Watford and Bournemouth were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season on Sunday.
Watford’s 3-2 defeat at Arsenal condemned them to 19th place, while third bottom Bournemouth’s 3-1 win at Everton wasn’t enough to save them.
Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw at West Ham ensured they stayed up at Bournemouth’s expense as Dean Smith’s fourth bottom side finished one point above the Cherries and Watford.
Champions League Battle
Manchester United and Chelsea sealed Champions League places on Sunday as Bournemouth and Watford fell through the trapdoor on a dramatic final day of the longest Premier League season.
Liverpool were crowned champions last month but there were many issues at stake in the final 90 minutes of a campaign that started on August 9 last year and was interrupted by a three-month coronavirus shutdown.
United finished third after a nervy 2-0 win in a Champions League shootout against Leicester while Chelsea ended in fourth spot after beating Wolves 2-0 thanks to two goals on the stroke of half-time.
Leicester, in fifth spot, will play in the Europa League next season where they will be joined by Tottenham, who drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace to leapfrog Wolves.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea required just a draw to seal Champions League qualification for next term and two goals in first-half stoppage time gave them breathing space.
Mason Mount whipped in from a free-kick to give Chelsea the lead and the home side went further in front almost immediately, when Olivier Giroud slid home.
United, whose form has dipped in recent weeks after they pulled themselves back into contention for the Champions League, were locked at 0-0 at half-time at the King Power Stadium.
But they finally broke the deadlock in the 71st minute, when Bruno Fernandes scored from the penalty spot after Anthony Martial was upended. Jesse Lingard scored late to seal the win.
The result is a huge lift for Solskjaer, whose team slipped well off the pace earlier this season, but is a bitter blow for Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester, who have been camped in the top four for almost the whole campaign.
Raheem Sterling scored twice as Manchester City thrashed Watford 4-0 on Tuesday to leave the Hornets still precariously poised just three points above the relegation zone.
Watford became the first Premier League team to sack three managers in a season when Nigel Pearson departed on Sunday, but the change of management made little difference as City bounced back from their weekend disappointment of losing an FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal.
City had thrashed Watford 8-0 earlier in the season and 6-0 in last season’s FA Cup final and there appeared little belief from the hosts of causing an upset from the off.
Hayden Mullins took charge on a temporary basis for the second time this season and set up to frustrate the visitors by defending deep with little threat of ever testing City’s soft spot at the heart of their defence.
Ben Foster delayed the floodgates opening with a stunning save after Rodrigo’s shot deflected off Gabriel Jesus.
However, there was little doubt over the outcome once Sterling controlled Kyle Walker’s cross and fired powerfully into the top corner on 31 minutes.
Nine minutes later Sterling was taken down inside the area by Will Hughes and was given the chance to further his chances of chasing down Jamie Vardy for the golden boot as Kevin De Bruyne handed over responsibilities from the penalty spot.
Foster nearly made the Belgian regret that decision with a brilliant save from Sterling’s penalty but the England international followed up to tap home his 19th Premier League goal of the season.
Goal difference could yet decide who stays in the top-flight between Watford, Aston Villa and Bournemouth come the weekend and Mullins’s men did themselves little favours after the break as they moved level with Villa and Bournemouth on -27.
Foster kept the score down with great saves from Jesus and Sterling in the opening minutes of the second period.
The Watford goalkeeper stood up again to save Sterling’s initial effort in the lead up to City’s third, but Phil Foden was on hand to tap into an empty net.
Moments later Aymeric Laporte was left completely unmarked to head home De Bruyne’s free-kick as the latter moved to within one of Thierry Henry’s record of 20 Premier League assists in a season.
City will end the season in second place no matter what happens on the final day.
But Guardiola’s men won a fourth straight league game for the first time this season to cut the gap on champions Liverpool to 15 points and probably deny the Reds the chance to beat City’s record winning margin of 19 points set two seasons ago.
Premier League strugglers Watford rescued a dramatic 1-1 draw against Leicester thanks to Craig Dawson’s last-gasp overhead kick at the start of a weekend which could see Liverpool move within one win of the title.
In the first full weekend of English top-flight matches since the coronavirus shutdown in March, Watford’s hopes of avoiding relegation looked set to be dented by Ben Chilwell’s superb 90th minute strike.
But in a remarkable conclusion, Hornets centre-back Dawson launched himself into an acrobatic effort moments later to claim his first goal for the club.
