LONDON: Liverpool moved closer to a first league title since 1990 with a 3-2 win at Norwich City yesterday that sent them five points clear in the Premier League.
Quick-fire early goals from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez put the visitors in control at Carrow Road, before Gary Hooper replied for fourth-bottom Norwich in the 54th minute.
Sterling appeared to have made the points safe with a deflected shot minutes later, but a late Robert Snodgrass header obliged Liverpool to endure a nervy last 10 minutes.
It was Liverpool’s 11th consecutive league victory and means that they are guaranteed to qualify for next season’s Champions League, but Brendan Rodgers’s side now have a bigger prize in their sights.
They need seven points from their remaining three games to win the league and can eliminate Chelsea from the title race by winning at home to Jose Mourinho’s side next weekend.
“It was massive,” Rodgers told Sky Sports.
“We said before the game, every victory at this stage of the season, whether you’re top, middle or bottom, is important, and I thought we showed great courage today.
“We will go into the next three games looking to perform well. We want to continue to fight and now look to Chelsea next week, where it will be an incredible atmosphere at Anfield.”
Chelsea’s shock 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland on Saturday, coupled with Manchester City’s draw against the same side in mid-week, had given Liverpool a huge opportunity to stamp their authority on the title race.
They went ahead in the fourth minute when Sterling scored from 25 yards with a fine shot that took a slight deflection off Michael Turner.
Sterling then teed up Suarez to add a second goal in the 11th minute, making the Uruguayan the first Liverpool player to score 30 league goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1986-87.
Norwich pulled a goal back nine minutes into the second half when Hooper tapped home after Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet miscued an attempted punch.
Sterling restored Liverpool’s two-goal cushion in the 62nd minute with a shot that took a cruel deflection off Bradley Johnson, but Snodgrass’s 77th-minute header set up a nail-biting denouement.
Arsenal kept their noses in front of Everton in the race for the fourth and final Champions League qualifying berth with a comfortable 3-0 win at future FA Cup final opponents Hull City.
Arsenal welcomed Mesut Ozil back from a hamstring injury and he played a part in the 31st-minute move that led to Aaron Ramsey drilling the visitors in front.
In response, Hull midfielder Jake Livermore drove a low shot against the post, only for Lukas Podolski to emphatically volley home Arsenal’s second goal just before half-time from Ramsey’s chested lay-off.
Podolski claimed his second goal in the 54th minute, tucking away the rebound after Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor had blocked from the irrepressible Ramsey.
“We kept a clean sheet and we scored three goals, and overall I believe the performance was good,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“It’s in our hands. Do we win our games? So let’s just focus to win the games. We have a great desire to do it and I think we can, but it’s down to the quality of the performance in every game.”
The victory provisionally put Arsenal four points clear of fifth-place Everton, but Roberto Martinez’s side trimmed their lead back to a point with a clinical 2-0 defeat of Manchester United.
It was United manager David Moyes’s first visit to Goodison Park since he left to succeed Alex Ferguson last year and it was to prove a chastening one, as his side fell to their 11th defeat of a dismal campaign.
Leighton Baines, a one-time United target, put Everton ahead from the penalty spot in the 28th minute after Phil Jones had blocked a shot with his hand and Kevin Mirallas added a second goal shortly before half-time.
“What I was pleased with was that the team showed a real focus in wanting to win the game,” said Martinez. “We were very fresh. The squad is ready and that’s pleasing.”
Defeat for United means that last season’s champions can no longer qualify for the Champions League, after 18 successive seasons in the competition. AFP