LONDON: Southampton scored twice in five second-half minutes to boost their Premier League survival hopes with a 2-1 win over Tottenham, whose grip on the top-four positions loosened even further.
Harry Kane’s 200th career goal for club and country was reward for a dominant first-half display, but Saints turned it around after the break and won it through quickfire goals from Yan Valery and James Ward-Prowse.
It was a vital and deserved comeback from Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men, who stayed two points clear of the relegation zone.
For Spurs, it was a head-scratching loss given the way they dominated the first half. A fortnight ago they were in the title race but now they are in a fight to for the Champions League places after a fourth league game without a win.
Mauricio Pochettino, who was condemned to a seat in the stands following his touchline ban, WAS furious with what he had to watch in the second half.
He said: “We showed a lack of aggressiveness, lack of the hunger that you need to kill the games and win.
“We played the first half like (one of) the best eight teams in Europe but in the second half we need to watch the game, we need to analyse and we need to be critics with ourselves.
“I am so, so, so disappointed. I am a little bit worried about this change from the first half to the second half – it’s only one thing, it’s mental. It’s about complacency, it’s about arrogance in a bad way.
“You can use the first half as an example of (positive) arrogance, playing with intention, focus, concentration, we matched them in everything and we were much better and in the second half it’s the arrogance in a bad way. We need to blame all of us, the club.”
A fourth successive top-flight game without victory for Spurs left them anxiously looking over their shoulders at Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Champions League qualification.
Pochettino felt the setback on the south coast highlighted the club’s deficiencies and provided a reality check in their quest to earn a place among Europe’s elite.
He added: “I think it’s good now (that we’re in a battle for the top four) that people now are going to realise our real level and maybe stop with the perception.
“That showed that we still have a lot of work to do, that showed we are not mature enough, that showed that to be in the last level you need more effort, you need more quality, to increase your capacity of commitment. Everything you need to increase if you want to be one of the best clubs in the world.
“We need to be careful how we assess ourselves and it’s so important to live in the reality. I think in the last few years we were living more in the perception than in the reality and now is the reality.”
Ayoze Perez scored a late double as Newcastle fought back to win a five-goal thriller on an afternoon Everton keeper Jordan Pickford will want to forget.
Pickford had earlier escaped a red card after conceding a penalty which he saved, but was beaten three times inside the last 25 minutes as the Magpies roared back to snatch a priceless 3-2 victory.
Marco Silva’s men looked to be coasting after Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison had given them a 2-0 lead either side of Matt Ritchie’s missed spot-kick, but Salomon Rondon’s strike set up a grandstand finish in which Perez struck twice inside three minutes to help the Magpies claim a fifth successive home win.
Raheem Sterling scored a 13-minute hat-trick as champions Manchester City beat Watford 3-1 to open up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
There was an element of controversy over the England forward’s first goal but his quickfire treble turned a frustrating game decisively in City’s favour early in the second half.
Gerard Deulofeu did pull one back for the visitors at the Etihad Stadium but City held on to turn up the heat on closest challengers Liverpool ahead of their game against Burnley on Sunday.
City’s resolve was again tested by opponents seemingly intent on damage limitation.
Yet after a week of off-field turmoil for City, Pep Guardiola’s men found a way by once again showing that on the field they remain in good health.
When they hosted Liverpool on January 3, City could have fallen 10 points behind at the top but now they are firmly back in control of their destiny.
Cardiff kept in touch with the Premier League strugglers above them by beating West Ham 2-0.
Junior Hoilett and Victor Camarasa scored as Cardiff ended a run of three successive defeats with a victory that was rarely in doubt from the fourth minute.
But Southampton’s comeback win against Tottenham leaves Cardiff in the bottom three and two points from safety.
Although Cardiff remain in the relegation zone with eight games left to play, this victory will offer hope to Neil Warnock’s side that they can survive.
Half of those games might be against top-six sides – Chelsea and Liverpool at home and the two Manchester clubs away – but there are enough opportunities to pick up points from sides around them.
What they are unlikely to face, however, are opponents as insipid as West Ham, who are without a win in their last six away matches.
Jamie Vardy passed a century of goals for Leicester as the Foxes piled further misery on doomed Fulham.
The striker scored twice late on to take his Foxes tally to 101 and seal a 3-1 win in Brendan Rodgers’ first home game in charge.
Youri Tielemans’ first goal for the club opened the scoring as Leicester rose to 10th in the Premier League.
Floyd Ayite’s first goal for over a year hauled the Cottagers level but they slipped to a sixth straight defeat.
Scott Parker’s side are second bottom, 13 points from the safety line, and looked destined for an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship.
Callum Wilson scored on his return to action as Bournemouth halted their away-day blues with a 2-0 win at bottom club Huddersfield.
Wilson, back from a seven-week injury lay-off, chested home a first-half opener and laid on Bournemouth’s second for Ryan Fraser in front of watching England boss Gareth Southgate.
The Cherries snapped a nine-game Premier League losing run on the road, while a 15th defeat in 17 league matches for Huddersfield nudged them closer to the trapdoor.
Brighton edged closer to preserving their Premier League status with a satisfying 2-1 victory at rivals Crystal Palace.
The visitors’ second successive league triumph, having previously been winless in 2019, moved them level with Palace on 33 points with nine games to go and back into contention for a mid-table finish after their poor form had left them at risk of relegation.
Chris Hughton’s team have further difficult fixtures between now and the season’s end, but the rediscovery of a sense of momentum, this time secured by goals from Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert, looks likely to carry them to safety.
Luka Milivojevic’s penalty had briefly brought Palace level, but, as they struggled to create chances, fine finishes from Murray, only recalled when Florin Andone was injured in the pre-match warm-up, and Knockaert justified Brighton’s three points.