With an arm draped around one of his players, Swansea manager Paul Clement walked toward the team’s celebrating fans and held up two of his fingers. Two games to secure English Premier League survival. And this relegation battle could go right to the wire.
Swansea was the big winner on Saturday as the fight to stay in the world’s richest domestic league took more twists across three back-to-back games.
After witnessing losses for relegation rivals Crystal Palace and then Hull, Swansea beat Everton 1-0 to climb out of the bottom three for the first time in a month. That’s seven points won from the last three games for the Welsh club that looked in such a mess in late December when it fired American coach Bob Bradley.
“It’s one of my proudest moments,” said Clement, a former assistant at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea who is starting to look the part as a coach in his own right.
Last-placed Sunderland is already down. Next-to-last Middlesbrough is set to drop, too, on Monday. It looks to be down to three teams – Palace, Swansea or Hull – for the other relegation place.
Palace has 38 points, Swansea 35, and Hull 34. Next week, Hull visits Palace and Swansea is away to Sunderland.
On Saturday, Bournemouth and Stoke clinched another season in the Premier League. Burnley and Watford are all but mathematically safe.
Swansea 1, Everton 0
The all-important goal by Fernando Llorente ended up being a stroke of luck. Jordan Ayew floated over a cross from the right and Llorente leaped highest at the far post, bundling the ball home with his left shoulder. For one of the best headers of the ball in the league, it was an ugly but decisive finish.
This win for Swansea built on its victory over Stoke and a draw at Manchester United over the last two weeks.
Hull 0, Sunderland 2
Hull coach Marco Silva’s 41-match unbeaten home record as a manager ended at the worst possible time.
Billy Jones and Jermain Defoe scored second-half goals for Sunderland, which was relegated last weekend when Hull drew at Southampton thanks to a last-minute penalty save.
Silva had not lost a home league game since 2014, a period taking in spells in charge of Estoril, Sporting Lisbon, Olympiakos, and now four months at Hull.
The result also was a boost for Middlesbrough, which stayed alive ahead of its trip to Chelsea on Monday.
Burnley 2, West Brom 2
Burnley effectively secured its survival thanks to two second-half goals by Sam Vokes. His second came four minutes from time at Turf Moor, leaving his team six points clear of Hull but with a superior goal difference of 19.
Bournemouth 2, Stoke 2
Bournemouth can look forward to a third season in the league with this draw, clinched by a contentiously awarded equalizer.
Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross unwittingly deflected Josh King’s effort into his own net in the 81st minute, although King appeared to be in an offside position.
It denied Stoke a first away win since January, although the visitors did end their 10-hour goal drought on the road thanks to an own goal by Lys Mousset that put them 1-0 up.
Leicester 3, Watford 0
Leicester moved into the top half of the standings with a seventh win in 10 games since firing title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri.
Midfielders Wilfred Ndidi, Riyad Mahrez, and Marc Albrighton scored the goals for the soon-to-be-deposed champions, who were close to the relegation zone when Ranieri departed and Craig Shakespeare came in as his replacement.