Liverpool and Arsenal losses damage Premier League title hopes

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, right, challenges for the ball with Crystal Palace's Jefferson Lerma during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, Sunday, April 14, 2024. (AP/Jon Super)

LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool’s season is starting to unravel.

A 1-0 loss at home to Crystal Palace damaged Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge on Sunday, three days after a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta at Anfield in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals.

Eberechi Eze stroked home a finish from Tyrick Mitchell’s cutback in the 14th minute to consign Liverpool to its first loss in the league at Anfield in 28 matches — stretching back to October 2022.

It was the 21st time the Reds have gone behind in 32 league games this season and they couldn’t recover, despite Wataru Endo hitting the crossbar midway through the first half and Darwin Nunez and Curtis Jones squandering golden chances in front of the Kop after the break.

In the final minutes, Mohamed Salah was presented with an easy opportunity to score from close range for Liverpool but his prod toward goal was weak and blocked by the outstretched leg of Mitchell, who made a despairing challenge.

Liverpool started the weekend in second place, behind Arsenal on goal difference, but is now in third and two points adrift of first-place Manchester City after the champions’ 5-1 thrashing of Luton on Saturday. Arsenal also lost Sunday, 2-0 at home to Aston Villa, and was ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

Liverpool lost last month to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinals, ending Jurgen Klopp’s team’s unlikely quadruple hopes with the League Cup already secured.

In the past week, Liverpool has drawn at United, this time in the league, and now sustained back-to-back home losses in different competitions.

“Could be,” Klopp said, when asked if the loss to Palace was a hangover from the defeat to Atalanta. “If you look at my teams over the years, I think you could say our pressing is usually good, the counterpress is there. The first half (against Palace), we were open — like how can that happen?”

“It’s only a few days ago that we played a bad game so it might have something to do with that. Actually it was a really good game (Sunday), without scoring. But it’s not that easy unfortunately.”


LONDON — West Ham’s European hopes received a second blow in the space of four days after a meek 2-0 home loss to Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday.

The Hammers were beaten by the same score by Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday, leaving them a huge task in the return match on Thursday.

They then blew the chance to climb to sixth place in the Premier League — and right back into the shake-up for the European qualification spots — after two goals by Andreas Pereira secured a first win in four matches for Fulham.

The Brazil midfielder scored in the ninth and 72nd minutes at the Olympic Stadium.

It was the first time Fulham won away to West Ham since 2001 and, having dominated the reverse fixture 5-0 in December, the team completed a league double over its London rival for the first time since 1966.

Leverkusen — unbeaten in all competitions this season — will not be scared on the evidence of this timid display by West Ham, which should have gone ahead in the opening moments when Lucas Paqueta’s ball over the top saw right back Vladimir Coufal burst into the area.

His initial effort was repelled by goalkeeper Bernd Leno and when the ball rebounded to the feet of Michail Antonio, the striker blazed over.

Mohammed Kudus then curled narrowly wide before the lively Paqueta, who is suspended against Leverkusen on Thursday, hit the side-netting.

Despite its bright start, West Ham conceded to Fulham’s first attack. Konstantinos Mavropanos tried to bring down a deep cross from Alex Iwobi but succeeded only in gifting the ball to Pereira, who had been given a free run by Nayef Aguerd. The Brazilian had the simple task of knocking the ball past Hammers keeper Lukasz Fabianski and finishing into an empty net.

Pereira almost had a second moments later when he slid in to meet Willian’s inviting cross, but he guided it wide.

Coufal has yet to score for West Ham since joining three-and-a-half years ago, and he showed why when he crashed a good opportunity wide from Paqueta’s cross.

After the break, Fabianski made a big save to tip Iwobi’s shot wide, but he was powerless to prevent Pereira doubling the lead.

Paqueta was robbed in midfield by Joao Palhinha and Pereira laid the ball off to Rodrigo Muniz. He played in Iwobi, who burst forward before crossing for Pereira to apply another simple finish.

A damaging defeat for the Hammers had a sad postscript when teenage substitute George Earthy had to be carried off on a stretcher after suffering a serious head injury in a collision with teammate Edson Alvarez, just two minutes into his Premier League debut.


LONDON — Unai Emery damaged his former team’s title hopes again as Aston Villa beat Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday to leave Manchester City top of the Premier League.

Both goals came late after Villa had soaked up Arsenal’s pressure for much of the game, with Leon Bailey putting his team ahead in the 84th and Ollie Watkins adding the second on a counterattack two minutes later.

Arsenal became the second title challenger to falter at home in the span of a few hours after Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace at Anfield earlier in the day. That leaves defending champion Man City in full control of the title race as it leads both its rivals by two points with six games left to play.

Emery replaced Arsene Wenger at Arsenal in 2018 but lasted just 18 months before being fired. His Villa has now held Arsenal’s high-flying attack scoreless in two games this season after a 1-0 win at home, a double that could well end up costing Mikel Arteta’s team the title.

For Villa, the win puts them three points ahead of Tottenham in fourth place, although Spurs have a game in hand.

Arsenal had controlled much of the game without creating many quality chances, and Villa looked threatening when going forward and had hit the woodwork twice, once in each half.

So it wasn’t a surprise when the opener came.

Arsenal’s defense let a cross from Lucas Digne run across the area to Bailey, and the substitute had an easy finish into an empty net.

With Arsenal pouring forward in search of an equalizer, Villa hit them on the counterattack as Youri Tielemans sent Watkins clear through on goal and the striker chipped the ball over Raya with a delicate finish.

It was Arsenal’s first league loss of 2024.

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