Chelsea beats Liverpool, keeping Top Four hopes alive

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  • Chelsea creeping on Top Four
  • Giroud scores winner
  • Nothing settled til Championship Sunday

Olivier Giroud‘s first half goal was enough for Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea to top Liverpool 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Chelsea moves to within three points of third-place Liverpool and sits two points behind Spurs. Both London sides have two matches to play while the Reds have one.

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James Milner was fortunate to avoid discipline after a scissor challenge on Eden Hazard hobbled the Belgian in the 10th minute.

Chelsea was better money for an opening goal, and Marcos Alonso stung a shot that Loris Karius caught in the 17th.

Thibaut Courtois made a fine parry on a 30th minute Sadio Mane rip, then collected a weaker second effort from the Senegalese striker.

Giroud put Chelsea ahead in the 32nd minute, and ran into the stands to give David Luiz a hug following the marker. Tiemoue Bakayoko spotted Victor Moses on the right flank, and his cross was turned home by the meaty French forehead (Do I owe Arlo White money now?).

Fabregas’ cross was absent receiver in the 36th minute, as a back post run would’ve had Chelsea ahead by two.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Hazard worked through a hassle to set-up an early second half chance, but Moses’ cross zipped past a herd of Blues attackers.

Chelsea had a second goal ruled offside when Antonio Rudiger was clearly off to head home Giroud’s header off a corner.

Chelsea stayed stout over the final 15 minutes, and Dominic Solanke nodded a late chance wide of the goal.

Benitez non-committal on Newcastle future, saying team needs to buy

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Rafa Benitez has earned some chatter as a Premier League Manager of the Year candidate after guiding Newcastle United to safety one years after leading them back from the Championship.

Many thought he wouldn’t follow the team down a division after rallying Newcastle but falling two points shy of safety in 2015-16, but the Magpies won the Championship and are now in position to fight for a top half finish in this season’s Premier League.

[ MORE: Mourinho rips forwards after loss ]

But owner Mike Ashley hasn’t inspired confidence in his club in some time, and struck a confusing figure when big Benitez fan Amanda Staveley tried to buy the club late last year with the aim of leading the Magpies back into the European conversation.

Now the toast of the town, Benitez holds a lot of the momentum when it comes to his position at St. James’ Park. He’s not sure what’s coming next, even with the two sides discussing a new deal, and here’s what he said when asked whether he wants to stay next season.

“That is a tricky question. I said in an interview the other day I decided to stay because of the potential, the fans and the city. Then we have to do what we have to do.”

“But if you want to go to another level, you need more quality.”

Ashley has sold many of Newcastle’s best assets dating back to James Milner and including Yohan Cabaye, Andy Carroll, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Benitez arguably would’ve had Newcastle competing for seventh if Ashley had sanctioned a striker purchase greater than the $6 million Joselu buy in August, then Islam Slimani on loan in January.

He’s coaxed career seasons out of Mohamed Diame, DeAndre Yedlin, Paul Dummett, and Kenedy (the last name on loan from Chelsea). It would be interesting to see what he’d be able to do with a nice transfer kitty.

Liverpool advances to Champions League Final

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  • Liverpool qualifies for 8th UCL Final
  • First since losing to AC Milan in 2007
  • Will face Real Madrid on May 26 in Kiev
  • WATCH: Goals from Mane, Wijnaldum

Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane scored in Wednesday’s 4-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg loss as Liverpool advanced past Roma 7-6 on aggregate to clinch a berth opposite Real Madrid in the final.

Radja Nainngolan scored twice to go with an Edin Dzeko marker and a James Milner own goal but i Lupi was sloppy with the final ball for most of the match.

Liverpool’s eighth UCL Final berth ties Barcelona for the fifth-most all-time, behind Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, and AC Milan.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Nainngolan’s mistake on the left of midfielder allowed Liverpool a 3v2 break on i Lupi.

Roberto Firmino led the rush, and his pass was in tune with Sadio Mane’s run. The Senegalese forward buried his chance beyond the reach of Alisson.

The lead didn’t last, as Roma got a goal back when Patrik Schick’s pressure forced Dejan Lovren into a clearance that bounded off James Milner’s face and past Loris Karius. Roma would again need three more goals, and had 75 minutes.

Alisson dragged his back leg to make a great save on Mane, but Wijnaldum restored the four-goal cushion in the 26th minute with a header off a corner kick.

Stephan El Shaarawy saw a deflected effort bound off the post in the 35th minute.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

El Shaarway’s 52nd minute shot rebounded to Dzeko, who scored for the fifth-straight UCL game to pull Roma within three.

Cenzig Under flicked an over-the-top pass toward goal, but it bounded to Karius as it remained 2-2 at the hour mark.

Trent Alexander-Arnold could’ve given away a penalty when he blocked an in-tight shot with his hand, but there was no call.

Nainngolan smashed a 23-yard shot across goal and off both goal posts to make it 3-2 in the 87th minute.

Ragnar Klavan handled a ball in the second of three minutes of stoppage time, and Nainngolan scored that one, too.

AT HALF: Liverpool bags two away goals, on doorstep of UCL Final

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Roma had control of the first nine minutes of its UEFA Champions League comeback bid.

Then the Italian hosts gave Liverpool one chance, and the Reds punished them. Liverpool is taking a 2-1 second leg lead, 7-3 on aggregate, into halftime in Rome on Wednesday.

Radja Nainngolan’s mistake on the left of midfielder allowed Liverpool a 3v2 break on i Lupi.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Roberto Firmino led the rush, and his pass was in tune with Sadio Mane‘s run. The Senegalese forward buried his chance beyond the reach of Alisson.

Roma got a goal back when Patrik Schick’s pressure forced Dejan Lovren into a clearance that bounded off James Milner‘s face and past Loris Karius.

But Georginio Wijnaldum took the second ball off a Liverpool corner and nodded beyond the reach of Alisson to make it 7-3 on aggregate.

Oxlade-Chamberlain injury update

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Jurgen Klopp does not seem confident that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play again this season.

The Liverpool and England midfielder suffered an injury to his right knee early on in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Roma in their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg, as he appeared to extend his right knee under his body when making a challenge on Aleksandar Kolarov.

Speaking to the media following Liverpool’s dramatic win, Klopp was downbeat about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chances of playing again this season.

“We don’t know exactly but if the medical department are quite concerned without a scan, you can imagine it’s difficult. The season is not that long anymore. It doesn’t look good,” Klopp said. “I’m a very positive person and still hope it only feels bad, but is not that bad. We’ll see. We lost a fantastic player tonight. It’s not good news.”

This injury has come at such a bad time for The Ox.

He has been flourishing with Liverpool in a central midfield role and has delivered key goals and assists in big wins since arriving from Arsenal last summer. Most notably the Ox’s driving midfield runs have caused Manchester City all kinds of problems and he scored two screamers against them in wins at Anfield in the Premier League and UCL.

Georginio Wijnaldum stepped in admirably for Oxlade-Chamberlain against Roma and the Dutch midfielder will be used alongside James Milner and Jordan Henderson from here on out by Klopp, especially with Emre Can battling a back injury.

As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he will now be focused on trying to be fit for the UCL final on May 26 (if Liverpool get there) and on making England’s 2018 World Cup squad. That seems like a big ask given Klopp’s gloomy assessment.