ON TI­TLE

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp has en­cour­aged his team to rel­ish the bat­tle for Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion as they look to pre­serve their top-four place at Wat­ford to­day.

Liver­pool topped the Premier League ta­ble in Novem­ber and looked poised to mount a ti­tle tilt, but a top-four finish is now the only thing they can now hope to sal­vage from their sea­son.

“When we were first or sec­ond in the ta­ble and all that stuff, I said the only thing we can do is to be in the bat­tle for the in­ter­est­ing po­si­tions at the end of the sea­son,” he said.

“The end of the sea­son is now, of course. It is the last month of their be­lief and their qual­ity. They will be cham­pi­ons,” he said.

Pe­dro broke the dead­lock in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion, mak­ing some space for him­self and then beat­ing Maarten Steke­len­burg with a left-foot drive from 25 me­tres out that flew into the top cor­ner.

The vis­i­tors dou­bled their ad­van­tage when Steke­len­burg could only parry out a low, di­ag­o­nal free kick from Eden Hazard and cap­tain Cahill pounced to fire home the loose ball.

Two Chelsea sub­sti­tutes com­bined for the third goal, four min­utes from the end, when, af­ter a clever ex­change with Diego Costa, Cesc Fabre­gas slipped the ball to Wil­lian for a sim­ple closerange con­ver­sion.

The vis­it­ing fans ap­plauded their team off the field at the end, con­fi­dent that there will be more cel­e­bra­tions to come in the next few weeks.

Mean­while, Gabriel Je­sus headed the de­ci­sive equaliser as Manch­ester City twice came from be­hind to draw 2-2 away to a Mid­dles­brough side bat­tling for Premier League sur­vival.

For­mer City striker Al­varo Ne­gredo put Mid­dles­brough ahead seven min­utes be­fore half­time with a shot from the cen­tre of the box that went in off the in­side of the post.

Ser­gio Aguero pulled City level in the 69th with a penalty hotly dis­puted by Boro af­ter Marten de Roon was ruled to have brought down sub­sti­tute Leroy Sane.

Eight min­utes later Boro went ahead again when Calum Cham­bers shot high into the net in a goal­mouth melee af­ter ef­forts from Ste­wart Down­ing and Ne­gredo were kept out.

But Brazil­ian teenager Gabriel Je­sus, in his first start since re­turn­ing from an in­jury lay­off, had the last word with a fine header from Aguero's cross five min­utes from time to keep City in the Cham­pi­ons League berths.

Ear­lier, Manch­ester United’s hopes of a top four finish suf­fered a blow as rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Swansea City came back for a 1-1 draw at Old Traf­ford.

It was United’s 10th home draw— the high­est num­ber in the Premier League this sea­son — and the team's in­jury woes continued to mount with de­fend­ers Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly both taken off dur­ing the game.

“We lost play­ers and we lost points, so yes to­day was a bad day,” said man­ager Jose Mour­inho.

For Swansea though, the point could prove to be pre­cious as they bid to get out of the bot­tom three — they are now two points be­hind 17th placed Hull City with three games re­main­ing for both clubs. Reuters

AFP PIC

Chelsea’s Pe­dro (right) scores their open­ing goal against Ever­ton in a Premier League match at Good­i­son Park yes­ter­day.

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