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Reds edge close to EPL title Ramsey, Podolski star in Arsenal stroll

NORWICH, United Kingdom, April 20, (AFP): Liverpool nervously edged closer to a first league title in the Premier League era with a nail-biting 3-2 success over Norwich City at Carrow Road on Sunday. Brendan Rodgers’s side now boast a five-point advantage over second-place Chelsea, who had surprisingly lost 2-1 at home to bottom club Sunderland on Saturday and who will be their next opponents at Anfield next Sunday.
Manchester City are also in the equation and have two games in hand, but Liverpool know that a first title since 1990 will be theirs even if they draw with Chelsea, provided they win their two other fixtures. Raheem Sterling scored two of Liverpool’s goals at Carrow Road, with Luis Suarez bringing his total for the season to 30 with the other. The result was a huge setback for the home side, who remain out of the relegation places but are in danger of being overtaken by any of the three clubs below them.

There were two changes to the Liverpool side that beat Manchester City 3-2 last week, with Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen replacing the suspended Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge, who has a hamstring injury.
Norwich had lost 1-0 at relegation rivals Fulham the previous weekend and made a single change, up front, with Gary Hooper coming in for Ricky van Wolfswinkel. It took Liverpool just four minutes to take the lead in sensational style through Sterling, who celebrated it by running to the touchline and hugging Rodgers. The winger received the ball from Philippe Coutinho and used his skill to slip past Bradley Johnson before unleashing a 25-yard drive that deflected off defender Michael Turner on its way past goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Norwich replied with a Hooper header that cleared the bar, but it was not long before Ruddy had to make a smart stop to deny Allen. Goal number two was coming and this time Sterling was the provider in the 11th minute, sending in a low cross from the left for Suarez to poke home his 12th goal in just five games against the Canaries. Liverpool survived a goal-mouth scramble involving Hooper and Leroy Fer, but the fluidity of their passing and their movement off the ball meant that they remained in the ascendancy.

The second half began with Sterling firing over to end an excellent move that had seen Suarez find Coutinho with a 60-yard crossfield ball, but suddenly, in the 54th minute, Norwich were back in it. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was to blame, flapping at a cross under pressure from Johnson, and Hooper got there before Mamadou Sakho to put the ball into the empty net for his first goal since December 26. That woke Liverpool up and Suarez fired a good chance across goal before Sterling restored their two-goal cushion in the 62nd minute in circumstances that Johnson will not want to remember.

The Norwich midfielder gifted possession to the Liverpool man with a square pass, but managed to get back to block his resulting shot, only to see it loop up over Ruddy and land in the net. Fer was fortunate not to be booked for a late tackle on Suarez, who went down clutching his leg but suddenly sprang from the turf once he realised that an advantage was being played. Robert Snodgrass, Nathan Redmond and Russell Martin all came close to Norwich replies before Snodgrass headed home Martin Olsson’s cross with 13 minutes remaining.

Arsenal 3, Hull 0
In Kingston Upon Hull, Lukas Podolski scored twice as Arsenal claimed an important 3-0 victory at Hull City on Sunday in his side’s quest for a top-four finish and FA Cup success. In a preview of next month’s FA Cup final at Wembley, Arsenal scored an important psychological edge over Steve Bruce’s team after Aaron Ramsey shot them in front. German forward Podolski then added two goals in the space of eight minutes, either side of half-time. Following on from his two-goal display against West Ham United in mid-week, it meant that in the space of five days, he has doubled his tally of league goals for the season to eight. Ramsey, playing his fourth game in two weeks after a three-month lay-off with a thigh injury, made a telling impact with a goal and an assist as Arsenal scored twice in the final 15 minutes of the opening half to take a strong grip on the game.

The second goal was spectacular, if contentious, as Hull claimed that they should have been awarded a free-kick deep in Arsenal territory after Nikica Jelavic went down under pressure from Mikel Arteta.
Referee Jon Moss disagreed, however, and allowed the Gunners to launch a devastating counter-attack.
It ended with Olivier Giroud lofting over a cross that Ramsey chested into the path of Podolski, who buried a superb left-foot volley in the back of the Hull goal from 15 yards. The opening goal, after 31 minutes, had been almost as impressive and featured a characteristic flowing move from Arsene Wenger’s side.
The move started on the halfway line and saw Ramsey spray the ball wide to Mesut Ozil; another Arsenal player who is fit again after injury. His pass to Santi Cazorla was helped on to Ramsey, who steered his ninth league goal of the season past Steve Harper in the Hull goal.

The opening goal had been coming, with Harper called upon to keep out Podolski’s 18-yard strike a few minutes earlier, although Hull had enjoyed more possession until that point. Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was forced to show good handling in the 14th minute, diving smartly to keep out a first-time strike from Jelavic. A goal behind, Hull had their best chance yet when David Meyler set up Jake Livermore for an 18-yard strike that beat Szczesny but rebounded to safety via the foot of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Just before the second Arsenal goal, Shane Long should have done better with a mistimed header from a Liam Rosenior cross that Szczesny saved with ease.

