LONDON: Liverpool now hold the biggest ever lead at the top of the English top flight with 22 points, while West Ham have slipped into the relegation zone, and Sheffield United and Everton picked up another three points apiece.
Unbeaten Liverpool’s march towards a first title in 30 years is gathering yet more pace as a 4-0 victory over Southampton sent them 22 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
With nearest-rivals Manchester City playing at Tottenham on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s side turned the screw even further with second-half goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, against his former club, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah (two).
Seven more wins will guarantee their first domestic championship since 1990 after a 24th victory in 25 matches and ninth clean sheet in 10 games was secured after wearing down doughty and difficult opponents.
It was easy to see why two-thirds of Saints’ points this season have come away from home as they pressed high and worked tirelessly to nullify Liverpool’s threat, both short and long, while waiting to pounce on any mistake.
They were presented with plenty of those in the first half with Joe Gomez particularly slow in responding to threats and Firmino playing a 30-yard back-pass to Ings in the penalty area whose shot was blocked by the leg of team-mate Shane Long.
But they were left to rue a number of opportunities in which they failed to properly test Alisson Becker and teams visiting Anfield rarely get a second bite of the cherry.
A counter-attack down the left eventually saw Andy Robertson pull the ball back to Oxlade-Chamberlain who cut inside and drilled home a right-footed shot which had McCarthy rooted to the spot.
An energised Liverpool stepped things up and Salah had the ball in the net only to be denied by an offside flag, although Ings continued to create problems until his substitution to a warm round of applause in the 70th minute.
By that time the visitors were 2-0 down after Henderson calmly slotted the ball home on the hour mark.
Salah was not to be denied though and when Alisson picked out Henderson on the right wing he slid in a pass for his team-mate to dink over McCarthy, with the Egypt international adding his second in a goalmouth scramble.
The win brought up 100 points from the last 102 available and with Liverpool unbeaten in the league in 394 days – and just less then three months short of three years at home in the competition – no wonder all four sides of Anfield were belting out ‘We’re going to win the league’ at the end.
Antonio Rudiger made light of Chelsea’s failed striker search after his brace earned a 2-2 draw at Leicester.
The defender’s goals – his first for the Blues since October 2018 – ensured Frank Lampard’s fourth-placed side stayed eight points behind the Foxes.
Chelsea, who had their transfer ban lifted last month, failed to make a signing in January while forward Tammy Abraham played through the pain of an ankle injury at the King Power Stadium.
Ben Chilwell’s second-half strike had looked to have eased the Foxes’ pain after a last-gasp exit to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Tuesday.
He put the hosts 2-1 ahead after in-form Harvey Barnes had cancelled out Rudiger’s opener.
The hosts missed the chance to move 11 points clear of Chelsea but remain third, and are well on course to reach the Champions League.
Bruno Fernandes could not inspire to Manchester United to victory on a promising debut as the Premier League clash with Wolves ended goalless and without a widely discussed Old Trafford protest.
This has been an up and down week for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, whose Carabao Cup win – but ultimate exit – at Manchester City came in between fans attacking Ed Woodward’s house and some much-needed transfer business.
The executive vice-chairman was not in attendance for Fernandes’ capable debut on Saturday evening, when a planned 68th minute anti-Glazer protest failed to come to fruition as United and Wolves fought out a 0-0 draw.
Ten-man Bournemouth climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone with a nervy 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Aston Villa.
The Cherries made it back-to-back league wins thanks to first-half goals from Philip Billing and Nathan Ake, though they were hanging on in the end after Jefferson Lerma’s red card.
Lerma walked early in the second half for two bookings and Villa made a game of it as Mbwana Samatta scored on his Premier League debut – becoming the first Tanzanian to do so in this division.
But Eddie Howe’s men leapfrogged their visitors in the table after seeing it out, claiming just their second win since mid-December.
Villa, who were on a high after reaching the Carabao Cup final in midweek, had chances to earn a point, but the result left them sitting perilously above the bottom three.
Billing tested Pepe Reina’s handling early on with a drive from distance, the Spaniard then grabbed Harry Wilson’s free-kick at the second attempt before Dan Gosling missed a golden opportunity, blazing over from Ryan Fraser’s cross.
