Liverpool squanders advantage at top of Premier League table
Manchester City has strong shot at overtaking Reds
The Premier League title race swung back in Manchester City's favour Sunday as the team took full advantage of Liverpool slipping up against Chelsea.
Liverpool still tops the standings despite losing 2-0 to Chelsea, which is now only two points behind with two games remaining.
But it's City that now has matters in its own hands after winning 2-0 at Crystal Palace. Despite still sitting third in the table, three points behind Liverpool, the 2012 champions have a game in hand and a superior goal difference.
With City playing at Everton on Saturday, Liverpool needs a huge favour from its neighbours at Goodison Park to regain the initiative in the title race. It's a race which is likely to go down to the final day on May 11.
City has Yaya Toure back from a thigh injury at just the right time. The influential midfielder scored one goal and set up City's second to overcome a Palace side that had secured its Premier League status by winning its previous five games, including against Chelsea.
Toure whipped in a cross in the fourth minute in south London that Edin Dzeko headed into the net. Just before halftime, Toure started and concluded a collective attacking advance by sending a curling shot past Julian Speroni.
"It was a tricky game but we did well," Toure said.
The match at Anfield wasn't as lively — despite the same score-line — as a resilient Chelsea side successfully nullified a team on an 11-game winning streak.
Liverpool gifted Chelsea the opening goal in first-half stoppage time. Captain Steven Gerrard, usually the reliable heartbeat of the team and inspirational one-club player, slipped near the halfway line, giving away the ball to Demba Ba.
With Gerrard unable to chase him down, the Senegal striker advanced unchallenged before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
After Chelsea withstood a series of attacks, Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge lost possession in the 90th minute to allow a rapid counterattack that Willian completed.
It was Liverpool's first league loss since a trip to Chelsea four months ago, and manager Brendan Rodgers was frustrated at the way counterpart Jose Mourinho set up his team.
"They obviously sat very deep — I think there were two buses parked today, never mind one," Rodgers said. "It was clear that they'd come certainly not wanting to win the game, with the time wasting."
Mourinho, who rested some players ahead of Chelsea's Champions League semifinal second leg against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, took on critics of his game-plan.
"When a team defends well you call it defensive display," he said. "When a team defends badly and concedes two or three goals you don't mention a defensive display."
The day's biggest-scoring game saw Sunderland rout 10-man Cardiff 4-0 to climb out of the relegation zone and send the Welsh club bottom.
Connor Wickham made it five goals in three games by heading Sunderland in front in the first half, and then nodding in the northeast team's fourth late on.
Juan Cala was sent off for a challenge on Wickham and Fabio Borini converted the resulting penalty on the stroke of halftime.
Emanuele Giaccherini received a through ball from the Italian striker to score in the 76th and then set up Wickham for the fourth as Sunderland survival hopes were boosted.
"I talked about miracles, let's see if in two weeks' time I am here telling you that miracles happen," Sunderland manager Gus Poyet said.