“It’s something you practise in training and it probably doesn’t go in very often. I’m delighted with my first goal. It was obviously a very important goal and it was good to get a point in the end,” Dawson told BT Sport.
Watford climbed to 16th place, one point above the relegation zone, but they could be passed by West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa depending on their results this weekend.
Leicester remain third, six points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea, as they look to secure a spot in next season’s Champions League.
With all games being played behind closed doors due to the health crisis, there was the now familiar sight of empty seats being covered over at an eerily quiet Vicarage Road.
Following the trend from the first four matches of the restart this week, a minute’s silence was observed for victims of coronavirus and both teams took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter cause before kick-off.
– Liverpool back on Sunday – On Sunday, Liverpool will play for the first time since the top-flight hiatus when the title chasers make the short trip to Merseyside rivals Everton.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, 22 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, need two wins from their remaining nine games to end their 30-year wait to be crowned English champions.
If the Reds beat Everton, they can wrap up the title with another victory against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday.
Klopp’s men have not been in action for 106 days and the Liverpool boss is relieved to return after talk the season might be declared null and void, which would have deprived his team of the title their superb season deserves.
Liverpool had been on course to become the first English champions to be crowned in March after recording 27 wins from 29 matches.
However, Liverpool’s inevitable title will now come with an asterisk according to some pundits, who claim the Premier League’s new normal of matches behind closed doors with more substitutes allowed has taken the shine off the leaders’ achievements.
– Back in full swing – Klopp doesn’t care about those critics and, on the eve of Liverpool’s return, the German hit back.
“Now I have had a lot of time to read. I had to Google the word ‘asterisk’. I only knew the word from a comic!” Klopp said.
“This is the most difficult year and season to become champions, 100 percent. It is an interrupted season, like has never happened before.
“Whoever will be champions, it will be historic because it is a year that we will never forget.
“Give us an asterisk, yes. We cannot do a lot of things that we usually can do but in this specific case at least we can say this is really special.
“That’s why we enjoy the little asterisk there.”
Liverpool’s derby clash comes at the conclusion of a busy weekend that confirms the Premier League is back in full swing.
Following four midweek matches on Wednesday and Friday, this is the first Saturday since March 7 that top-flight games have been played in England.
Brighton, two points above the bottom three, return to action at the Amex Stadium against Arsenal, who are reeling from their 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday.
Arsenal are eight points adrift of the top four and another loss would effectively extinguish their faint hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
West Ham, level on points with Brighton, host Wolves, who are bidding for an unexpected European berth, while Bournemouth face Crystal Palace.
Chelsea play for the first time since the lockdown on Sunday when Frank Lampard’s men head to struggling Aston Villa.
English Premier League leaders Liverpool ended their unbeaten run after they fell to 19th-placed rivals Watford on Saturday.
The match, which was Liverpool’s 28th league game, ended 3-0 in favour of The Hornets.
Coach Jurgen Klopp’s side recorded their first defeat of the season after winning 26 of their last 27 league matches with one draw.
The match had ended in a goalless draw in half time before Ismaila Sarr’s double and Troy Deeney’s strike, all in less than 20 minutes, dashed Liverpool’s hopes of winning the title unbeaten unlike ‘The Invisibles’ of 2003-04 season.
It was the first time the Champions League title holders would fall to a defeat in the Premier League since January 2019.
Despite the loss, Klopp’s men still enjoy a 22-point lead at the top of the table, although their sluggish return from a two-week winter break earlier in February was finally punished.
The Big Win
After single-goal victories over struggling Norwich and West Ham either side of a Champions League defeat at Atletico Madrid, Liverpool were thrashed by a relegation-threatened side at Vicarage Road.
A 55-point gap separated the sides before kick-off, but the out-of-sorts visitors failed to muster even a single effort on goal in the first 45 minutes.
Gerard Deulofeu’s dipping effort just did not come down in time as it landed on the roof of the net before he teed up Abdoulaye Doucoure, who saw his shot deflected behind by Virgil van Dijk.
Deulofeu then had to be stretchered off with a nasty looking knee injury that seems certain to end his season.
Watford’s heads did not drop without one of their most dangerous players, though, as only Alisson Becker’s fleetness of foot allowed the Brazilian international to save from Deeney deep into first-half stoppage time.
Andy Robertson’s driven effort finally forced Ben Foster into a save early in the second half, but just as Liverpool were beginning to build up a head of steam, they were stung by two quick strikes by Sarr.
Firstly, the Senegalese beat Robertson to Doucoure’s low cross to stab home at the near post.