Led by the slaloming Jack Grealish, who was dancing past defenders at ease, Villa enjoyed their best spell and an enticing ball by the playmaker missed everyone and grazed the far post.
But it was during this period that Bournemouth took a 37th-minute lead.
The Cherries recycled a free-kick and Simon Francis’ cross was knocked down by Gosling into the path of Billing who drilled home from 12 yards.
Howe’s men got a crucial second goal on the stroke of half-time to put themselves in firm control.
Fraser’s effort from the edge of the area was parried by Reina, but he could not get it away from goal and Ake rammed home the rebound from close range.
It could have been three soon after the restart as Lerma grazed the crossbar with an arrowed effort from distance, but the midfielder’s next contribution handed Villa a lifeline.
Sheffield United moved to 36 points after another excellent away win, this time a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace.
Chris Wilder’s side, who have already taken points from trips to Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal this season, were indebted to a mistake from home goalkeeper Vicente Guaita for the only goal of the game.
The Spaniard spilled Oliver Norwood’s corner over the line for an own-goal and it consigned Roy Hodgson’s team to back-to-back defeats at Selhurst Park.
Roy Hodgson’s men created their first clear-cut opportunity of the match with 25 minutes gone when Jordan Ayew embarked on a mazy run and played Benteke through – but the Belgian could only hit the side-netting from an angle.
The Eagles looked the most likely to open the scoring and they wanted Baldock sent off with 10 minutes of the first half left following another foul on Zaha – but Madley afforded the full-back another life.
The Ivorian was causing United all sorts of problems and saw a cross agonisingly drift across the face of goal without a decisive touch, then minutes later Van Aanholt fired over.
The opener arrived in the 58th minute – and in bizarre fashion.
Norwood curled a corner to the front post and Guaita grabbed the ball unchallenged, but dropped it over the goal line to gift the visitors the lead.
The Blades midfielder almost had a second three minutes later, but his free kick was saved well by Palace’s goalkeeper.
Dean Henderson was finally tested in the away goal in the 63rd minute when Zaha fashioned a shooting chance for James McArthur, whose curler was parried away from danger.
VAR and in particular the pitchside monitor took centre stage with 72 minutes on the clock when Ward was dismissed for a tackle on Enda Stevens.
But referee Madley was told to check the decision using the screen by the side of the pitch and after doing so rescinded his red card to a yellow.
Teemu Pukki passed up the chance to fire bottom-of-the-table Norwich to a priceless Premier League win at Newcastle as two points went begging on a 0-0 draw.
The Canaries enjoyed the better of a tense encounter played out in front of a crowd of 52,204 at St James’ Park and would have headed back to Norfolk with three points added to their tally had the Finland international, who scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture, taken one of a series of openings which came his way.
In the event, poor finishing and the heroics of Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka, who made key saves from Sam Byram and Pukki, ensured the game finished 0-0 with Steve Bruce’s men grateful for a point on a day when they scarcely deserved it.
The Canaries would have been ahead with just five minutes gone had Dubravka not pulled off a fine reaction save to repel Byram’s near-post header from an Ondrej Duda corner.
Dubravka had to tip Pukki’s rising 17th-minute half-volley over after Yedlin headed Duda’s cross into his path, but the home side should have been ahead four minutes later when Tim Krul could only palm Joelinton’s header to Miguel Almiron, who missed the target with his follow-up.
Norwich continued to enjoy more than their fair share of possession as their hosts sat deep and might have gone ahead when Pukki was slipped in behind the Magpies’ rearguard with 29 minutes gone, but defender Federico Fernandez got back to make a perfectly-timed block.
Krul tipped Saint-Maximin’s 69th-minute effort wide as it arced across him towards the far post, but Pukki squandered another glorious opportunity at the other end with 20 minutes remaining when he was put through by Duda and could not beat Dubravka, whose defenders rallied to smuggle the ball away.
Theo Walcott hit a last-minute winner as 10-man Everton came from two goals down to secure a fine 3-2 win at Watford.
Yerry Mina had scored twice in first-half stoppage time to haul the visitors level and – despite losing Fabian Delph to a red card – Walcott delivered the killer blow as the travelling fans celebrated a remarkable victory.
