What was looking like a gripping finale to the Premier League title race is starting to turn into a procession for Liverpool.
The rampant leaders moved five points clear of Chelsea with three matches remaining thanks to a 3-2 victory over Norwich on Sunday, taking their winning run to 11 games.
The win, sealed by two goals from the excellent Raheem Sterling and a 30th of the campaign from Luis Suarez, secured Champions League football for Liverpool for the first time since the 2009-10 season. But the Reds will have loftier ambitions than that as they seek a first English championship in 24 years.
“At the start of the season, everyone thought it would be a struggle for us to get to fourth, so it shows the magnitude of the effort the players have put in,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, whose side play Chelsea at home on next Sunday.
“We have cemented the first objective, which was cementing Champions League qualification. Now we will look forward to next weekend.”
It is promising to be a tighter race for the final Champions League spot, with fourth-place Arsenal and Everton both winning to leave them separated by just one point.
Lukas Podolski scored twice for the second straight game in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory at Hull and Everton overwhelmed Manchester United in a 2-0 win that marked another dark day for United manager David Moyes, who endured a miserable return to the club he coached for 11 years.
United can’t now qualify for the Champions League — the first time they will miss the competition in 19 years — and even reaching the Europa League is a real doubt, with a top-six finish likely to be needed for that. United are seventh, six points behind Tottenham with a game in hand.
“I couldn’t fault how we played,” Moyes said, “because we kept the ball incredibly well.”
Leighton Baines, from the penalty spot, and Kevin Mirallas scored Everton’s goals in their third game in eight days to seal a first league double over United in 44 years. United looked sluggish, despite not having played in 11 days since bowing out of the Champions League at Bayern Munich.
RAMSEY RETURNS TO FORM
Aaron Ramsey grabbed Arsenal’s other goal at KC Stadium in what was a rehearsal for next month’s FA Cup final against Hull.
“We have had to cope with five or six players all out at the same time and we have done as well as we can,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose team looked a different proposition going forward with fit-again pair Ramsey and Mesut Ozil back in the team. “We were having problems scoring goals away from home and (Ramsey) and Ozil give us a cutting edge in the final third that makes us much more dangerous.”