LONDON: Before returning to the top of the Premier League, Liverpool got to savour a Manchester United humiliation.
Now, unusually, Liverpool need a swift recovery by their great rivals after United’s despair in being routed 4-0 by Everton on Sunday.
Liverpool’s hopes of ending a 29-year English title drought could hinge on a big favour from sixth-placed United when they host Manchester City on Wednesday.
After a 2-0 victory at Cardiff City, which was secured in the second half by Georginio Wijnaldum’s strike and James Milner’s penalty, Liverpool are two points ahead of City with three games remaining. But Pep Guardiola’s champions have a game in hand over Liverpool so defending the title is still in their control unless they fail to beat United.
For Arsenal, the challenge in their remaining four matches is sealing a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League. That mission was hampered by a 3-2 home loss to Crystal Palace that left Unai Emery’s side only in fourth place, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference and a point behind Tottenham Hotspur.
Liverpool’s breakthrough against relegation-threatened Cardiff only came in the second half the sixth successive league game which Liverpool have won by scoring a winner after the break.
Trent Alexander-Arnold delivered a corner to the near post where Wijnaldum met it to grab the opener in the 57th minute.
Juergen Klopp’s side were disrupted further by losing Fabinho following a clash of heads and Milner was sent on to play what proved to be a decisive role.
Milner netted from the penalty spot in the 81st minute after Sean Morrison grappled Mohamed Salah, who fell to the ground.
Christian Benteke’s first goal in almost a year set Palace on their way to victory at Arsenal, denting the north London club’s top-four bid.
After Benteke netted his first goal in 20 games in the 17th minute, Mesut Ozil equalised at the start of the second half.
But Benteke set up Wilfried Zaha to restore Palace’s lead in the 61st before James McArthur headed in the visitors’ third.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored in the 77th but Arsenal couldn’t find two more goals to extend their 10-match winning league run at home.
Arsenal remains in the fourth Champions League qualification spot but they are only ahead of Chelsea on goal difference with four games remaining.
United are two points behind in sixth after the latest setback since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was handed the manager’s job on a permanent basis at Everton.
The Norwegian coach saw his team exit the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday with a 4-0 aggregate loss to Barcelona, and Solskjaer’s season took a further hit at Goodison Park with goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson before the break, and Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott after it.
As a reward for his better-than-expected spell in temporary charge of United, Solskjaer accepted a three-year contract on March 28 after 14 wins in 19 games.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2019