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EPL: Chealsea boosts UCL qualifications.

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Chelsea opened up a four-point cushion over Manchester United and Leicester in the race for a place in the Champions League next season despite making heavy weather of beating already relegated Norwich 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Olivier Giroud’s header in first half stoppage time secured the Blues a much-needed three points with a trip to champions Liverpool and sixth-placed Wolves visiting Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season to come in Chelsea’s final two league games of the season. Leicester can narrow the gap when they host Sheffield United on Wednesday, while United travel to Crystal Palace on Thursday. Frank Lampard was furious with his side’s lack of fight in surrendering to a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United on Saturday that plunged Chelsea’s chances of a top-four finish into doubt. Lampard made five changes from the battering at Bramall Lane with Giroud among those restored to the starting line-up.

Chelsea have already significantly bolstered their frontline for next season with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech. But Giroud has more than justified the decision to also extend his contract by a year during football’s shutdown as Chelsea’s most potent striker since the restart. The French World Cup winner saw a number of chances come and go in the first half as an attempted lob over Tim Krul fell gently into the Dutch ‘keeper’s arms before he sliced well over the bar when unmarked inside the area. Christian Pulisic forced Krul into his best save of the first-half with a powerful drive that was just too close to the former Newcastle stopper. Just as Norwich looked set to hold out until the break Giroud shrugged off Tim Klose to connect with Pulisic’s cross for his fifth goal in eight games.

Norwich’s long-awaited fate of a return to the Championship was confirmed in a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of West Ham on Saturday.

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United grab victory after Cavani’s brace insipires comback and sinks Saints

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Edinson Cavani came off the bench to inspire a stunning Manchester United comeback as they turned around a two-goal deficit to secure a superb victory at Southampton.

 

The 33-year-old Uruguayan striker was a half-time replacement for out-of-sorts Mason Greenwood with Saints two goals up and in control of a fluctuating encounter at St. Mary’s – the veteran turning the tide with a virtuoso display and a brilliant headed double.

 

James Ward-Prowse was United’s tormentor in that first half, setting up Jan Bednarek’s 23rd minute header with a corner before floating a magnificent free-kick beyond David de Gea 10 minutes later.

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who watched his side waste a host of chances and also had to replace the injured De Gea with Dean Henderson at the interval, sent on Cavani to perform the rescue act and the deadline-day signing obliged in spectacular style.

 

Cavani was a constant threat, setting up Bruno Fernandes to pull one back just on the hour before showing the old instincts remained fully intact to divert the Portuguese midfield man’s deflected shot past the excellent Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy with a diving header, 16 minutes from time.

 

As the game entered injury time, and with Southampton hanging on desperately for a point, Cavani was the match-winner with a flicked header from Marcus Rashford’s cross to spark wild United celebrations as they recorded eight successive top-flight wins away from home for the first time.

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