The Premier League top two continued to outdo each other on Saturday as both Manchester City and Liverpool earned crucial wins in their bids for the title, while bottom side Norwich City had their relegation confirmed after losing 2-0 at Aston Villa.
Elsewhere down the bottom, Burnley’s revival under caretaker boss Mike Jackson continued as a thrilling 2-1 win at Watford pulled them five points clear of the relegation zone, a result that ensured Norwich will play Championship football next term.
All eyes were on St James’ Park in the day’s early kickoff, less than 72 hours on from Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final first leg win over Villarreal, where victory over Newcastle United would send Juergen Klopp’s side top.
Klopp rung the changes to freshen things up, and one of those players coming in, Naby Keita, struck what proved to be the winner in the first half to send Liverpool above City temporarily.
The win continued a relentless run of form that has dragged Liverpool back into the title race. Klopp’s men have picked up 40 points from the last 42 on offer, only dropping points away to City.
Newcastle, looking for their fifth-straight league win, never gave in, but could not break through a near-impenetrable Liverpool rearguard.
Liverpool have kept 21 clean sheets in the league this season – more than any other side. Only in 2005-06 (22) have they kept more shutouts in a single campaign in the division.
“It’s a win in the most difficult of circumstances,” Klopp told BT Sport. “A team in form, a crowd waiting for ages for proper success. Coming here with five changes and building pretty much a new set-up is really difficult, so the performance was absolutely outstanding.”
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO
With Liverpool’s task complete, it was City’s turn to continue their impressive form at Leeds United, who are battling to stay in the Premier League.
City boss Pep Guardiola also made plenty of changes to his side with Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg clash with Real Madrid in mind.
However, they soon found their feet with Spanish midfielder Rodri heading them into a 13th-minute lead, before another goal from a corner, this time stabbed home by Nathan Ake early in the second half, putting them in control.
A raucous Elland Road crowd did their best to put City off, and the hosts had their chances, but further goals from Gabriel Jesus and substitute Fernandinho restored them to top spot on 83 points from 34 matches played, one point clear of Liverpool.
“We knew coming here the way they play, we suffered a lot in the first half,” Guardiola said. “But in the end, we had control and could have scored more. An incredible result for us.
“They are so fast up front. We defended well and sometimes these type of games set-pieces become so important. Today was so important to make our chances to be champions again.”
Norwich, however, limped out of the Premier League with a whimper following a goal and assist by Villa substitute Danny Ings. They are 13 points from the safety zone, with only 12 points still left to play for.