Liverpool closes in on Premier League title

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 20, 2014 at 7:08 pm •  Published: April 20, 2014
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LONDON (AP) — Liverpool secured a return to the Champions League on Sunday.

But there's a much bigger prize just around the corner.

What was looking like a gripping finale to the Premier League title race is starting to turn into a procession for the Reds after they beat Norwich 3-2 to move five points ahead of Chelsea with three matches remaining.

Here's a look at the action across Europe's top leagues as the end of the season approaches:

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ENGLAND

A first English championship in 24 years is within Liverpool's grasp after the win at Norwich, which was paced by Raheem Sterling's two goals and a 30th goal of the season by Luis Suarez.

An 11th straight league win also ensured that the Reds will return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Sterling crashed home a long-range strike in the fourth minute before setting up Suarez in the 11th minute for his 12th goal against Norwich in their past five meetings.

After Gary Hooper cut the deficit in the 54th, Sterling re-established Liverpool's two-goal lead after weaving his way through Norwich's defense before his shot looped over goalkeeper John Ruddy thanks to a deflection.

Robert Snodgrass' 77th-minute header set up a tight finish but Liverpool held on to put clear distance against Chelsea, which lost 2-1 to Sunderland on Saturday, and nine points ahead of third-place Manchester City, which has two games in hand.

It is promising to be a tighter race for the final Champions League spot, with fourth-place Arsenal and Everton both winning to leave them separated by just one point.

Lukas Podolski scored twice in Arsenal's 3-0 victory at Hull and Everton overwhelmed Manchester United in a 2-0 win that marked another bad day for United manager David Moyes, who returned to the club he coached for 11 years.

United can't qualify for the Champions League — the first time it will miss the competition in 19 years.

Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas scored for Everton in the first half.

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SPAIN

Lionel Messi ended Barcelona's run of three straight losses and kept it in the Spanish league title chase by scoring a late free kick to complete a 2-1 comeback win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Messi's 75th-minute goal answered some of the criticism the club's all-time leading scorer had received for his lackluster performances in the team's recent losses in the league, Champions League and Copa del Rey final.

Barcelona was on its way to another defeat when Aritz Aduriz scored in the 50th, provoking a smattering of white handkerchiefs in the Camp Nou stands, but Pedro Rodriguez equalized when he slotted in Alexis Sanchez's scuffed strike in the 72nd.

Barcelona moved provisionally into second place, four points behind leader Atletico Madrid. Madrid is two points behind Barcelona, but with a game to play.

Earlier, Celta Vigo outclassed Almeria 4-2 as forward Manuel "Nolito" Agudo scored two goals and set up another to keep the hosts in the Spanish league's relegation zone.

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