Manchester United came from a behind to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford, in a result that goes a long way in securing a top-four finish for United. Willian had given the London side the lead in the 32nd minute, which sparked United into action. Romelu Lukaku finished off an intricate United move in the 39th minute to level the scores, and it was his cross which an unmarked Jesse Lingard headed into the net, fifteen minutes from time, for the winner. Lukaku’s display went a long way to dispel doubt about his contribution in big games, as United went six point clear of Chelsea, reclaiming second spot from Liverpool in the process.
Liverpool had gone second on Saturday courtesy of a 4-1 shellacking of West Ham at Anfield. Emre Can’s header from a Mohamed Salah corner set the ball rolling, and further strikes from Salah himself, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane meant that Liverpool have now scored 103 goals this season. Michail Antonio managed a consolation strike for the Hammers, while Salah now has 31 goals for the season, 23 of them in the league, as he trails Harry Kane by a single goal in the Golden Boot race. Kane was Tottenham’s saviour once again on Sunday, as his late goal was enough to beat a depleted Crystal Palace side 1-0. Spurs had struggled to get past the Eagles’ dogged defence, and Selhurst Park was close to seeing an upset before Kane scored a beautiful header in the 88th minute to ensure that they kept up their pursuit of a Champions League spot, while Palace dropped to 17th, only outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
Newcastle threw away a two-goal lead, as Bournemouth scored a couple of late goals in a 2-2 draw at the Vitality Stadium. Dwight Gayle had given the Magpies a two-goal cushion heading into half-time, leaving the Toon faithful hopeful of a much-needed win. Jonjo Shelvey missed a golden opportunity to put the game to bed, just before Bournemouth’s late rally; Adam Smith curled in off the bar in the 80th minute, and Dan Gosling had acres of room in the box in the 89th minute to fire home. The result left Newcastle in 15th place, two points off the relegation zone, while Bournemouth are three points better off in 11th place. Watford won 1-0 over Everton to climb into 10th spot, as Troy Deeney’s late howitzer moved the Hornets only a point behind the Merseyside outfit.
West Brom looked to be doomed, losing 2-1 at home to Huddersfield to remain rooted to the bottom of the table. Rajiv van La Parra and Steve Mounie scored second-half goals to push Alan Pardew to the brink, as Craig Dawson’s goal was not enough to spark a Baggies comeback. West Brom are seven points off safety with ten games to go; and it would take a turnaround of epic proportions to save them now, one which Pardew certainly looks incapable of providing. The other sides in the relegation zone fared little better. Swansea were hammered 4-1 by Brighton for a shuddering fall back to earth following their stunning form since Carlos Carvalhal took over. Glenn Murray got a double, while Anthony Knockaert got on the scoresheet as well, and Jurgen Locadia scored late on to seal the points, Lewis Dunk’s own-goal notwithstanding. There were a number of curious statistics at the end of this game: Murray now has ten goals for the season, just one fewer than Alexandre Lacazette, while Dunk’s own-goal was his fourth of the season, a joint-record for the Premier League, and Brighton are now unbeaten in six games, as they seem to have taken a massive step towards survival.
Stoke City, the third side in the relegation zone, managed to eke out a 1-1 draw with Leicester City. Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal just before half-time had looked to be enough to secure a massive three points for the Potters, but Jack Butland contrived to put a harmless cross into his own net to keep Stoke in the thick of it; a win would have taken them out of the drop zone, whereas they remain a point shy of safety at the moment. Southampton are not out of trouble yet either, as their 1-1 draw with Burnley also keeps them level on points with Palace and Swansea, but in 16th place owing to a better goal difference. It could have been a lot worse; Ashley Barnes’ goal looked to have condemned the Saints, only for Manolo Gabbiadini’s 90th minute effort to salvage a point, and some hope for Southampton. The last fixture for this round comes on Thursday night, as Arsenal host Manchester City, following their face-off in the League Cup final on Sunday. Incidentally, City won that game 3-0, to give Pep Guardiola his first trophy in England.
The win over Chelsea has served to bolster confidence at Old Trafford, as only a win against a top-six rival can do. Mourinho and Conte’s simmering feud only added to the sense of occasion, and it was a vital win as it opened up the gap between the two sides, as well as reclaiming second spot from Liverpool, ahead of their own visit to the red half of Manchester in a couple of weeks.