Cardiff relegated, Tottenham loss blows open race for top 4
The English Premier League’s thrilling title race is going down to the final day after yet another late winner from Liverpool.
With Mohamed Salah back in the locker room, shaken by a heavy knock to the head, it fell to his replacement to score the crucial goal.
Divock Origi glanced home a deflected 86th-minute header to earn Liverpool a 3-2 win at Newcastle on Saturday, lifting Juergen Klopp’s side back above Manchester City and into the lead by two points.
The pressure is back on the champions, who host in-form Leicester on Monday needing a victory to keep the destiny of the title in their own hands heading into the last weekend.
“Unbelievable,” Klopp said, after uttering an expletive live on British television.
With shows of resilience seemingly every week, Liverpool and City are bringing the best out of each other in a title race neither team deserves to lose.
Liverpool has 94 points, a tally that would have been good enough to win the title in all but two seasons since the introduction of the Premier League in 1992. The Reds have lost just once in the league, 2-1 at City in January.
It still might not be enough, though.
If City wins its last two games — it finishes the season with a match at lowly Brighton — the league trophy will be staying at Etihad Stadium.
It remains to be seen if Salah is in good enough shape to play Liverpool’s final match, at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, though the early indications are encouraging.
The Egypt forward, one of Liverpool’s first-half scorers, was carried off on a stretcher in the 73rd minute after smashing the back of his head on the ground following a collision with Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
Salah appeared to be in tears at one point and covered his face with his hands as he was taken off the field.
Klopp said after the game, however, that Salah watched the end of the match and was “OK,” despite receiving a “proper knock to the head.”
“We have to see,” Klopp added about the league’s top scorer on 22, two more than teammate Sadio Mane and Man City striker Sergio Aguero.
At the other end of the Premier League, there’ll be no last-day battle for survival this season, with Cardiff becoming the third and final team to be relegated after losing to Crystal Palace 3-2.
What looks to be going to the wire — just like the title race — is the fight for Champions League qualification behind Liverpool and City.
Tottenham had two men sent off and conceded an injury-time goal in losing at Bournemouth 1-0. The defeat kept Spurs in third place, two points ahead of Chelsea, four ahead of Arsenal, and five clear of Manchester United.
Despite its courage and grit, there was an element of luck to Liverpool’s latest win. The team could easily have been forced to play the majority of the game against Newcastle with 10 men.
Right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who set up both the opening goal for Virgil van Dijk and also Salah’s goal which made it 2-1, blocked the ball with his elbow on his own goal line moments before Christian Atsu made it 1-1 in the 20th minute.
The referee could have given a penalty and red card, but instead awarded Newcastle the goal.
“The ball came at me quick, it was very instinctive,” Alexander-Arnold said with a slight smile.
Origi is proving to be a lucky charm, too. He also came off the bench to score a bizarre injury-time winner against Everton in December.
“There’s a lot of emotion,” Origi said about the to-and-fro title race. “It’s very exciting. It’s a special season and we want to finish it off in style.”
Cardiff is returning to the second-tier League Championship after just a season in the top flight.
The loss to Palace meant the Welsh team is four points adrift of fourth-to-last Brighton with just one game remaining. Brighton, which plays Arsenal on Sunday, can celebrate a third straight year in the Premier League.
Fulham and Huddersfield had already been demoted.
It couldn’t really have gone any worse for Tottenham at Vitality Stadium.
Not only did the team lose, it also had Son Heung-min and Juan Foyth sent off in a five-minute span around halftime, and then spoiled a doughty defensive effort with nine men by conceding in the first minute of stoppage time.
A tiring match for Spurs’ players came four days before they play the second leg of their Champions League semifinal against Ajax, which leads 1-0 from the first match.
Tottenham has lost 13 games this season and is 22 points behind second-placed City.
In other games, Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Fulham 1-0 to virtually seal a seventh-place finish, which could earn a berth in next season’s Europa League, and West Ham eased past Southampton 3-0.
More AP English soccer: https://apnews.com/PremierLeague and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
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