Tottenham beat Liverpool to leapfrog their rivals into fifth place and move a point ahead of the Reds in the race for a Europa League place. Rafael van der Vaart chested down a ball and sent a dipping 20-yard strike into the Reds net to put Spurs ahead.
Andy Carroll headed a gilt-edged chance high and was punished when Luka Modric scored a penalty for the visitors after John Flanagan’s foul on Steven Pienaar. It was a controversial decision but Spurs were good value for their win.
In the first game for Liverpool since manager Kenny Dalglish had his temporary deal turned into a three-year contract on the back of the way he has revived the side’s fortunes since taking over in January, the Reds struggled and stuttered to a first home league defeat under the Scot.
Tottenham, by contrast, put in the kind of controlled and composed performance which helped them finish in the top four last season but has been missing in recent months as their challenge to repeat the feat has faltered.
Instead, it was the lacklustre home players who seemed more determined to avoid Europe’s less prestigious competition. The two teams had gone into the game travelling in opposite directions in their rollercoaster seasons, with Liverpool on an upward curve of 10 wins from 14 games and Spurs plummeting with one win from 13 outings.
But it was the visitors who quickly got into their stride and made a mockery of the statistics as they seized control of the game before they took the lead lead after nine minutes. A Modric corner was only headed out to Van der Vaart and, after controlling the clearance with his chest just outside the area, the Dutchman sweetly struck the ball before it could bounce as he sent a dipping shot into the far corner. But Van der Vaart’s goal at Anfield was reward for his side’s fluency and fortitude, while the Reds struggled to impose themselves.
The frustration of the home side was emphasised when striker Luis Suarez flicked a kick at Spurs defender Michael Dawson and escaped with a yellow card from referee Howard Webb. The Merseysiders belatedly and briefly raised themselves late on in the opening half when Carroll was presented with the type of chance you would expect him to put away.
Martin Skrtel clipped a cross to the far post for the powerhouse Reds forward, who mistimed his close range header horribly high. Spurs added to their lead shortly afterwards when Webb awarded a questionable penalty to the visitors for right-back Flanagan’s foul on Pienaar.
Liverpool will argue whether it was a foul as well as whether it was in the area but Modric stepped up to send keeper Pepe Reina the wrong way from the spot as he confidently extended Tottenham’s lead. Chelsea’s pain at losing their Premier League title to Manchester United was compounded by Steven Taylor’s added-time header that secured a 2-2 draw for Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge here on Sunday.
This result threw open the race for second place and ensured Chelsea, who finish the season away to Everton next weekend, failed to end their home campaign on a high.
Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti, whose position will be reviewed at the end of the season, had urged his side to bounce back after the disappointment of losing their title to United, who secured a record 19th English championship with a 1-1 draw away to Blackburn on Saturday.
But Chelsea were twice pulled back after taking the lead with Jonas Gutierrez deflecting in a Ryan Taylor free-kick to cancel out Branislav Ivanovic’s second minute opening goal and Steven Taylor replying after Alex had put the home side ahead in the 83rd minute.
Ancelotti gave Fernando Torres another chance to finally kick-start his Blues career in place of Didier Drogba.
The Spain striker, who has scored just once for his new club since his January move from Liverpool, could at least claim an assist, heading on Frank Lampard’ s corner at the near post before Ivanovic bundled the ball home from close range.
The early momentum quickly disappeared, however, as Newcastle forced their way back into the game, albeit fortunately, and then settled to nullify the home side’s threat.
The visitors were helped on their way by another costly defensive error from Chelsea, mirroring their problems against United.
West Ham’s six-year stay in the Premier League is over as Wigan came back from two goals down to relegate the Hammers and boost their own survival hopes.
Avram Grant’s side were in complete control at half time after Demba Ba’s headed brace gave them a 2-0 lead.
But Charles N’Zogbia curled in a superb free-kick before substitute Conor Sammon slotted home to level the match.
United desperately sought a winner, but their hearts were broken when N’Zogbia fired home deep into injury time.