Sport

Everton leapfrog Arsenal into EPL's top 4

Sunday, April 13, 2014    

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SUNDERLAND, England — Everton leapfrogged Arsenal into the Premier League's top four with a 1-0 victory at last-placed Sunderland, while Fulham and Cardiff won by the same scoreline to suck more rivals into the relegation scrap yesterday.

With Arsenal playing Wigan in the FA Cup semi-finals, Everton took advantage by winning their seventh straight league game — although it needed a 75th-minute own goal by Wes Brown to overcome Sunderland, who are seven points adrift of safety.

Sixth-placed Tottenham came from 3-0 down after 31 minutes to draw 3-3 at West Bromwich Albion, thanks to Christian Eriksen's injury-time equaliser, although two dropped points dent the visitors' already-faint hopes of Champions League football next season.

While Sunderland looks doomed, eight points separate the nine teams above them after third-bottom Fulham beat fourth-bottom Norwich 1-0 and next-to-last Cardiff won 1-0 at Southampton. Aston Villa are only four points from the bottom three after losing 1-0 at Crystal Palace, with in-form Jason Puncheon's goal pulling the London team closer to safety.

Newcastle's slump accelerated with a 1-0 home loss to Stoke in the day's other game.

It was an emotionally charged day in English football, with every league and cup match starting seven minutes later than originally scheduled to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died in a crush in the stands during an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

That fateful match was abandoned after six minutes, and there was a minute's silence around the country's football grounds before kick-offs yesterday.

Emotions are sure to be especially high at Anfield today, when Liverpool take on Manchester City in a match that could determine the destiny of the title. Everton are too far behind to challenge for the Premier League trophy, but could be joining Liverpool in the Champions League next season.

The Merseyside club continued its fine run of results to climb two points above Arsenal, who lost 3-0 at Everton's Goodison Park last weekend to blow open the fight for fourth place.

Everton's display at Sunderland wasn't as fulsome, but the team passed up a string of good chances — two of which fell to Steven Naismith — before Brown unwittingly turned Gerard Deulofeu's cross past goalkeeper Vito Mannone.

Tottenham are now six points behind Everton, with Spurs having played a game more, but showed great spirit in a stirring comeback at The Hawthorns, completed when Eriksen drove a rising shot into the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

The recovery looked unlikely after goals by Matej Vydra and Chris Brunt inside four minutes and a third by Stephane Sessegnon put West Brom 3-0 ahead with barely a half-hour gone.

Jonas Olsson's own goal reduced the deficit in the 34th and Harry Kane's 70th-minute header gave Tottenham further hope, before Eriksen's late goal left the team three points ahead of Manchester United in the chase for a Europa League berth.

Norwich were hoping to spark a reaction by firing Chris Hughton last weekend and replacing him with youth-team coach Neil Adams, but a change in manager didn't lead to a change in fortunes.

Hugo Rodallega's 40th-minute goal earned Fulham a precious victory that trimmed the gap to their vanquished opponent to two points with four matches remaining. Norwich could be in trouble, with matches remaining against Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Cardiff are still a point behind Fulham after Juan Cala's long-range strike was enough to see off Southampton.

West Brom, along with Swansea, are a point ahead of Norwich, while Villa are a point further ahead after their defeat to Palace, for whom Puncheon scored on the turn in the 76th minute.

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