highlighting the need for the new Saudi ownership to start strengthening the squad in the January transfer window.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was critical of the league for not postponing the trip to Wolverhampton that ended 0-0 on a weekend when six of the 10 games were called off due to coronavirus cases.
Chelsea was missing seven players with COVID-19 and Jorginho at Molineux was not risked after inconclusive test results.
“We were put in a huge risk of health and safety to the players, not just because of COVID but also physically,” Tuchel said.
“I´m not sure if I´ll catch COVID. Hopefully I will not catch it.”
Chelsea fell to six points behind City.