This weekend saw a heavily truncated fixture list, as a number of Premier League sides played in the FA Cup quarter-finals. There were only four fixtures in the league, of which the highlight was Liverpool beating Watford 5-0, courtesy a four-goal haul from their Egyptian hitman, Mohamed Salah, in a display that made a mockery of whoever did not have the Egyptian in their fantasy football sides. Bournemouth’s 2-1 win over West Brom looks to have finished whatever little hope remained for the Baggies’ survival prospects, while Crystal Palace did their own survival chances no harm with a vital 2-0 win over Huddersfield. Finally, Stoke City lost to Everton to remain in the bottom three, with time running out for Paul Lambert’s side.
Liverpool shook off the disappointment of losing to Manchester United in emphatic style, as Watford were eviscerated by a stunning show of goalscoring prowess by Mohamed Salah. He started the rout in the 4th minute after dumping Miguel Britos on the Anfield turf and calmly threading the ball past Orestis Karnezis, and then slotted home from six yards out after a brilliant cross from Andrew Robertson just before the break. He turned provider next, with his bullet cross being stylishly backheeled into the net by Roberto Firmino for the third goal. His hat trick goal was perhaps the best of the lot, as he twisted and turned in the box before eventually squeezing the ball into the net through five Watford defenders and the goalkeeper while falling over, and he completed proceedings with an emphatic finish from 10 yards out. Salah moves onto 28 goals in the Golden Boot race, and with Harry Kane facing a spell on the sidelines, it would take a similar feat of goal scoring from the Englishman upon his return to deny the Egyptian the gong in his spectacular debut season. Liverpool also moved into third place, as Tottenham were playing in the FA Cup over the weekend.
It is the hope that truly kills you; West Brom had managed to take the lead against Bournemouth, and it looked like they would finally get the win they so desperately needed to launch themselves back into contention for safety. But a late Bournemouth fightback now means that the Baggies are 10 points adrift with seven games to play; surely too much ground for them to make up now. They had taken the lead through Jay Rodriguez’s close-range finish a little after half-time, and had managed to hold out till the 77th minute, when Jordon Ibe’s devious, swerving effort from distance managed to evade Ben Foster. Worse was to come; Junior Stanislas deposited the ball into the postage-stamp area with a brilliant free kick in the 89th minute, and then Charlie Daniels saved off the line from Matt Phillips with seconds to play. West Brom have dropped a staggering 24 points from winning positions this season, and that inability to hold a lead will see them playing Championship football next season.
Stoke City look likely to join them there, as the Potters were sunk in snowy conditions by a Cenk Tosun brace. They were not helped by Charlie Adam getting himself sent off within half an hour for a reckless tackle on Wayne Rooney. Stoke had managed to stay in the game despite being a man down, but were undone in the 69th minute, when Tosun scored from the rebound after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had forced Jack Butland to parry. Tosun looked offside, though, for his initial header from Rooney’s free kick, which had been saved by Butland before Calvert-Lewin’s intervention. The Turkey international sealed the points with a diving header in the 84th minute, as Everton got their first away win in three months, and Stoke remained in the relegation zone, three points from safety.
Crystal Palace, however, took a massive step towards securing Premier League football for next season, with a much-needed win over Huddersfield. In a game which saw the return of Wilfried Zaha and Mamadou Sakho, as well as Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek as substitutes, Palace went on the attack from the outset. They were rewarded when James Tomkins scored from a corner in the 23rd minute, after Jonas Lossl had done well to save his initial effort. Palace secured the points in the 68th minute, when Andros Townsend was tackled illegally by Mathias Jorgensen in the box, Luka Milivojevic sending Lossl the wrong way from the spot. The win takes Palace up to 16th place, two points clear of the drop zone, while Huddersfield are not safe yet either, only a point and a place ahead of the Eagles.