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MANCHESTER, England, April 16, (AP): Cristiano Ronaldo capped his hat trick with a stunning free kick in the 76th minute to give Manchester United a 3-2 win over Norwich on Saturday and boost the team’s hopes of securing a Champions League spot. United moved past Arsenal into fifth place, three points behind Tottenham in the English Premier League. United blew a two-goal lead after last-placed Norwich fought back to tie the game on goals by Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki at Old Trafford. But the day belonged to the Portugal superstar, who recorded the 50th hat trick of his professional career for his clubs and 60th overall.
Ronaldo’s goal in the seventh minute was courtesy of Anthony Elanga, who stole the ball from defender Ben Gibson in the area and slid a pass to him for an easy one-timer past goalkeeper Tim Krul. Ronaldo then headed home a corner kick in the 32nd. Ronaldo’s free kick from outside the area sailed through the wall and off Krul’s outstretched hands into the top left corner of the net. Just before halftime, Pukki’s cross from the left side was headed in by Dowell to give the visitors hope. Dowell then returned the favor in the 52nd by threading a pass to Pukki, who took two touches and beat goalkeeper David De Gea to the near side and in off the right post. Norwich nearly took the lead but De Gea stretched to save Milot Rashica’s long-range effort.
Arsenal’s faltering quest for Champions League qualification suffered another setback after it lost at Southampton 1-0. Tottenham’s shock home defeat to Brighton on Saturday offered the Gunners the chance to move level on points with their fourth-placed north London rivals. But Mikel Arteta’s men blew a major opportunity to capitalise at St Mary’s as Jan Bednarek’s strike on the stroke of halftime condemned them to a fourth defeat in five games. Arsenal retain a game in hand on Spurs, albeit a tricky trip to Chelsea, while their latest slip-up provides further encouragement for fellow top-four hopefuls Manchester United and West Ham. The Gunners dominated possession for much of an uninspiring match, but in the absence of the ill Alexandre Lacazette they often lacked a cutting edge and rarely troubled Ralph Hasenhuttl’s resolute hosts.
On the occasions they did, they were frustrated by in-form Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who produced stunning saves to keep out joint leading scorers Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe either side of Bednarek’s decisive finish. Victory for Saints ended a fivematch winless league run to boost their aspirations of a top-half finish. Leandro Trossard’s 90th-minute goal gave Brighton a 1-0 victory at Tottenham to halt the north London club’s resurgence and push for Champions League qualification. Tottenham had won five out of their last six matches to move into fourth place in the Premier League, helped by Brighton beating Arsenal last weekend. Mid-table Brighton made another impact on the top-four race when Trossard beat defender Eric Dier and used the outside of his right foot to shoot the ball past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into the far corner. Watford’s already-slim hopes of staying in the English Premier League were hit further by Pontus Jansson securing a 2-1 victory for Brentford with a goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time . The Hornets remain six points from safety with six games remaining, but having played two more than Everton out of the relegation zone.