Everton leapfrogged Arsenal into fourth place in the Premier League with a 1-0 win at bottom-of-the-table Sunderland on Saturday as English soccer marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Fresh from their 3-0 victory over the Gunners the previous weekend, Roberto Martinez’s side had to wait until the 75th minute to score at the Stadium of Light when former Manchester United defender Wes Brown put Gerard Deulofeu’s cross into his own net.
The victory moved Everton into the UEFA Champions League places, two points ahead of Arsenal, who were in FA Cup semi-final action against Wigan at Wembley, with both clubs having five league games remaining this season.
“From our point of view, to keep a clean sheet in those circumstances was very pleasing and it was also important to take one of our chances, too,” Everton manager Roberto Martinez told the BBC.
It was Everton’s seventh successive league victory, matching a similar run from their 1986-1987 title-winning season.
Before kickoff, a minute’s silence was observed at all major English matches as a tribute to the looming 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. The tragedy saw 96 Liverpool fans effectively crushed to death while standing on a terrace at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground during an FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest.
At The Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion squandered a 3-0 lead in a 3-3 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
Matej Vydra gave West Brom a first-minute lead from close range when Spurs and France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris palmed a Morgan Amalfitano cross into his path.
Three minutes later, Chris Brunt volleyed home after Spurs failed to clear a Steven Reid cross.
After Amalfitano was brought down Danny Rose, Emmanuel Adebayor’s weak penalty was saved by England goalkeeper Ben Foster.
West Brom then made it 3-0 in the 31st minute through Stephane Sessegnon.
However, Spurs did pull a goal back three minutes later when Jonas Olsson deflected Aaron Lennon’s ball across the penalty area into his own net.
The visitors made it 3-2 with 20 minutes left when Harry Kane headed in a Lennon cross and sixth-placed Spurs’ comeback was complete in stoppage-time when Christian Eriksen smashed in an equalizer.
Meanwhile, things tightened up at the foot of the table as relegation-threatened Fulham and second-bottom Cardiff City won to close the gap on the teams immediately above them.
Norwich City may have sacked manager Chris Hughton in a bid to preserve their Premier League status, but the Canaries first match under former youth coach Neil Adams left them even closer to relegation after a 1-0 defeat at Fulham, Hugo Rodallega scoring the only goal of the match at Craven Cottage.
The victory left Fulham still in the bottom three, but saw the London club close the gap between themselves and Norwich to just two points with four games remaining.
Cardiff climbed to within three points of safety with a shock 1-0 win away to Southampton, with Juan Cala’s 65th-minute goal proving decisive at St Mary’s.
“I was proud of the effort everyone put in,” Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.
Jason Puncheon’s 76th-minute goal saw Crystal Palace win 1-0 away to Aston Villa, a result that took the Eagles closer to survival and left Villa just four points above the relegation zone.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Stoke City beat Newcastle United 1-0 courtesy of Erik Pieters’ 42nd-minute goal.