The Hornets appeared on course for another fine result in their battle against the drop as Adam Masina’s first goal in over three years and a Roberto Pereyra strike had them two goals ahead.
But, having crumbled when falling behind in recent weeks, the Toffees instead rallied at Vicarage Road as Mina struck twice in quick succession.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked to be hanging on for a point but broke clear in the closing stages as Watford over-committed, and Richarlison’s pass was scuffed into the path of Walcott by Moise
Kean, with the former Arsenal man making no mistake with the close-range finish.
Watford started brightly and deservedly took the lead with 10 minutes on the clock, Masina defying his scoring record by finishing well for his first Watford goal.
The lead would be doubled three minutes before the break as Pererya ran onto a ball from captain Troy Deeney and slotted home coolly past Jordan Pickford.
Everton had hardly showed up for the first half but halved the arrears as the clock ticked into stoppage time.
It was a goal befitting of their scrappy start as Mina was on hand to finally turn the ball in for his first goal of the season after a goalmouth scramble followed an Everton corner.
Moments later and they were level, Watford again undone by a corner with Mina this time rising to head home Sigurdsson’s set-piece at the back-post.
With Ancelotti’s side now on top, it looked like they would be the most likely winners only for Delph to be dismissed with 19 minutes remaining as he picked up a second booking of the afternoon for fouling Etienne Capoue.
Abdoulaye Doucoure sent a rasping drive wide as Watford pushed on for all three points but they could not make their advantage pay and remain in the bottom three as Walcott’s first goal since May secured the points for Everton.
The Toffees were stung by a last-gasp comeback against Newcastle last time out but their own late show in Hertfordshire moves them up to ninth in the table as they ended a run of 35 league matches in which they were winless having conceded the opening goal.
West Ham’s nemesis Glenn Murray scored a controversial late equaliser as Brighton snatched a 3-3 draw at the London Stadium.
The veteran striker, starting a Premier League match for the first time since September, grabbed his seventh career goal against the Hammers in the 79th minute.
The ball appeared to hit Murray’s arm before he fired home but a VAR check decided otherwise, to disbelief in the stands when the replay was shown.
It completed a remarkable comeback for Graham Potter’s side, who were 3-1 down thanks to an Issa Diop effort and a double from Robert Snodgrass.
West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna had already scored an own goal before Pascal Gross pounced on some woeful defending to halve the deficit and Murray found the net to secure a share of the spoils.
A draw meant West Ham slipped into the relegation zone, and with trips to Manchester City and Liverpool next up, it might be a while before they climb back out.
Brighton boss Potter was on the touchline despite the death of his father just two days earlier.
His side should have taken the lead after just 90 seconds but Aaron Mooy put a free header wide.
West Ham handed a debut to new signing Tomas Soucek and the Czech midfielder almost grabbed a debut goal but his header, from a Snodgrass free-kick, was saved by Mathew Ryan.
Leandro Trossard and Murray squandered further chances before, on the half-hour mark, another Snodgrass set-piece found the toe of the sliding Diop to give West Ham the lead.
It was two on the stroke of half-time after Martin Montoya’s headed clearance fell to Snodgrass, who hit a volley into the ground and off the shin of Adam Webster to leave Ryan with no chance.
Brighton needed a slice of luck to get back into the game, and they received it moments after the restart.
Lukasz Fabianski felt he was being impeded as he attempted to clear a Gross corner, but he succeeded only in punching the ball onto the shoulder of Ogbonna and into his own net.
But Snodgrass restored the two-goal cushion when he took aim from the edge of the box and scored with the aid of another deflection, this time off the head of Bernardo.
West Ham should have been home and hosed but contrived to let Brighton in again when Diop failed to notice Gross lurking behind him.
The German whipped the ball away and prodded it past Fabianski and just inside the far post.
Then came Murray’s moment from Davy Propper’s cross, and a lengthy VAR check which decided the ball had not brushed his arm before he tucked it away.
Brighton could have stolen all three points at the end when Solly March’s free-kick flew towards the top corner but Fabianski clawed it away to at least preserve a point for the hosts.