NEWCASTLE (Reuters) – There has been so much to admire in the football produced by Premier League title chasers Liverpool and Manchester City this season with the top two providing the connoisseurs of technique, tactics, and finesse with a true feast.
But the final stages of the campaign have also delivered for those who appreciate the games more earthy qualities – the traditional winning character traits of guts and effort.
Manchester City had to show all their mettle and steel to earn a 1-0 win at Burnley last week and on Saturday Liverpool showed they have the spirit to face down adversity and find a way to win.
Substitute Divock Origi’s 86th minute header – after Liverpool had twice seen their lead rubbed out by a determined Newcastle United – ensured the three points that put the pressure right back on Manchester City.
Juergen Klopp’s side have 94 points and City, who face Leicester City tonight, are two points behind. Never before have two teams passed 90 points in a Premier League season.
On the final Sunday – May 12 – Liverpool are at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers and City take on Brighton on the south coast.
“Today was a battle of will but it was a victory of passion, heart and absolute desire – absolutely brilliant,” said Klopp.
“We could talk about football tonight, we could talk purely about showing real heart, showing real passion and showing real desire.”
It was all the more impressive given that on Wednesday Liverpool had expending so much energy at the Nou Camp only to end up with a bitter 3-0 defeat.
There was no sign of any hangover from that experience however.
“It was just brilliant,” said Klopp.
“Newcastle showed it as well, unbelievable – they gave us a proper game. I think in our situation with all the circumstances around, some people probably expected us to show a bit of nerves and the boys didn’t. It was just a difficult game for difficult reasons,” said Klopp.
Having been pushed all the way by former manager Rafa Benitez’s side, Liverpool must now hope that another of their ex-bosses, Brendan Rodgers, can inspire his Leicester side to an upset against City at the Etihad on Monday.
But Klopp says he is a resigned to whatever fate will throw his team’s way.
“I accepted long ago that we do everything, absolutely everything, the boys throw whatever they have on the pitch, so that means whether we are champion or not, it is destiny,” he said.
“We do everything and we cannot do more – can you get more than 94 points? Can you get more in all the other stuff? Not really.
“Wow, what a race”
Meanwhile, a win for Spurs at the Vitality Stadium would have secured a top-four slot ahead of next week’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax Amsterdam.
But, after losing at home to West Ham United last week and then going down to the Dutch side in midweek, Mauricio Pochettino’s side failed to fire again and went down 1-0 after Nathan Ake struck in injury time.
Son Heung-min was first to be sent off for pushing Jefferson Lerma just before halftime with Juan Foyth shown a straight red card for a studs-up tackle on Jack Simpson two minutes after coming on at the interval.
Spurs stay third on 70 points, four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, who have two games remaining. But Pochettino’s side know victory in their final game against Everton will see them qualify, with Chelsea and Manchester United also capable of securing a top-four slot.
“It is very painful to play with two players less than the opponent,” Pochettino said.
“We need to move on. We cannot change the decisions. We have ahead two finals against Ajax and Everton. It is in our hands. If it does not happen we will be proud because nobody expected Tottenham to be in the position they are today. “We are fighting (five) teams, it is impossible for all six to get the top four, whatever happens I will feel proud and whatever happens in the semi-final I will be proud.”
Spurs also had to contest with a fine Premier League debut from 19-year-old goalkeeper Mark Travers, who was in inspired form for the hosts with a string of fine saves.
Cardiff never seriously looked like securing the win they needed to stand any chance of staying up, with Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi and Andros Townsend scoring the goals for Palace, who won for the fifth time in six away league games.
The result confirmed Cardiff’s relegation after one season for the second time in five years. It was also manager Neil Warnock’s third top-flight relegation after also going down with Notts County in 1992 and Sheffield United in 2007.
At Molineux, Leander Dendoncker’s 75th-minute volley against Fulham moved Wolves a step closer to possible European football next season.
Fulham’s Harvey Elliott, who became Premier League’s youngest ever player at the age of 16 years and 30 days.
Marko Arnautovic scored twice for West Ham as they completed a routine 3-0 win over Southampton. Ryan Fredericks rounded off the scoring with his first-ever Premier League strike.