Sloppy Salah sums up wasteful Liverpool as Reds hand Premier League advantage to Manchester City

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The Egyptian star had two golden chances to put his side top against Everton but missed both, leaving the Reds a point behind the champions

Advantage Manchester City, then.

Liverpool’s title fate is no longer in their own hands after they were held to another goalless draw away from home. They're going to have to do it the hard way.

Everton, just as Manchester United had done a week ago, were able to put a sizeable dent in the Reds’ championship hopes here. This stalemate will have been celebrated as loudly at the Etihad as it was at Goodison Park. It leaves City a point clear with nine games remaining.

Yet again, Liverpool will feel they should have taken more from a tough away fixture. Unlike at Old Trafford, though, Jurgen Klopp’s side fashioned the chances from which to do so.

The best of them fell to Mohamed Salah, whose wastefulness rather summed up Jurgen Klopp’s side on the day.

Twice, the Egyptian found himself homing in on goal, as Liverpool found a way in behind Everton’s defence. Twice, the PFA Player of the Year, the man with 64 goals in 90 appearances for the club, failed to take advantage.

Had he done so, he’d have become the fastest player in Reds history to 50 league goals, and the fastest to do so in the Premier League for a single club, beating Alan Shearer’s record. He's a remarkable goalscorer, but Salah fluffed his lines. Twice.

Played in by Fabinho in the first half, he managed to narrow the angle for himself, allowing Jordan Pickford to block his rather telegraphed left-footed effort.

His second chance, after the break, again saw him run clear after Kurt Zouma’s errant touch. Again, you’d have backed him to score, but again his control was poor, and his hesitancy allowed Michael Keane to get back and make a crucial tackle. Salah grimaced, his shoulders slumped. He knew what a big chance it was.

There would be others, with Fabinho somehow unable to convert a Virgil van Dijk knock-down from no more than five yards and Joel Matip failing to make decent contact with a free header from about the same distance as the clock ticked down.

Salah’s, though, were the big ones, the ones you'd expect to be taken. It is harsh to place the blame solely at his feet, but his misses were indicative of the Reds’ hesitancy in front of goal of late. Having seemingly returned to their fluent best in battering Watford in midweek, this was a worrying regression from Klopp’s men. Just as at Old Trafford, they appeared to get worse, sloppier, more hurried as the game wore on.

Will they live to regret it? Time will tell, but if they are to win their first title in 29 years, they will have to do it from behind. City, the reigning champions, are finding ways to win games when Liverpool are finding ways to draw them.

That’s five in the last seven in all competitions, and seven for the season in the league. Not fatal, by any means, but damaging nonetheless. Asked if they can go on and bring back the prize they crave most, Liverpool are yet to come up with the answers. “You’re gonna win **** all,” was the chant from the delighted Evertonians at the final whistle here.

It’s a bit early for that, of course. Nine games remain, and with their two toughest away fixtures out of the way, Liverpool’s next two games – against Burnley and Fulham – should offer a chance to get back to winning ways.

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Their defensive strength remains a source of real comfort, too. This was their fifth clean sheet in succession, the first time they've had such a run since December 2006. Van Dijk, at the heart of it, was imperious once more. There simply isn't a better centre-back in world football right now than the big Dutchman.

Improvement will be needed at the other end, though. From Salah, from Sadio Mane and from the rest. From Klopp too, perhaps. His substitutions here, bringing on James Milner and Adam Lallana while Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri remained unused, left fans uninspired. "This is not PlayStation," was the manager's response to a question about his attacking ambition which clearly irked him. "Was there any drawn game which we didn't try to win?"

Soon after, he was gone, a wry smile as he went. A long way to go, still, but Liverpool will do well to win the league playing – and finishing – like this.