Liverpool’s James Milner praised Georginio Wijnaldum after it was revealed the player overcame illness to star in a 3-0 win against Bournemouth.
Wijnaldum was bright and scored in the comfortable win despite being unable to stay at the team hotel on Friday.
“He had diarrhoea and vomiting two nights earlier so couldn’t come to the team hotel,” said manager Jurgen Klopp.
Stand-in captain Milner added: “He was nowhere to be seen yesterday and then he produces a performance like that.”
Wijnaldum lasted 77 minutes and was named man of the match by BBC Sport in a win which took Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League, three points clear of Manchester City.
Klopp said he was “concerned ” when the Dutch midfielder scored that other players may put themselves at risk when they gave “him a hug”.
The German added: “He had pretty much everything you don’t want to have two nights before a game. Then he said, after a couple of hours sleep, ‘I feel good, I can play’.
“The character and mentality of these boys is the only reason we are where we are. We can use always the character and attitude of the boys. We can win football games and we will win. How many? We will see.”
‘We have to convince’
Milner described some of their play as “mesmerising” and believed the Reds “could have scored more”.
But the win – courtesy of goals from Sadio Mane, Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah – followed back-to-back draws against Leicester and West Ham.
The form saw Klopp’s side knocked off top spot when City won at Everton on Wednesday, but they dominated against Bournemouth with 66% possession and 20 shots on goal.
“We were not happy with the performances from the previous two games and struggled a bit with set-pieces,” said Klopp.
“There were a lot of things we had to improve.
“We have high expectations and today we won in an impressive manner – we had some outstanding performances on the pitch.
“We wanted to show a reaction. It’s our job not only to come through but to really perform and convince.”
‘Reds may take some stopping’
Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright on Match of the Day:
It was a perfect response by Liverpool. Not only for the fans who were brilliant but the players.
When you consider the pressure they were put under when they didn’t capitalise on Newcastle beating Manchester City, I thought Liverpool were fantastic. They pressed the reset button and were brilliant.
This was Liverpool relentlessly going for Bournemouth. It could have been five or six. I don’t care what anyone says, whatever pressure people put on them from the outside, if they play like this they will take some stopping.
Where next in the title race?
|Between now and the end of March…|
|Liverpool (65 points)||Man City (62 points)||Tottenham (57 points)|
|*Tottenham have one game in hand|
|Man Utd (a)||Chelsea (h)||Leicester (h)|
|Watford (h)||West Ham (h)||Burnley (a)|
|Everton (a)||Bournemouth (a)||Chelsea (a)|
|Burnley (h)||Watford (h)||Arsenal (h)|
|Fulham (a)||Man Utd (a)||Southampton (a)|
|Tottenham (h)||Fulham (a)||Crystal Palace (h)|
Liverpool’s win arrived after a week in which the club announced a world record profit of £106m.
And on the field they ticked off another fixture to edge closer to going down in Liverpool’s illustrious history as the group who ended a 29-year title wait.
The run-in looks set to be one fraught with nerves and bookmakers make City fractionally favourites at 10-11, with Liverpool close behind at even money.
In their remaining 13 matches, City host Chelsea, travel to rivals Manchester United and entertain Tottenham at Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool must play the same three sides but have the added challenge of an away Merseyside Derby to contend with.
And Tottenham face Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in the run-in, with an north-London derby against Arsenal thrown in for good measure.
City reached 100 points in 2017-18 and at the current pace, it seems this year’s title winners may need to post a points mark comfortably in the 90s if they are to prevail.