Mohamed Salah’s wonder strike helped Liverpool stay two points ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat at Anfield means they failed to consolidate their position in the top four while Cardiff’s hopes of survival grow ever bleaker.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at what has been learned from this weekend’s fixtures.
Liverpool make a statement – and their run-in is easier
It would take a brave person to predict with any certainty which way the title is heading. Salah’s superb strike stole the show in Liverpool’s win over Chelsea on Sunday. The Reds therefore maintain the two-point lead they held over City heading into this weekend though destiny remains in the hands of Pep Guardiola’s men, who have a game in hand. However, Liverpool have now played their last top-six side this season while City must face Tottenahm twice – once in the Champions League – and travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United, all within the space of eight days. That could take its toll, and Liverpool will be spying any opportunity to take advantage.
Chelsea miss chance to move into pole position for top-four place
It has been a strange season for Chelsea. For the second half of the campaign, Maurizio Sarri has constantly seemed on the precipice of the sack and yet victory on Merseyside would have taken the Blues above Tottenham and into third in the table. But quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Salah proved decisive as Eden Hazard missed a brace of gilt-edged opportunities. It was always a tough ask to win at Liverpool but defeat means Arsenal, who have played two games fewer than Chelsea, will leapfrog their London rivals if they overcome Watford on Monday.
United need to rediscover form and fast
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United were “lucky” in their 2-1 win over a plucky West Ham. He later added: “We cannot get a lot worse than we were.” In fairness, Solskjaer did make five changes to his side with the return leg of their Champions League quarter-final in Barcelona on Tuesday firmly on the Norwegian’s mind. Nevertheless, United have started to look a little pedestrian in recent outings and – though that could be because of a combination of factors – with a top-four place up for grabs, they cannot afford to be slacking off against any opponent. West Ham failed to take their opportunities at Old Trafford but future foes might not be so accommodating.
Luck has deserted Cardiff
Teams that often beat the drop do so on the back of some good fortune. However, that seems to have deserted Cardiff at the worst stage of the season as, for the second time inside a fortnight, a pivotal decision went against them. After Chelsea clinched a 2-1 victory against the Bluebirds, thanks in part to an offside goal, Burnley advanced their own survival cause with a 2-0 win at Turf Moor. However, referee Mike Dean’s decision to rescind a penalty to the visitors when Burnley were 1-0 ahead was a major talking point. Cardiff boss Neil Warnock will argue they deserved something from both games but the fact is they sit five points adrift of safety with five games remaining.
Brighton-Cardiff is likely to settle final relegation spot
Perhaps the biggest shock result of the weekend was Bournemouth’s 5-0 mauling of 10-man Brighton – a result that leaves the Seagulls in danger of being reeled in by Cardiff, who they will welcome on Tuesday night. Chris Hughton’s men still hold all the aces and a win at the Amex Stadium will almost certainly condemn Cardiff to an immediate return to the Championship but a loss hands the momentum to their rivals. Brighton will unquestionably need to be better than they were on Saturday afternoon, when Anthony Knockaert’s rash challenge on Adam Smith was described as “disgusting” by BBC pundit Dion Dublin.
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