London, Jul 11 (efe-epa).- Manchester City pounded Brighton & Hove Albion 5-0 Saturday to clinch second place in the Premier League, while Chelsea jeopardized their grip on third with a loss to Sheffield United and West Ham United relegated Norwich City.
In the day’s other action, champions-elect Liverpool had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Burnley, jeopardizing the Reds’ quest to set new Premier League records for points and wins, and Watford beat Newcastle United to boost their odds of staying up.
Raheem Sterling had a hat trick to lead City over Brighton at the Amex. His first goal came in the 21st minute with an assist from Gabriel Jesus, who went on to put the visitors up 2-0 on the edge of half-time.
Riyad Mahrez set up Sterling’s second goal in the 53rd minute and Bernardo Silva increased the margin to 4-0 just three minutes later thanks to a blunder by Brighton keeper Mat Ryan.
With nine minutes left in regulation, Sterling followed a pass into the area and had the ball go in off his head as he lay on the pitch after a challenge from Ryan.
Despite an abysmal performance that saw them fail to put a shot on target, Brighton are probably safe on 36 points, 8 above the drop zone.
It was a second straight 5-0 triumph for City, who have already won the Carabao Cup and remain alive in both the FA Cup and the Champions League.
City, though assured of second place, must wait until Monday to learn if they will be allowed to compete in the Champions League in 2020-2021, as the Court of Arbitration for Sport is due to rule on the club’s appeal of a European ban imposed by FIFA for the Manchester side’s alleged violations of Financial Fair Play rules.
Other Premier League teams with European ambitions will also be awaiting the decision by the tribunal in Switzerland.
If the ban on City is upheld, the team that finishes fifth in the Premier League will automatically qualify for the Champions League, while the sixth- and seventh-place squads will get berths in the Europa League.
Chelsea, who have clung to top four status since last November, came into Saturday’s contest with Sheffield United looking a fairly safe bet to finish no lower than fourth in this pandemic-disrupted season.
But the Blades, after experiencing more downs than ups since the re-start, appeared to find their stride and inflicted a demoralizing 3-0 loss on the Blues.
Sheffield grabbed the lead in the 18th minute on the first-ever Premier League goal by David McGoldrick, who took advantage of Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s failure to deal with a loose ball in the box.
Oli McBurnie made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute with a header at the conclusion of a sequence that exposed the Blues’ weakness at the back.
McGoldrick scored a second goal with 13 minutes left in regulation to close the door on a Chelsea comeback.
Chelsea are third with 60 points from 35 matches, but could be overtaken as early as Sunday by Leicester City or Manchester United, who are only 1 and 2 points, respectively, behind the Blues, and each with a game in hand.
Sheffield, meanwhile, go sixth on 54 points to remain a contender for European play in 2020-2021.
A spectacular performance by goalkeeper Nick Pope allowed Burnley to become the first team in 18 months to steal points from Liverpool at Anfield in a Premier League game.
Jürgen Klopp’s squad had 75 percent possession and put nine shots on target to just two for the Clarets, but were held to one goal by Pope.
The hosts were led up front by the trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, together again for the first time in four matches, yet the Liverpool goal came from defender Andrew Robertson, whose exquisite header in the 43th minute left Pope with no chance.