An­other EPL ti­tle con­tender stum­bles



One by one, Chelsea’s clos­est chal­lengers are fall­ing away in the Eng­lish Premier League ti­tle race.

Af­ter im­plo­sions by Manchester City, Liver­pool and Arse­nal over the past month, it was sec­ond­place Tot­ten­ham’s turn to trip up Satur­day.

Spurs were out­played at Liver­pool in a 2-0 loss and could be 12 points be­hind Chelsea if Chelsea beats Burn­ley to­day. With 13 games re­main­ing, Chelsea could then can­ter to a sec­ond ti­tle in three years.

Sa­dio Mane scored both goals in a two-minute spell in the first half as Liver­pool re­dis­cov­ered its form of the first half of the sea­son to gain a first league win in six at­tempts in 2017.

It was Tot­ten­ham’s third loss this sea­son, and in­stead of hav­ing faint hopes of catch­ing Chelsea, Man­ager Mauri­cio Pochettino’s play­ers will place a pri­or­ity on pre­serv­ing a top-four place to get into the Cham­pi­ons League.

Arse­nal and Manchester United also won by 2-0 scores against Hull and Wat­ford, re­spec­tively, as the race for a top-four fin­ish in­ten­si­fied. Two points sep­a­rate Tot­ten­ham and sixth-place United.

Mane scored in the 16th and 18th min­utes to cap a first half in which Liver­pool blew away Tot­ten­ham with in­ten­sity and move­ment that had been lack­ing in re­cent games.

Spurs were so over­whelmed, they should have lost by a big­ger mar­gin.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to fight for the Premier League if you show that per­for­mance,” Pochettino said. “There was a lack of ag­gres­sion and de­sire to play for a win.”

At Old Traf­ford, An­thony Mar­tial took his op­por­tu­nity to im­press Manchester United Man­ager Jose Mour­inho. The France winger set up Juan Mata for a 31st-minute opener against Wat­ford be­fore scor­ing the sec­ond in the 60th minute in a com­fort­able win.

And at Emi­rates Sta­dium in Lon­don, it was a tale of two hand­balls. Alexis Sanchez bun­dled in his first goal from close range us­ing his right hand, with of­fi­cials de­cid­ing it was ac­ci­den­tal as the ball de­flected off goal­keeper Eldin Jakupovic.

In in­jury time, Hull mid­fielder Sam Clu­cas blocked a header from Lu­cas Perez on the goal line us­ing his hand and was sent off. Sanchez drove home a low penalty for his league-high 17 th goal of the sea­son.

SPAIN: Grue­some in­juries marred vic­to­ries by Real Madrid and Barcelona as both pow­er­houses won on the road to stay atop the league.

Madrid needed goals from Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Fran­cisco “Isco” Alar­con to beat last-place Osasuna, 3-1. Two play­ers were car­ried off on stretch­ers.

Osasuna’s Cayetano Bon­nin was the more se­ri­ous. He broke the tibia and fibula of his right leg when he knocked legs with Isco.

Madrid de­fender Danilo also was taken to a hos­pi­tal in Pamplona af­ter he couldn’t con­tinue in the sec­ond half when an Osasuna player stomped on his left an­kle.

Barcelona’s big three of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Ney­mar led a 6-0 rout at Alaves that in­cluded a nasty in­jury to team­mate Aleix Vi­dal and a vi­o­lent clash be­tween ri­val fans.

Vi­dal was car­ried off near the end of the game and taken to a hos­pi­tal af­ter a slid­ing chal­lenge from Theo Her­nan­dez. Barcelona said Vi­dal would be side­lined for five months with a dis­placed right an­kle.

“We feel hor­ri­ble for him and for the team,” Barcelona Coach Luis En­rique said.

ITALY: Long ig­nored by Spain’s na­tional team, Borja Valero let his tal­ent and cre­ativ­ity shine at Fiorentina.

The play­maker scored one goal and set up an­other as Fiorentina beat Udi­nese, 3-0, in Florence to move back within strik­ing dis­tance of the Europa League places. Valero redi­rected in a re­bound of a shot from Fed­erico Bernarde­schi that hit the cross­bar be­fore half­time. He then set up a goal for Khouma Babacar af­ter the break.

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