Chelsea profit from Arsenal, Manchester United's blues

Ruben Loftus-Cheek (right) scored Chelsea's opening goal against Watford following a pass from Eden Hazard (left).
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (right) scored Chelsea's opening goal against Watford following a pass from Eden Hazard (left). Reuters/Matthew Childs

Chelsea qualified for next season's Champions League after Arsenal and Manchester United squandered their chances to maintain the race for places in the competition until the final weekend of the English Premier League campaign.


With Liverpool and Manchester City off in the distance fighting for the Premier League title, a mini-league had arisen for the remaining two berths for the Champions League involving Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Third-placed Tottenham could have sealed their qualification for European club football's most prestigious tournament on 4 May, but Tottenham had two men sent off as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth.

That defeat left Spurs on 70 points and gave fourth-placed Chelsea the opportunity to leapfrog their north London rivals. Maurizio Sarri's men grasped the occasion with a 3-0 win over Watford at Stamford Bridge.

Eden Hazard, who has been linked with a summer transfer to Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid, set up goals for Ruben Loftus-Cheek and David Luiz just after the pause.

Gonzalo Higuain added the third 15 minutes from time. That victory took Chelsea into third on 71 points. Wins were expected on Sunday for Arsenal and Manchester United against Brighton and Huddersfield respectively.


But in both games, the big guns failed to fire. After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal a ninth minute lead, Brighton hit back in the second half to draw 1-1 at the Emirates.

Manchester United drew first blood at relegated Huddersfield but the hosts scrambled to their third draw of the season at home to end United's dreams of the Champions League.

"We gave ourselves a chance to be in the Champions League," said United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer whose side enjoyed 14 wins in his first 17 games while he was caretaker manager.

But only two victories in the past 11 games in all competitions have extinguished the exuberance which enveloped his appointment as full-time coach in March.

"We got so many opportunities to grab third or fourth and weren't able to," added Solskjaer. "The Europa League is the right place to be for us next year."

Arsenal, who have 67 points after their stalemate, still have a mathematical chance of pipping Spurs.

But Arsenal would need to win handsomely at Burnley and hope that Everton do the same at Spurs on 12 May.

Arsenal can still reach the Champions League provided the lift the Europa League crown. They take a 3-1 advantage to Valencia on Thursday for the second leg of their semi-final.

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