Six minutes later, Sarr had too much pace for a flat-footed Liverpool defence as he raced onto Deeney’s through ball and showed fantastic composure to lift the ball over the advancing Alisson.
Sarr also had a big part to play in Watford’s third as he pounced on a short passback and had the vision to pick out Deeney, who lofted the ball nonchalantly over Alisson to make it 3-0.
Watford had thrown away a lead in three of their last four Premier League games to fall back into the bottom three.
But they never looked in any danger of doing so again as they moved back out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Sarr should even have had a famous hat-trick with his final touch as he curled wide when one-on-one with Alisson.
However, that was the only gloss missing from a glorious night for Watford as Liverpool remain four wins away from the title.
Bruno Fernandes opened his goalscoring account at Manchester United on Sunday as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side climbed to fifth place in the Premier League table with a 3-0 win against lowly Watford.
United have struggled for consistency all season but the victory at Old Trafford lifts them to 41 points, just three behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Midfielder Fernandes, bought by Solskjaer last month to add creativity and drive to United’s midfield, scored from the penalty spot shortly before half-time and Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood also found the net.
While United are looking upwards, Nigel Pearson’s Watford are in deep trouble, just one place off the bottom of the table after taking just two points from their past five games.
As it stands, fifth place could be enough to earn a Champions League spot because second-placed Manchester City have been banned from Europe’s elite competition for two seasons, pending an appeal.
United, who beat top-four rivals Chelsea on Monday, took the lead three minutes before the interval with their first Premier League goal at Old Trafford since January 11.
Ben Foster pulled down Fernandes in the box and Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot. The Portuguese midfielder picked himself up to convert the penalty.
Watford thought they were level shortly after half-time only to see Troy Deeney’s goal ruled out by VAR for a handball by Craig Dawson.
The home side doubled their lead just before the hour mark. Foster saved Martial’s initial shot but the ball came back to the French forward and he lofted the ball over the head of the goalkeeper and into the net from a tight angle.
Greenwood found some space and fired home via the crossbar to put United 3-0 up with 15 minutes remaining.
Old Trafford had earlier fallen silent to remember Harry Gregg, a hero of the Munich air disaster in 1958, who died last week.
Liverpool are Premier League champions in all but name while Manchester City are firmly entrenched in second place and third-placed Leicester have a cushion despite recent wobbles.
But just 10 points covers nine clubs from Chelsea in fourth place all the way down to Southampton in 12th.
Despite their mini-revival, United have a tough run of fixtures coming up, with games against Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham and Sheffield United.
Watford held Tottenham to a goalless draw on Saturday to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League and further damage Spurs’ Champions League ambitions.
When Nigel Pearson took over at Vicarage Road last month Watford looked doomed ro relegation but he has put together a remarkable run of results to lift the club out of the relegation zone.
It is a different story for Jose Mourinho’s Spurs who, without the injured Harry Kane and with uncertainty over the future of Christian Eriksen, could be 11 points off fourth spot by the end of the day.
But Pearson will feel Watford should have wrapped up all three points after his side squandered some golden chances in the second half and captain Troy Deeney saw his penalty saved.
Before kick-off there was a warm tribute from the fans to former manager Graham Taylor, who died three years ago.
It was the visitors who settled first, finding their rhythm from the kick-off, dominating possession and probing for openings on the edge of the Watford box .
But the home side broke dangerously in the second minute, with Gerard Deulofeu shooting wide of Paulo Gazzaniga’s goal.
That was a rare foray forward in the opening stages for Watford, who struggled to get on top of Mourinho’s men.
Son Heung-min looked lively on the left of Tottenham’s attack and had the first shot on target but despite all their posession Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster rarely looked troubled.
The home side gradually worked their way into the game and started to see much more of the ball.
They had a good chance to test Gazzaniga when Japhet Tanganga was booked after bringing down Ismaila Sarr in a dangerous position just outside the penalty box but Nathaniel Chalobah wasted the opportunity.
Shortly before the half-hour there was a delay of several minutes as referee Michael Oliver was forced to change his communication kit, accompanied by the crowd chanting: “It’s not football any more.”
Foster saved from Son in the 30th minute and was down smartly to keep out a sharp Lucas Moura shot after a delightful through ball from Dele Alli.
Watford flew out of the blocks in the second half and could have been 2-0 up but for some poor finishing.
First Abdoulaye Doucoure scuffed the ball just wide after good work down the right by the dangerous Sarr before Sarr himself failed to connect properly from close range.
Although Watford were now well on top, Spurs continued to look dangerous on the break.
