MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Liverpool and Arsenal capitalized on a rare slip-up by Premier League leader Chelsea by claiming away wins at their fiercest rivals on Sunday to close up an intriguing four-team race for the title.
Liverpool humiliated soon-to-be-deposed champion Manchester United in a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford, with Steven Gerrard converting two penalties and Luis Suarez also scoring in a one-sided match that highlighted the gulf that has emerged between the two foes.
“It’s a nightmare,” said United striker Wayne Rooney, whose team is virtually assured of missing out on qualifying for next season’s Champions League. “It’s one of the worst days I’ve ever had in football.”
Tomas Rosicky’s superb goal after 72 seconds sealed Arsenal’s battling 1-0 win at Tottenham, a result that also likely knocked Spurs out of contention for a top-four finish.
The gap between Chelsea, which lost 1-0 at Aston Villa on Saturday, and fourth-place Manchester City is now six points and all three teams chasing the leaders have games in hand over Jose Mourinho’s side.
It is shaping up to be the most exciting conclusion ever to a Premier League title race.
For once, it won’t include United.
On the darkest day of David Moyes’ tumultuous first season at Old Trafford, United was embarrassed in front of its own fans by a rival that is attempting to recreate its glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, when it dominated English football.
Liverpool’s last English league title came in 1990 but Gerrard said the team proved it was a genuine contender by running United ragged in a match the visitors could easily have won by six or seven goals.
Gerrard scored penalties in the 34th and 46th minutes and missed another spot kick in the 78th after United defender Nemanja Vidic was sent off for a second booking for fouling Daniel Sturridge.
Suarez completed the crushing win with his 25th goal of the campaign.
“I thought we were outstanding,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, whose team put on a show for watching Argentina great Diego Maradona. “A real tale of dominance in the game. From the first whistle, our intent and will to press and attack was outstanding.”
Such is the beleaguered state of United’s campaign that the team has to win its remaining nine games to avoid finishing with its lowest haul of points in the Premier League era. And such is the downward spiral under Moyes that Liverpool has gone from finishing 28 points behind United last season to 14 points ahead of them this season.
While Liverpool produced another masterful attacking display, Arsenal was more than happy to win ugly at White Hart Lane.
Rosicky drove a rising shot into the corner from the edge of the area to give Arsenal an early lead and the visitors defended stoutly in the second half to secure a first win at Tottenham since September 2007.
“We had an early lead and we juggled between protecting the lead and finishing the game off,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We absorbed a lot of pressure from Tottenham. They gave very thing and we needed a special resilience and good defensive performance.”
Two of Arsenal’s next three matches are against Chelsea away, next Saturday, and Man City at home.
Tottenham stayed fifth and is seven points behind City having played three games more. It looks to be a three-way fight for fifth and sixth place - the two spots that will seal berths in next season’s Europa League, between Spurs Everton and United.
Spurs have lost three matches in eight days, during which manager Tim Sherwood berated his players for showing a lack of character.
“I wanted the performance. We got that but we didn’t get the result,” Sherwood said. “The fans won’t be happy with that but anyone who has seen that performance will know we didn’t deserve to lose.”
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