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Mane stars as Liverpool reclaim lead

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (left), and Fulham’s Neeskens Kebano vie for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage stadium in London on March 17. (AP)

Everton sink Chelsea to upset their top-four plans

LONDON, March 17, (RTRS): Liverpool’s livewire Sadio Mane scored one goal and played a crucial part in the other as they reclaimed the Premier League’s top spot with a scrappy 2-1 win at second bottom Fulham on Sunday.

It had looked like being a frustrating day for Juergen Klopp’s side after Mane’s opener was cancelled out by Ryan Babel following a mistake by Virgil van Dijk, but substitute James Milner slotted home an 81st-minute penalty to take the points.

 Klopp was delighted with the outcome and his team’s ability to grind out what could be a telling result in their bid to win their first league title since 1990.

Liverpool have 76 points from 31 games, two more than champions Manchester City who have a game in hand. Fulham have 17 points and a mountain to climb if they are to avoid almost certain relegation from the top flight.

 Mane scored his ninth league goal in as many games when he fired the visitors into a 26th-minute lead with a classy finish which typified Liverpool’s attacking mentality under Klopp.

 The Senegal forward exchanged a blistering one-two with Roberto Firmino before he buried his shot from seven metres past Fulham keeper Sergio Rico, who then denied Andy Robertson and Van Dijk either side of halftime.

Mane shaved the crossbar with a glancing header before a calamitous Van Dijk error gifted Fulham a 74th-minute equaliser, as his poor header back to keeper Alisson Becker was intercepted by former Liverpool winger Babel.

The Dutchman beat Alisson to the ball and refrained from celebrating against his former club after stroking the ball into an empty net.

 Another howler, this time by Rico, decided the contest as the keeper spilled a tame Mohamed Salah shot and then hauled down Mane who pounced on the rebound, leaving Milner to stroke home the winner from the spot.

Everton 2 Chelsea 0

Goals from forward Richarlison and midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson helped Everton beat Chelsea 2-0, denting the London side’s hopes of finishing in the top four.

 Brazil’s Richarlison headed Marco Silva’s side in front from close range in the 49th minute after Kepa Arrizabalaga had kept out striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s powerful header from Sigurdsson’s corner.

Everton went 2-0 up in the 72nd minute when Sigurdsson tucked the ball in past Arrizabalaga after his penalty kick was saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper following a foul in the box on Richarlison by Marcos Alonso.

 The hosts were a transformed side after a poor opening half and went close two minutes after the restart with Arrizabalaga pushing away midfielder Andre Gomes’s stinging left-footed shot from distance.

Chelsea had been unlucky not to score after a bright start. Eden Hazard’s low drive was saved by Jordan Pickford in the sixth minute, before he cut in and hit the post a minute later and Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain had a shot cleared off the line.

Defeat for sixth-placed Chelsea left them with 57 points from 30 matches, a point behind Manchester United above them and three points behind Arsenal in fourth.

Chelsea lost 2-0 at Everton and missed a chance to move level on points with fourth-placed Arsenal. Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson, with a penalty, scored for Everton.

 Brighton and Hove Albion reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, beating Championship side Millwall 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out on Sunday, after clawing their way back into the game to draw 2-2 from two goals down with only two minutes remaining.

Millwall defender Jake Cooper smashed his side’s final penalty over the bar at the sudden death stage of the shoot-out, after Brighton striker Glenn Murray had hit the crossbar and Millwall’s Mahlon Romeo had seen a spot-kick saved by Mat Ryan.

 It is the first time since 1983 that Brighton have reached the FA Cup semi-finals, where they will meet Premier League leaders Manchester City, with Watford meeting Wolverhampton Wanderers in the other last-four game.

Chris Hughton’s side hauled themselves back into the game after Millwall, who are 20th in the Championship and fighting relegation to English soccer’s third tier, took a deserved 2-0 lead in a raucous atmosphere at The Den, where Millwall had knocked out Everton earlier this season.

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