London (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Mohamed Salah took his tally for a remarkable debut season at Liverpool to 40 goals as Jurgen Klopp’s men suffered no after effects from their efforts in reaching the Champions League semi-finals in midweek with a routine 3-0 win over Bournemouth.
Victory edges Liverpool ever closer to securing a return to the Champions League next season as they closed to within one point of Manchester United in second and re-established their 10-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea.
Chelsea maintained their faint hopes of a top-four finish by scoring three times in eight minutes to come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Southampton in a result warmly welcomed by Saints’ relegation rivals.
Huddersfield and Crystal Palace took full advantage with vital wins over Watford and Brighton to leave Southampton five points off safety.
Manchester City can move to within one win of sealing the title later on Saturday should they end a run of three consecutive defeats in all competitions against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
Two of those reverses came at the hands of Liverpool, who cruised into their first Champions League semi-final for a decade 5-1 on aggregate against the runaway Premier League leaders.
Klopp showed his intent from the off at Anfield by making just one change from the side that beat City 2-1 at the Etihad in midweek as captain Jordan Henderson returned from suspension.
And he was rewarded with a characteristic fast start as Sadio Mane swept home his 19th goal of the season after Asmir Begovic spilled his first attempt.
Liverpool were rampant in the first 45 minutes but failed to add to their advantage with Salah surprisingly profligate in front of goal.
However, on the day he was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award, the Egyptian made amends in style to seal the three points 21 minutes from time when he looped a header over Begovic from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
Roberto Firmino then rounded off a perfect afternoon for Liverpool’s prolific front three by drilling low past Begovic for a third in stoppage time.
Victory for Liverpool was another blow to Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League football next season.
But they did at least keep themselves in the running with a spirited comeback at St Mary’s after falling behind to goals from Dusan Tadic and debutant Jan Bednarek.
Olivier Giroud came off the bench to finally kickstart his Chelsea career with his first two Premier League goals for the club either side of Eden Hazard’s leveller.
“As long as it is mathematically possible we will believe we can reach the top four,” said Giroud as Chelsea closed to within seven points of Spurs in fourth. “We have got five finals to play, after that we will see.”
Crystal Palace had been set to drop into the bottom three on goal difference prior to Chelsea’s comeback.
However, they now enjoy a six-point cushion over Southampton thanks to a thrilling 3-2 win over Brighton at Selhurst Park with Wilfried Zaha scoring twice.
Huddersfield look well set for just a second ever season in the Premier League as Tom Ince netted in stoppage time beat Watford 1-0 and open up a seven-point lead on the bottom three.
Swansea couldn’t make home advantage count against Everton, but also opened up a five-point lead on Southampton just above the relegation zone with a 1-1 draw.
At the other end of the table, Burnley closed to within two points of sixth-placed Arsenal as a fast start was enough to secure a 2-1 win over Leicester.