Soccer-Depleted Liverpool fight back to beat Luton 4-1 and go four points clear


Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v Luton Town - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - February 21, 2024 Liverpool's Harvey Elliott celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Jayden Danns REUTERS/Molly Darlington

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) -Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo scored two minutes apart in the second half to open the floodgates as an injury-bitten Liverpool opened some space at the top of the Premier League with a 4-1 comeback victory over Luton Town at Anfield on Wednesday.

Juergen Klopp's team have 60 points after 26 games, four points above Manchester City and five clear of Arsenal, although both chasing teams have a game in hand. Luton Town remained in 18th.

"Exceptional game," Klopp said. "I liked lots of the first half, but I saw that the boys and crowd didn't like it as much.

"I told the boys it was a top game and we have to be calmer in decisive moments, then there were fireworks and wonderful goals -- fantastic night and it is just really good."

Luton's Chiedozie Ogbene shocked the Anfield faithful with a goal in the 12th minute and Liverpool, who were missing several key players including Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, trailed at halftime of a home league game for the first time this season.

"We made them angry, didn't we?" said Luton manager Rob Edwards. "The second half we just saw Anfield, full-throttle. We saw Liverpool. They suffocated us and their fans were amazing."

Liverpool's patched up side came out after the break in top gear. Van Dijk scored in the 56th minute, shaking off a defender to head in a corner from Alexis Mac Allister and Gakpo headed in what Klopp called "a grenade" from Mac Allister's pinpoint cross two minutes later.

Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott added to Liverpool's lead in the 71st and 90th minutes.

"We are a resilient team and we want to fight for one another. It's a hectic season," Elliott told Sky Sports. "For the lads that are injured we wish them well and we want to come back quickly."

The hosts had 29 shots, 13 of them on target, and a Liverpool goal felt inevitable as Luton keeper Thomas Kaminski made a string of big saves from shots by Conor Bradley, Gakpo and Van Dijk within a few minutes before Van Dijk finally connected.

"The final bit wasn't really there in the first half," Elliott said. "But football is a game of two halves and in the second half we showed it. We had to be a lot better than we were in the first half."

Liverpool have been hit by recent injuries -- terrible timing with the League Cup final against Chelsea looming on Sunday and amid a tight title race. Klopp said Salah, who just returned from a hamstring injury, was not fit to play on Wednesday while Nunez, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones were all sidelined with injuries they picked up last weekend against Brentford.

The leaders were already missing goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominik Szoboszlai and Thiago Alcantara among others.

The battle to avoid relegation is also fierce with Luton level on points with 17th-placed Everton.

(Reporting by Lori EwingEditing by Toby Davis)

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