In my preview of this weekend’s Premier League action, I wrote that Liverpool just needed to beat Crystal Palace on Saturday, even if it was to be scrappy or lucky. It was no means a vintage performance from the Reds but they dug deep to claim a crucial victory against an unfortunate Palace side. Yet again it was the Egyptian King who turned a disappointing afternoon into a sweet one for Liverpool, Mohamed Salah showing exceptional composure to net the 84th-minute winner. After a slow start which saw them fall behind to a contentious penalty, this certainly looked like being a frustrating day for the Reds and for Sadio Mane in particular after he had a decent penalty claim turned down and a goal correctly ruled out for offside. However, his equaliser early in the second half gave Liverpool the platform on which to build, even though Kopites will be tempted to inundate Christian Benteke with Easter gift baskets after the hapless Belgian missed two sitters against his former club at 1-1.
It’s not as if Jurgen Klopp needed any reminding of how devastating Manchester City can be ahead of the Champions League showdown in midweek, but he got one anyway after the runaway leaders swamped Everton with a scintillating first half display at Goodison Park. They were two to the good inside 12 minutes, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus leaving the Toffees dumbfounded. Another sumptuous assist from David Silva enabled Raheem Sterling to make it 3-0 on 35 minutes and by that stage it was simply a case of guessing City’s eventual winning margin. They understandably rowed back a few gears in the second half and Everton got on the scoreboard through Yannick Bolasie, but there was never any scent of a remarkable comeback from the home side. This time next week, Manchester City could be Premier League champions unless their neighbours follow Everton’s lead from earlier in the season in thwarting them at the Etihad.
Tottenham buried one of the longest-standing hoodoos in English football by coming from behind to beat Chelsea 3-1 for their first win at Stamford Bridge in 30 attempts since 1990. That was a despite a lethargic first half performance from Spurs, who fell behind to Alvaro Morata’s header after a misjudgement from Hugo Lloris. The match swung on the stroke of half-time, though, on a spectacular goal from the outstanding Christian Eriksen, his long-range effort dipping just underneath the crossbar. Then, in a four-minute spell just after the hour mark, Dele Alli struck twice, firstly finishing from a superb pass by Eric Dier and then taking advantage of Chelsea’s inability to clear the ball from danger in a penalty box scramble. The Blues now sit eight points behind their London rivals and would need a near-perfect end to the season to harbour any hopes of getting into next year’s Champions League.
Manchester United had dipped to third for a couple of hours after Liverpool’s lunchtime win at Selhurst Park, but Jose Mourinho’s men wasted little time in reclaiming second with a comfortable win at home to Swansea. Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring inside five minutes and Alexis Sanchez soon added his first league goal for his new club. A rout was threatening but United seemed content to play the game at a measured tempo and while Swansea had a brief encouraging spell in the second half, the points were effectively secured inside 20 minutes. Even if Mourinho’s team lose at Manchester City next weekend, they should have plenty of a buffer on fifth-placed Chelsea to feel that they will be in the Champions League again next season.
After the mutiny of three weeks ago came the bounty of an emphatic win for West Ham on their first match at the London Stadium since the anarchic Burnley defeat last month. The Hammers blew Southampton off the park with a three-goal blitz in the first half, Joao Mario’s thunderous strike preceding two superb finishes from Marko Arnautovic, who revelled in inflicting misery on his old boss Mark Hughes. The result lifts David Moyes’ men up to 14th and could just be the prompt for a strong finish to the season, but the alarming bells are positively deafening for the Saints after this atrocious display. Also, their run-in is not one from which they’ll feel hugely confident of hoovering up points.
To look at the final score of Arsenal 3-0 Stoke, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a stroll in the park for the Gunners. However, for 75 minutes this was an utter non-event at the Emirates before a slightly contentious penalty led to a late avalanche of goals. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted the spot kick and soon added a second goal from a corner, with Alexandre Lacazette putting further gloss on the scoreline by netting a penalty of his own. A classic this was not, but the win puts Arsenal within five points of Chelsea and gives them a shot at sneaking past their crosstown rivals into fifth. Stoke remain lodged in 19th, just three points off safety but not looking like a team who will get the wins they need to climb out of the relegation zone.
Newcastle took a huge step towards safety with another home win on Saturday, edging Huddersfield with a late goal from Ayoze Perez. The Geordies were good value for the three points, having dominated the first half but spurned several chances. There was a spell in the second half where the visitors threatened to make Newcastle pay for their profligacy, but Perez eventually sealed another positive result for the Magpies, who are now just a win or two away from putting relegation fears to bed. By contrast, Huddersfield are sailing dangerously close to the choppy winds of the bottom three and don’t seem to have too many goals in their side.
Are Brighton entering a rough patch of form at the worst possible time? Their 0-2 defeat at home to Leicester on Saturday was their third in a row in all competitions and it was a game they probably should have at least drawn. Following a goalless and forgettable first half, the Seagulls were given the perfect chance to take the lead when awarded a penalty, but Glenn Murray’s spot kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel, who was superb for Leicester after his FA Cup blunder two weeks ago. Two late goals from Vicente Iborra and Jamie Vardy saw the Foxes continue their good form, although they will feel that Wilfred Ndidi’s red card in the closing minutes was harsh.
Burnley continue to harbour hopes of European football next season after becoming the latest team to consign West Brom to defeat at The Hawthorns. The opening goal was a piece of magic from Ashley Barnes, his acrobatic volley a candidate for goal of the season shortlists. In the second half, Chris Wood doubled the lead against his former club, nodding home after his initial shot was saved by Ben Foster. A late goal from Salomon Rondon sparked a spirited fightback from the Baggies but they ran out of time on the day, just as they’re doing in the context of their overall season. It’s now eight defeats in a row for Alan Pardew’s team.
Jermain Defoe hasn’t had an especially glorious season at Bournemouth, but his knack for goalscoring has never deserted him and he delivered again as a substitute on Saturday, salvaging a 94th-minute equaliser against Watford. The Hornets took an early lead through Kiko Femenia’s deflected strike before a less than subtle Jose Holebas handball gave Joshua King the chance to score from the penalty spot, which he duly did. Watford were in front again early in the second half, Roberto Pereyra’s scuffed effort trickling into the Bournemouth net, and it looked as if Javi Gracia would enjoy another home win before Defoe’s stoppage time intervention. Two teams who are comfortable in mid-table served up a very entertaining affair at Vicarage Road.
Liverpool passed the first of four big tests on Saturday, even if it was scrappy and at times fortunate. That’s what every team needs at this juncture of the season, though, and it keeps their momentum going ahead of Wednesday night’s mammoth European clash against Manchester City. Besides, when you have Salah in your team, you have a wizard who can effectively win games on his own. It’s going to be some start to April.