Chelsea derail Liverpool title bid, Manchester City pounce

2014-04-28 08:59

London – With a first title in 24 years close enough to touch, Liverpool were undone by old nemesis José Mourinho, whose Chelsea side inflicted a potentially mortal blow with a 2-0 win at Anfield.

Chelsea’s victory might have come too late for Mourinho’s side to win the Premier League title, but it flung the door wide open for Manchester City, who took full advantage with a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace yesterday.

At the bottom, Sunderland demolished Cardiff City 4-0 to leave the Welsh club propping up the table. In the process, the Black Cats lifted themselves out of the bottom three at the expense of Norwich City.

In the latest twist in a fascinating Premiership season, understrength Chelsea cut the gap at the top to two points with two games remaining, although City are only three points behind with a game in hand and a far healthier goal difference.

Should Liverpool and City both win their remaining games, City would almost certainly grab the title on goal difference, just as they did two seasons ago, although if both drop points, Chelsea could sneak through.

Victory yesterday was Mourinho’s seventh win in nine Premier League matches against Liverpool and completed the double over Brendan Rodgers’ side this season – ending an 11-game winning streak that has propelled them towards the title.

Demba Ba, capitalising on a calamitous slip by captain Steven Gerrard, and Willian did the damage for a weakened Chelsea side but despite Mourinho’s tactical triumph, he immediately ruled his team out of title contention.

“We are [in the] Champions League for sure,” Mourinho shrugged.

“We need one point to finish third. The champions, whether it is Liverpool or Man City we can say we won both matches against them. Forget the title, forget it.”

City’s supporters at Selhurst Park cheered news of Liverpool’s defeat and had further cause for celebration as Yaya Touré, returning from injury, made the first goal for Edin Džeko with a perfect cross.

Touré scored the second, his 19th in the league this season, before halftime after a storming run from the halfway line.

While City are now masters of their own destiny, coach Manuel Pellegrini refused to get carried away.

“The only thing that is different is that we are not depending on other teams and what matters is only what we do between now and the end of the season,” the cautious City coach told the club’s website.

“I was obviously very happy with Chelsea’s win, but this is far from the end of the title race because all three teams have very hard games still to play.”

Chelsea have beaten both City and Liverpool home and away and despite missing five leading players through injury and suspension, Mourinho rested others ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg against Atlético Madrid.

On paper, it seemed the perfect scenario for Liverpool to knock Chelsea out of the title equation but with the league’s leading scorer Luis Suárez failing to fire, they looked crestfallen as their winning run ended limply.

Rodgers, who once worked under Mourinho at Chelsea, accused his former club of playing defensively and having “two buses parked” in front of their goal.

But his side failed to create enough chances.

“Congratulations to Chelsea for getting the result but my team is a team that wants to be offensive, win games by playing good football, to be creative,” Rodgers said.

“Chelsea played with a back six and just hit long balls up to Demba Ba. But the players gave everything.”

While Chelsea’s fans celebrated, they will rue a shock home defeat by Sunderland in their previous match, the first time Mourinho lost in 78 league games at Stamford Bridge.

Had they won that match, they would have been top of the table with the title in their own hands.

Chelsea’s remaining fixtures are against two relegation candidates, Norwich at home and Cardiff away.

Liverpool play away to Crystal Palace and finish at home to Newcastle, hoping that City will drop points in what has been a topsy-turvy season either away to Everton or at home to struggling Aston Villa and West Ham.

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