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Chelsea’s Lead Cut to 7 points in EPL Title Chase with 9 Games Left

ENGLAND─Chelsea suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge to give a glimmer of hope to the chasing pack that there may be a chance of depriving Chelsea of what appeared a certain second EPL title in three years. Chelsea took a 5th minute lead through a smart finish from Cesc Fabregas, but conceded 2 goals in 2 minutes 5 minutes later through a well taken finish from William Saha, and a clever chip from Christian Benteke past goalkeeper Thibault Courtois after being set up by Saha.

Despite then dominating possession and territory, and creating a host of chances, a succession of saves from goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, and desperate and brave defending from the Crystal Palace defence, Chelsea could not break the Palace resistance to secure a second goal.

Tottenham Hotspur took advantage of Chelsea’s misfortune by securing a 2-nil victory away to Burnley through a short shot from a corner by Eric Dier and a close range finish from Son Heung-min from a cross from Dele Alli. Earlier, Liverpool had gained 3 points in the Merseyside derby with a 3-1 win over Everton. After opening the scoring through Sadio Mane, Liverpool were pulled back by Pennington’s finish from a corner for Everton, but went on to score twice more with a superb strike from Phillipe Coutinho and a goal from substitute Divock Origi.

Manchester United failed to make up ground to secure a top four finish to secure Champions League football for next season when they were held to a nil-all draw at Old Trafford by West Bromwich Albion, despite having virtually all of the possession and nearly all of the chances created, and dropping points after being held to a draw for what they will consider to have been too many occasions this season.

In Sunday’s top six clash at the Emirates Stadium Arsenal and Manchester City drew 2-all, with Manchester City taking an early 5th minute lead through Leroy Sane, Arsenal equalising in the 40th minute through Theo Walcott, and Manchester City restoring their advantage 2 minutes later through Sergio Aguero. Arsenal equalised again in the 53rd minute with a goal from Shkodran Mustafi, but neither side could force a winner despite creating chances at both ends.

The midweek game between Chelsea and Manchester City now becomes crucial to the

ambitions of both sides in their quest to support or advance their positions as well as the other teams chasing Champions League qualification by finishing in the top 4.    

Chelsea lead the table with 69 points from 29 matches, with Spurs second with 62 points from the same games, Liverpool third with 59 points from 30 games, Manchester City fourth with 58 points from 29 games, Manchester United fifth on 53 points, and Arsenal sixth on 51 points, both from 28 games.

In the relegation battle, apart from the Crystal Palace win, Watford won 1-nil against Sunderland, courtesy of Miguel Britos’ strike, Hull City were 2-1 winners against West Ham after goals from Andy Robertson and Andrea Ranocchia had overturned Andy Carroll’s opener for West Ham, Leicester City were 2-nil victors over Stoke City through goals from Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy, and Swansea drew nil-all with Middlesbrough.  

Burnley are now 15th with 32 points from 30 matches, with Crystal Palace 16th on 31 points from 29 games, Swansea 17th on 28 points from 30 games, Hull City 18th with 27 points from 30 matches, Middlesbrough 19th with 23 points from 29 games, and Sunderland 20th with 20 points from 29 games. With games running out, and their lack of goals, Middlesbrough and Sunderland appear almost certain to be relegated, with the third team to join them to be decided upon form, their respective oppositions, and luck, for those above them even up to 11th in the division.

 Allan Jackson has been involved in soccer for more than 40 years as a player, referee, administrator and freelance writer.

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