Hull substitute Matty Fryatt, on for the injured Long, had an early opportunity soon after the restart, but Tom Huddlestone’s pass took an unkind bounce as he aimed to head past Szczesny.
Any lingering uncertainty about the destiny of the three points was removed after 54 minutes when Podolski claimed his second goal, and Arsenal’s third. Once again the build-up was intricate, culminating in Cazorla picking out Ramsey from the left-hand byline. The Welsh international’s 15-yard shot was well saved by the outstretched boot of goalkeeper Harper, but the rebound fell kindly for Podolski to convert from close range.

Everton 2, United 0
Manchester United manager David Moyes tasted defeat on his first return to Everton since leaving the club as his side were beaten 2-0 in the Premier League on Sunday. Moyes was greeted with a smattering of boos as he walked out of the tunnel before the match, but it was the loss, which definitively ended United’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, that will trouble him more. Before Liverpool’s 3-2 win at Norwich City earlier in the day, United had boasted the best away record in the division, but they were swept aside by Roberto Martinez’s effervescent Everton team. Leighton Baines, a United transfer target until he signed a new long-term deal earlier this year, opened the scoring with a 28th-minute penalty and Kevin Mirallas added a second goal shortly before half-time. A United comeback never looked likely as Moyes’s beleaguered side slipped to their 10th defeat of 2014 in all competitions and their 11th loss of the league campaign.

But Everton, who won 1-0 at Old Trafford in December, remain a point behind fourth-place Arsenal with three matches remaining after only a third win over United in 19 league matches at Goodison Park.
Everton played with the greater incision from the start, with Seamus Coleman bounding forward from right-back at every opportunity. An early cross towards Mirallas was glanced away by Chris Smalling and Ross Barkley lifted a shot over from the rebound. Phil Jones then did well to block efforts from Romelu Lukaku and Coleman as Everton began to dominate.

The hosts had a penalty appeal turned down when Jonny Evans threw himself at Steven Naismith’s effort, before the Everton player wasted a fine opportunity when he thumped over from Lukaku’s flick.
With Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa and Nani — making his first start since December 7 — playing behind Wayne Rooney, United were listless as an attacking force.

From a spell of attacking possession for the visitors, Everton broke quickly and after Jones slipped, he stuck out an arm to block Lukaku’s curling shot, obliging referee Mark Clattenburg to award a penalty.
Baines guided the spot-kick down the middle for his sixth goal of the season.
After that, Everton soaked up more aimless play from United and doubled their advantage just before the interval. Baines won the ball from Mata and Naismith knocked the ball out to the right for Coleman.
The Irishman slipped a pass through for Mirallas, who was played onside by Alex Buttner, and the Belgian placed a shot inside the far post.

Tim Howard was finally worked in first-half added time when a Rooney corner hit Sylvain Distin and the Everton goalkeeper was forced into a save. Everton lost Distin to injury at the break and the visitors immediately showed more threat, although substitute Antolin Alcaraz did well to deny Rooney a shooting chance after the United captain had turned away from John Stones inside the area. When Everton failed to deal with a Rooney free-kick from the right, Kagawa’s low drive was held at the second attempt by Howard.
Alcaraz might have done better when he could only make weak contact with a free header from a Mirallas corner. After Kagawa headed straight at Howard from Buttner’s deep cross, Moyes tried to shake his team up by bringing on Antonio Valancia at right-back and also throwing on striker Javier Hernandez.

    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Liverpool    35    25    5    5    96    44    80
Chelsea    35    23    6    6    67    26    75
Man City    33    22    5    6    88    34    71
Arsenal    35    21    7    7    62    41    70
Everton    35    20    9    6    57    34    69
Tottenham    35    19    6    10    51    49    63
Man Utd    34    17    6    11    56    40    57
Southampton    35    13    10    12    50    45    49
Newcastle    35    14    4    17    39    54    46
Stoke    35    11    11    13    39    49    44
Palace    35    13    4    18    28    41    43
West Ham    35    10    7    18    38    48    37
Swansea    35    9    9    17    47    51    36
Hull    34    10    6    18    34    43    36
Villa    34    9    8    17    35    49    35
West Brom    33    6    15    12    40    51    33
Norwich    35    8    8    19    28    56    32
Cardiff    35    7    9    19    31    65    30
Fulham    35    9    3    23    35    77    30
Sunderland    34    7    8    19    33    57    29
Note 1: Top four teams qualify for next season’s Champions League; fifth-place team qualifies for Europa League; bottom three teams relegated to Championship
Note 2: Standings read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against & points.

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