A second 4-1 victory over West Ham this season on Saturday bolstered Liverpool’s top four ambitions with 11 games of the season to go. Both teams hit the woodwork in the opening minutes, Loris Karius doing brilliantly to tip Marko Arnautovic’s effort onto the bar, before Emre Can headed to the net from close range on 29 minutes for his sixth goal of the season. Quickfire goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino early in the second half seemed to have the points wrapped up for Liverpool, but a breakaway finish from substitute Michail Antonio frayed a few nerves around Anfield. Those were eventually settled in the final 15 minutes when Sadio Mane netted from close range, having earlier missed a sitter, and another assured victory for the Reds, one in which they passed the 100-goal mark for the season, took them above Manchester United overnight.
United then reclaimed second place on Sunday after coming from behind to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford. David de Gea single-handedly kept his team in the Champions League last week but will feel he should have done more to block Willian’s effort which put Chelsea ahead just after the half-hour mark. The lead was short-lived, though, as Romelu Lukaku netted to disprove the widely-held belief that he is a mere flat-track bully. Indeed, the Belgian striker claimed the assist for United’s winner, crossing for Jesse Lingard to steer a header past Thibaut Courtois. Antonio Conte’s decision to take off Eden Hazard with about 20 minutes to go seemed a strange one and, with the teams level at the time, it was a call that backfired badly on a day when the champions slipped out of the top four.
Tottenham moved up to fourth and above their London rivals earlier on Sunday after they snatched all three points with a late winner at Crystal Palace. Unsurprisingly it was Harry Kane who struck, his 88th-minute header too strong for Wayne Hennessey to keep out, and while it was cruel on a Palace side who defended stoutly, it certainly did not come against the run of play. Spurs had been banging on the Eagles’ door for large spells in the second half before Kane finally found a way to open it with his late intervention. The manner in which the Spurs players celebrated that goal indicated that this could be a massive win in their bid for Champions League football next season.
West Brom’s Premier League future is beginning to look bleak after a home defeat by Huddersfield left them six points adrift at the foot of the table. The Baggies looked nervous during a dull first half and they were plunged into crisis early in the second half when Rajiv van la Parra’s scuffed effort found the back of the net. The Hawthorns was in revolt mode later on when Steve Mounie ghosted between two West Brom defenders to easily slot past Ben Foster, without whom the chasm could have been even wider. Craig Dawson’s header gave West Brom hope but they couldn’t find that all-important equaliser and their position is looking increasingly precarious. A second consecutive win for Huddersfield took them on to 30 points and leaves them with breathing space from the bottom three.
February has been a very good month for Brighton and it ended with a fine 4-1 win at home to a Swansea side whose mid-season revival has stalled of late. Glenn Murray opened the scoring with a first half penalty and he doubled his tally midway through the second half before Anthony Knockaert effectively put the game to bed. Swansea pulled one back when Tammy Abraham’s shot was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Lewis Dunk, his fourth own goal of the season, but the last laugh would go to Jurgen Locadia, Brighton’s record signing who opened his Premier League tally in the final minute to round off an excellent day for the Seagulls.
On the face of it, a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth seems like a decent result for Newcastle, but having been 2-0 up going into the last 15 minutes and dominant in the first half, it felt like two points squandered by the Geordies. A Dwight Gayle double had the visitors in a commanding position, the first goal a deft backheel from the striker, but Bournemouth staged an unlikely late comeback instigated by Adam Smith’s thunderous finish. The Cherries snatched a point through ex-Geordie Dan Gosling in the final minute of normal time, thus keeping Newcastle firmly in the relegation mire.
Stoke remain second from bottom after a 1-1 draw away to Leicester on Saturday afternoon. In a first half of few chances, the one which was taken was dispatched masterfully by Xherdan Shaqiri, who galloped into space before letting fly from outside the box. Leicester were gifted an equaliser, though, when Jack Butland somehow failed to grasp a Marc Albrighton cross and instead spilled it into his own net. The goalkeeper partly made up for that error, however, with a stunning save late on as Stoke survived a Foxes onslaught to claim what was ultimately a welcome point.
Southampton rescued what could be a precious point in the battle for survival when Manolo Gabbiadini, something of a forgotten man for the Saints, popped up with a 90th-minute equaliser at Turf Moor to deny Burnley a rare victory. For most of the game, these looked like two teams who had found wins very hard to come by in recent weeks, with chances at a premium. The home side got their noses in front midway through the second half with a close-range header from Ashley Barnes and they looked to be on their way to all three points until Gabbiadini struck in the dying minutes for the Saints, who climbed out of the bottom three as a result.
Watford aren’t completely out of danger just yet but they have had some good results in February and ended the month on a high by beating Everton at Vicarage Road on Saturday evening. Neither team created a glut of chances, but Troy Deeney managed to convert one of his and it was enough to give the Hornets a second successive home victory. Everton rallied in the final 10 minutes in pursuit of an equaliser but it was to no avail and they still have work to do if they’re to feel secure in the Premier League.
It was disappointing from a Liverpool perspective that Manchester United and Tottenham netted late winners on Sunday, but the Reds can only control their own destiny and the manner in which they dispatched West Ham showed that they are well able to look after their own affairs. Next up is a visit from Rafael Benitez and Newcastle this Saturday evening, a game where the Kop’s admiration for the former Liverpool manager will need to be put aside for a couple of hours.