Even with Mohamed Salah back, Diogo Jota shows depth of attacking options

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Diogo Jota is squeezing every moment of his role as a substitute in Liverpool’s attack. Even with Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah back available after a month-long absence from the Africa Cup of Nations, Jota started and scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Leicester on Thursday.

“We have more options now and it’s good for the team,” Jota said after taking his tally for the season to 17. “We have a lot of games and they will all be important at some point.” The second was scored by Salah on the pitch during the final 30 minutes in a win that kept second-place Liverpool nine points behind Manchester City with a match to go. Liverpool are also chasing titles in the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.

“He is really useful to us,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said of Jota. “It wasn’t a bargain, we didn’t get it for free. But it was obvious that the potential was there, the work rate that he puts in. “If you have that, there is always room to improve. We really thought he would be an outstanding player.

The Portuguese international has now scored in 18 different league games since joining in 2020 for around $50m from Wolverhampton. The first against Leicester came in the 24th minute with a shot from close range after Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had saved Virgil Van Dijk’s header. Jota’s second in the 87th was a clever shot into the curve under Schmeichel.

“The second goal is a brilliant goal, I love the counter press,” Klopp said. But the first goal is really when you are in a scoring moment, when you are there. That is exactly what is happening to Diogo right now. Liverpool still have a tough task catching City with 15 games to go.

“I don’t think they smell our breath anymore,” Klopp said. It wasn’t the best game we played, but we were good enough to win. We had the clearest and biggest chances. We were deserved winners and that’s all you want.

ARSENAL FINALLY WINS

After 46 days, Arsenal finally won again. Gabriel scored a goal in the 25th to secure a 1-0 win at Wolverhampton, though the Gunners had to hang on to earn their first win since 26 December with 10 men after yet another needless dismissal.

Gabriel Martinelli was sent off for two yellow cards seconds after Arsenal’s fourth dismissal in their last six games. This came with 21 minutes to go after Marinelli first pushed Daniel Podence to stop a quick throw-in, but referee Michael Oliver played into the lead. Martinelli then chased the ball down only to burst into Chiquinho from behind and was immediately shown two yellow cards.

“I want explanations about VAR and what happened tonight,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. “These are conversations that are going to take place very soon. “Everyone says it’s the most disciplined group they’ve seen in the last 10 or 15 years, but we keep getting red cards. I have never seen that (the Martinelli red). I’ve been in this country for 18 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

However, Wolves were unable to take advantage and lost ground to Arsenal, who moved up to fifth place to improve their chances of finishing in the top four and returning to the Champions League. The goal came when Wolves failed to clear a Martinelli corner and Ben White headed in to Alexandre Lacazette, who collided with goalkeeper José Sa but did enough to deflect the ball to Gabriel, who scored his third goal of the campaign since five meters.

“It means a lot because we really wanted to win this game,” Lacazette said. “We know that set pieces are important and I am happy that we were able to score today. I wanted to be the first to get to the ball and I think I was. It was stressful in these types of games but that’s football. I am very proud, everyone in the back did their job.”

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