KARACHI: It was at the same venue last season that a title contender’s hopes were thrown out of the window and it is again at Selhurst Park that Crystal Palace overpowered Manchester City 2-1 on Monday to kill any hopes of the current champions defending their crown.
In a week decorated with some of the best goals of the season, City and Liverpool emerged as the biggest losers.
City made several changes to the side that defeated West Brom but did not look at all comfortable on the ball, and were punished by Palace as striker Glenn Murray directed a deflected ball into the back of the net in the 34th minute.
Jason Puncheon then curled in a sublime free kick over the wall just after half-time to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead which, even though was halved by Yaya Toure’s curling effort in the 78th minute, was always going to prove enough to inflict a third league defeat in five games for the reigning champions.
The defeat leaves City nine points adrift Chelsea — who defeated Stoke City 2-1 and have a game in hand — and languishing in fourth place after Arsenal and Manchester United moved up the table. Any slip-up from here could fatally dent City’s Champions League hopes, which suddenly have started to look grim — despite them having a seven-point cushion over fifth-placed Liverpool.
Liverpool had travelled to North London looking to salvage their season and rejuvenate hopes of a top-four finish after an emotionally draining 2-1 loss to Manchester United at Anfield in March had ended the Reds’ 13-game unbeaten run. However, whatever hopes they had before entering The Emirates were extinguished as the Gunners went on a goalscoring spree and netted the ball thrice in a space of eight minutes before half-time to take the game away from the travelling Reds. Jordan Henderson and Olivier Giroud added one for each side in the second half but the contest was as good as over in the first half.
United and Chelsea recorded routine wins as Ander Herrera’s brace was enough to secure a 3-1 win at Old Trafford, while Eden Hazard dazzled for Chelsea, converting from the spot to maintain his 100% penalty record in the Premier League and then setting up Loic Remy for the winner after Charlie Adam’s 63-yard stunner had left Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois scrambling.
Everton ended Southampton’s top-four qualification hopes when Phil Jagielka’s lone goal in the 16th minute gave the Toffees a 1-0 win at Goodison Park and registered their third consecutive league triumph after a tumultuous start to the season.
Meanwhile, Burnley held Tottenham at home to a goalless draw, which also put a major dent on Spurs’ Champions League hopes and left them instead vying for a Europa League spot with Liverpool, with whom they are level on 54 points but trail due to a poorer goal difference.
Swansea continued their resurgence, recording their second consecutive win, finishing 3-1 over Hull City which ensured that they stay in the top 10, while Jermain Defoe’s wonder-volley at the end of the first-half gave Sunderland the valuable three points to take them three clear of the relegation zone.
Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers both recorded wins to maintain their push to avoid the relegation zone and while the Premier League has taken a whole new turn completely at the top of the table, the last seven matches are surely to bring more exciting moments of football.
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