MANCHESTER, April 21 (AP): It’s still advantage Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
Three second-half goals earned City a 3-0 win over Brighton on Wednesday, lifting Pep Guardiola’s team back into first place after being ousted — only for 24 hours as it turned out — by title rival Liverpool.
Anxiety was sweeping around Etihad Stadium, with the groans becoming more audible as City’s players struggled to make their dominance count in the early stages of the second half.
The home fans needn’t have worried. Riyad Mahrez broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute in slightly fortuitous circumstances, with his shot ricocheting off Brighton defender Joel Veltman and over goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.
Another deflection, this time off Phil Foden’s long-range shot, made it 2-0 in the 65th and Bernardo Silva added a third in the 82nd after City picked off the visitors as they tried to play the ball out from the back.
City can retain its title by winning its remaining six games, the next being against relegation-threatened Watford at home on Saturday. Liverpool, which is one point behind, hosts Everton the following day.
“We know what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “If we drop two points, Liverpool will be champions.”
It didn’t escape the meticulous Guardiola that the victory assured City a top-four finish and a place in the Champions League next season. That was a given, though.
There were also a couple of injuries that might prove telling for City with the important fixtures coming thick and fast in the final weeks, including a pair of games against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals.
Both were in defense, with Nathan Ake going off with a twisted ankle — to be replaced by Ruben Dias for his first appearance in seven weeks after injury — and John Stones also coming off with muscle tightness.
It’s even tighter in the race for a top-four finish and qualification for the Champions League.
That’s because Arsenal ended a three-match losing run by beating Chelsea 4-2 to move tied for points with fourth-place Tottenham, which is only ahead of its north London rival on goal difference.
The two teams — who must still face each other on May 12 — are five points behind third-place Chelsea, which has a game in hand.
Eddie Nketiah scored two of Arsenal’s goals as he continued up front instead of the fit-again Alexandre Lacazette, while Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka — with a late penalty — also netted.
Manchester United, which was thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool on Tuesday, is three points behind Arsenal ahead of their meeting at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
“Confidence and energy-wise, it’s a big boost,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
“It has been a tough two weeks but you have to bounce back and show spirit. We have been criticised, and rightly so with the expectations we have. But it is worth taking that for these players.”
Everton left it late to secure a draw that lifted the team four points clear of the relegation zone.
Richarlison scored an equalizer with a mis-hit shot in the second minute of stoppage time to earn Everton a 1-1 draw with Leicester. Harvey Barnes’ fifth-minute goal had looked set to win the game for the visitors.
Burnley, which is in third-to-last place, can move to within a point of Everton by beating Southampton on Thursday.
Newcastle beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in the other game thanks to Miguel Almiron’s first-half goal and has recorded six straight home wins for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
For so long in a fight to avoid relegation, Saudi-owned Newcastle is now up to 11th place and on course for a finish in the top half of the standings.