Alli headed over while Son shot after being released through the middle.
The decisive moment appeared to come with about 20 minutes to go when Spurs captain Jan Vertonghen was booked for handling Deulofeu’s shot in the penalty area.
Deeney stepped up and struck his shot firmly but Gazzaniga dived to his right to keep the ball out and the scores level.
Mourinho brought Eriksen off the bench and later introduced new signing Gedson Fernandes but it was Watford who continued to look the more dangerous side.
Watford captain Troy Deeney hailed the impact of Nigel Pearson in helping the Hornets bounce back from “rock bottom” after a 3-0 win at Bournemouth took them out of the Premier League relegation zone for the first time this season.
Abdoulaye Doucoure and Roberto Pereyra struck either side of Deeney’s fourth goal in five games as Watford moved above their hosts, whose five-season stay in the top flight looks in serious danger of coming to an end.
“The gaffer and all the boys need to take a lot of credit,” said Deeney. “We hit rock bottom at some points this season but we’ve managed to get the fans involved and do the hard work on the pitch.”
Bournemouth have taken just four points from their last 11 games and looked a side completely devoid of confidence as they slipped to second bottom.
Watford, by contrast, are reborn under former Leicester boss Pearson as they have taken 13 points from a possible 15 since his baptism of fire in a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool last month.
“We’ve found a collective way of working together to get more of what we want; performances and results. We showed resilience, game understanding and ability as well at times,” said Pearson.
Injuries have played a major part in Bournemouth’s decline and the loss of first-choice goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale proved vital as his understudy Mark Travers was at fault for the opening goal.
The Irish under-21 international had made a good early save low to his right to deny Gerard Deulofeu, but his poor clearance was fired straight at Ismaila Sarr three minutes before half-time and the Senegalese’s cross was expertly controlled and finished by Doucoure.
“The first goal was a big shift, up until then it was two quite even teams,” Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe told Sky Sports.
“We conceded and the second half was a lot more difficult; we dipped, they rose with the confidence.
“We are not looking free-scoring and when you concede a goal it seems a long way back.”
Deeney’s return from a long-term injury has also played a big part in his side’s return to form and the inspirational captain smashed home after another dangerous run and cross by Sarr 25 minutes from time.
Bournemouth offered nothing in response and another miserable afternoon for the Cherries was rounded off when Pereyra came off the bench to produce an acrobatic finish after Andre Gray’s shot was cleared off the line.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came to the defence of David De Gea after the goalkeeper’s blunder proved pivotal in a 2-0 loss away to Premier League bottom side Watford on Sunday.
The Vicarage Road clash was still goalless when De Gea somehow allowed a tame, spinning effort from Ismaila Sarr to creep through his hands and in at the near post.
Watford doubled their lead four minutes later when Troy Deeney fired home from the penalty spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka brought down Sarr with a misjudged sliding tackle and not even the returning Paul Pogba, on as a second-half substitute, could prevent defeat.
But what irked Solskjaer more than De Gea’s mistake was the pace of United’s play.
“We started the game slow,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.
“The first half was very, very poor from both sides and when you concede two goals like we did in quick succession with their two shots on target we gave ourselves too much to do.
“It was too slow, it was like a testimonial in the first half from both teams,” he added after a defeat that left United in eighth place and continued their run of poor results against lower-ranked teams in the top flight — a marked contrast to their recent wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
United’s five league losses this term have come against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and now Watford.
As for Spain international De Gea’s howler, Solskjaer said: “It was a mistake, it happens in football and it is what we train for every day to make sure they don’t happen again. David has been very good lately, it is just one of those things that happen.
“You have to earn every point on the pitch and today we didn’t deserve that.
This was just Watford’s second league win this season and first of the campaign at home as they marked new manager Nigel Pearson’s first match in charge at Vicarage Road in style.
Although the Hornets remain at the foot of the table, they are now level on points with second-bottom Norwich and a mere six shy of safety.
Victory followed an impressive display in a defeat last time out at leaders Liverpool and Deeney said: “We’ve been close (to winning) for ages now.
“People are looking and see us at the bottom of the league but performances like Liverpool, Leicester before that, there are games we’re thinking we should have won.”
“It was a great team performance, lots of people did a proper shift and I’m happy for everyone here that they can have a decent Christmas.”
Deeney’s goal was his first since April but the striker insisted he had not felt under pressure to score.
“Real pressure is watching my mum work three jobs trying to make ends meet for Christmas,” he said.