Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3-0 in the Premier League yesterday, moving into fifth place and maintaining their climb up the table that began when Kenny Dalglish took over as caretaker-manager in January.
A goal from Maxi Rodriguez after 10 minutes, a Dirk Kuyt penalty after 59 minutes and a strike from Luis Suarez six minutes later lifted Liverpool into the Europa League qualifying berth, pushing Tottenham Hotspur down to sixth place. Both teams have 55 points, but Liverpool have a better goal-difference.
In the other lunchtime kickoff, Birmingham City drew 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St Andrew’s, leaving Wolves in relegation trouble. They remain second-bottom on 34 points, a point from safety, while Birmingham are 15th on 39 points.
Liverpool, who were 12th in the standings when Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson in January, were rarely troubled by Newcastle.
They took the lead after 10 minutes when Rodriguez punished some sloppy Newcastle defending and they doubled their lead when Mike Williamson hauled down Suarez and Kuyt scored from the spot.
Kuyt and Suarez were then involved in Liverpool’s third, with the Dutchman exchanging passes with the Uruguayan, who tapped in from 6m.
The Midlands derby between Birmingham and Wolves had a lively start, with Steven Fletcher putting Wolves ahead with a seventh-minute penalty, before Sebastian Larsson equalized for the home side after 27 minutes following a weak back-header by Michael Mancienne.
Birmingham’s Craig Gardner was sent off two minutes later for a second yellow card.
On Saturday, Chelsea kept their title dream alive after scrambling a controversial late 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.
Second-half substitute Salomon Kalou’s 89th-minute strike secured a priceless win for the reigning champions, who closed the gap on leaders Manchester United to three points, but Chelsea’s win owed everything to a bitterly contested equalizer by Frank Lampard on the stroke of halftime after Sandro had fired Spurs ahead with a 25m rocket on 19 minutes.
The flashpoint — which is certain to renew debate about the use of goal-line technology — occurred when Lampard let fly with a long-range effort that Heurelho Gomes appeared to have covered, but the erratic Spurs goalkeeper could only watch in horror as he fumbled Lampard’s shot and the ball rolled through his legs toward goal. Gomes scrambled back desperately to hook the ball back to safety, but referee Andre Marriner checked with his assistant and the goal was given, despite furious protests by Tottenham’s players.
Television replays lent weight to Spurs’ sense of injustice, indicating the ball had not completely crossed the line before being recovered by Gomes and so it should not have stood.
There was a second dose of controversy surrounding Kalou’s winner, when replays suggested the Ivorian was marginally off-side in the build-up.
Chelsea’s victory sets up a potential title decider next weekend when Carlo Ancelotti’s men travel to Old Trafford to face United.
Chelsea skipper John Terry vowed to chase United all the way to the finish line.
“We said a few weeks ago when we were nine points behind we never give up. You can see the character and we fight until the end,” Terry told Sky Sports. “We never give up. [Manchester United] have known all along how good a squad we have and we have the hunger to win the title again.”