LONDON: Southampton secured their top-flight future with a 3-3 draw against neighbours Bournemouth as Cardiff’s chances of escaping the drop were dealt a potentially fatal blow with defeat at already-relegated Fulham.
A spectacular strike from Ryan Babel pushed Cardiff closer to relegation from the Premier League and gave Fulham a third successive win.
Babel scored his third goal in four matches with a scorching curler from 25 yards to secure a 1-0 victory and leave City’s plight looking increasingly bleak.
Fulham’s run of decent form under caretaker boss Scott Parker has come too late to save them, and Babel’s thunderbolt may well have helped drag Cardiff back down with them.
Predictably Cardiff were not lacking in effort or spirit, but they carried little goal threat until Junior Hoilett struck the cross bar late on.
Hoilett threatened occasionally down the right but his shot, into the side-netting, was the closest the visitors came to disturbing Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico in the first half.
During nine minutes of added time at the end of the half, Babel got free down the left and pulled the ball back but Ryan Sessegnon’s weak volley bounced wide.
Cardiff’s chances were few and far between with Victor Camarasa, their liveliest player, off target with an ambitious effort from 30 yards and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing firing straight at Rico.
And with 11 minutes remaining Babel collected the ball from Cyrus Christie and hit a fierce first-time shot which curled away from Etheridge as it flew into the top corner.
There was late agony for Cardiff when Rico tipped Danny Ward’s header over before Hoilett’s curler rattled the crossbar.
South Coast draw
Callum Wilson’s smart Bournemouth double denied Southampton the south coast bragging rights, but Saints still sealed their Premier League safety with a 3-3 draw.
Matt Targett’s header looked to have sent Saints storming to a 3-2 derby win to cement their top-flight status in style, only for Wilson to spoil the party late on.
Cherries striker Wilson impressed in front of England boss Gareth Southgate, pushing his league goals tally to 14 – with nine assists thrown in too.
Shane Long’s fourth goal in five league games handed Saints the perfect start, only for Dan Gosling and Callum Wilson to turn the tide for Bournemouth.
James Ward-Prowse drilled a fine equaliser after the break though, before Targett nodded in to cap a smart Saints move.
Targett’s maiden top-flight goal was also the 1,000th Premier League finish of the season – but boasts far greater significance for Saints as the goal that seals their safety.
Back in early December Saints sat 18th in the table and with just three wins in 22 league matches under Mark Hughes across the back-end of last term and the start of this.
Hasenhuttl quickly transformed the atmosphere and attitude at St Mary’s however, and now his side can look forward to more productive times.
Brighton on point
Struggling Brighton edged a point closer to Premier League safety after Pascal Gross’ second-half equaliser salvaged a 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
Gross nodded in 15 minutes from time to give Chris Hughton’s Seagulls a four-point advantage over 18th-placed Cardiff with two games to go, in addition to a significantly superior goal difference.
Albion’s alarming winless run looked set to stretch to seven league games after Ayoze Perez’s fifth goal in three matches gave the visitors a deserved first-half lead.
The Seagulls had not registered a top-flight goal since beating bitter rivals Crystal Palace on March 9 before midfielder Gross halted the lengthy drought at 631 minutes to ease their relegation fears.
Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds must now take maximum points from games against Crystal Palace and Manchester United to stand any realistic chance of catching Albion and avoid an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship.
Diogo Jota fired Wolves to victory in their revenge mission against Watford, as they took charge of the race for seventh, just 20 days after the Hornets beat Wolves 3-2 in extra-time in their thrilling FA Cup semi-final.
Ben Foster’s error gifted Jota a second-half winner at Vicarage Road to clinch a late 2-1 victory.
Raul Jimenez opened the scoring with his 17th goal of the season before Andre Gray levelled against his hometown club.
Seventh would net a Europa League qualifying spot if the Hornets lose to Manchester City in next month’s FA Cup final.
Wolves now sit seventh in the Premier League, four points clear of Watford and Everton.
Gerard Deulofeu was their Wembley tormentor and Willy Boly’s last ditch interception halted the Spain international’s burst into the box after four minutes.
Watford had been snappier in possession and carried a greater threat but it was Wolves who almost broke the deadlock after 33 minutes.
Leander Dendoncker was allowed to cross from the right and while Jimenez failed to make a clean contact, the ball was looping in until Etienne Capoue hacked off the line.
Two minutes later Will Hughes should have opened the scoring when he completely miscued a free header after Adrian Mariappa’s knockdown.
The gilt-edged chances were out of keeping with the game’s mundane nature but Watford were made to pay for their miss four minutes before the break.
It was a familiar combination for Wolves as Jota escaped on the left and crossed for Jimenez to nod in his 13th league goal of the season.
Yet the visitors’ lead lasted just three minutes into the second half after they gifted Watford a way back.
Bennett’s terrible backpass fell straight to Deulofeu and, after Rui Patricio saved at his feet, the ball ran for Gray to lash in from 15 yards.
But Wolves found the winner 13 minutes from time after an error from former England goalkeeper Foster.
The 36-year-old went walkabout as he tried to claim Neves’ deep cross to allow the unmarked Jota to guide in a cushioned volley at the far post from six yards.
Spurs record hammered
West Ham United defeated Tottenham 1-0 in the Saturday’s Premier League early kick off to become the first team to both score and win at Spurs’ new stadium.
Michail Antonio will be the answer to the future pub quiz question ‘who scored the first every away team goal at Tottenham’s new stadium?” as he struck in the 67th minute.
Marko Arnautovic lifted the ball in from the right wing, with Antonio finding space before providing the finish from close range.
Spurs almost dramatically equalised in injury time but Fabian Balbuena cleared a Vincent Janssen header off the line to help end a run of four games without a win for the Hammers.
The defeat will annoy a tired looking Spurs even more having dominated the first half hour. Heung-min Son from 12 yards out was denied early on by Lukasz Fabianksi saving at his near post. Then Lucas Moura drilled an effort from the edge of the area just wide of the far post.
Fabianski was on hand again to deny Christian Eriksen from close range as Spurs continued to probe it ensure it remained goalless at the break.
In the second period West Ham finished strongly once they led, with Antonio and defender Issa Diop forcing Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into saves in the closing stages.
The result means Spurs are yet to officially secure a top four finish, while West Ham remain 11th in the table.
Crystal Palace and Everton played out a forgettable goalless draw at Selhurst Park to dent the visitors’ chances of ending the Premier League season with European qualification.
A seventh-placed finish could prove enough to play Europa League football next season but, after thrashing Manchester United last weekend, the Toffees could not find a way past Palace.
With fellow European hopefuls Wolves winning at Watford, Everton are now four points adrift of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
Everton chairman Bill Kenwright gave £5 to all of those Everton fans travelling with the club’s official coaches so they could buy a drink when they arrived in south London.
But there was little to toast on a breezy afternoon, with Bernard’s shot off the post the closest either side came to netting a winner.
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