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Chelsea seal top-four spot with 3-0 win over Watford
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 05 - 2019

Chelsea secured a top-four Premier League finish and qualification for next season's Champions League after a 3-0 home win against Watford on Sunday.
Quickfire headers from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and David Luiz early in the second half put them in control and Argentine marksman Gonzalo Higuain added a third in the 75th minute.
However, Chelsea had to wait for Arsenal's 1-1 draw at home to Brighton & Hove Albion long after the final whistle at Stamford Bridge to confirm they would finish in the top four.
The battle for the third and fourth spots behind runaway leaders Liverpool and Manchester City had become a comedy of errors in recent weeks with all the contenders dropping points with reckless abandon.
And it was fifth-placed Arsenal's draw with Brighton that meant Chelsea would finish no lower than fourth — guaranteeing a return to Europe's elite club competition.
With one game left Chelsea are third with 71 points, a point clear of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth and four ahead of Arsenal.
Arsenal's hopes of claiming a Champions League place via a top-four finish are all but over after Unai Emery's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
Needing victory to keep their top-four chances realistically alive after Chelsea had earlier beaten Watford, Arsenal got the perfect start when referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot after Alireza Jahanbakhsh impeded Nacho Monreal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made no mistake with the penalty to notch up his 20th league goal of the season.
There was a nervousness about Arsenal, however, and Brighton grew into the game, with the threat of relegation removed by Cardiff City's defeat on Saturday.
The visitors were level in the 61st minute when the dangerous Solly March made a strong goalwards run and Granit Xhaka was panicked into conceding a penalty that Murray converted.
In an end-to-end climax both teams went close to scoring but the final whistle was met with stunned silence by the Emirates crowd.
With one game left, Arsenal are four points adrift of third-placed Chelsea and three behind Tottenham Hotspur, whose goal difference is eight better than the Gunners.
It looked as though Chelsea were set to follow nine-man Tottenham's slip-up in a 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday and Manchester United's earlier 1-1 draw at relegated Huddersfield as they struggled in a frenzied first half.
Watford had the better chances with Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu and Jose Holebas all lively, but Chelsea, booed off at the break, came out flying in the second half.
Loftus-Cheek found the net in the 48th minute after a Hazard short corner and one-two with Pedro, the Belgian lifting the ball to the far post where the tall midfielder nodded it home.
Moments later Brazilian defender Luiz headed Chelsea's second goal, straight from a Hazard corner, before the home side improved their goal difference with the third from Higuain via a Pedro assist.
Both teams have preoccupations away from the league, with Chelsea level at 1-1 as they prepare to face Eintracht Frankfurt in their Europa League semifinal, second leg on Thursday and Watford meeting Manchester City in the FA Cup final on May 18.
"The schedule is tough, but when you have fantastic players, more than just 11, we can rotate and have the same quality," Luiz said. "We have that. It's tough but it's tough for everybody."
Chelsea's players and their families did a lap of honor after their last home league game of the season, with club captain Gary Cahill, who is leaving after 6-1/2 years at Stamford Bridge, leading his teammates out.
The former England defender won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup, a Champions League and a Europa League trophy with the west London club but has fallen out of favor under coach Maurizio Sarri this season.
Derby County seal playoff
spot with win over West Brom
Derby County sealed their place in the promotion playoffs with a 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on the final day of the Championship season on Sunday, leaving Middlesbrough facing another year in the second tier.
Frank Lampard's Derby side needed a victory to guarantee sixth place and they could start celebrating after two goals in three minutes in the second half from Mason Bennett and Harry Wilson settled the jitters.
West Brom, already assured of fourth spot, had equalized just after halftime through Stefan Johansen after Derby had led at the interval through Martyn Waghorn's header.
Middlesbrough did their part, winning 2-1 away at Rotherham United while Bristol City, who also still had a chance of making the top six if results went their way, drew 1-1 at Hull City.
"The lads deserved it and we played brilliantly in spells but when it goes back to 1-1 you fear, I knew Middlesbrough were winning," Chelsea great Lampard told Sky Sports. "They were magnificent today. I said be brave, there was a lot on this game."
Norwich City were confirmed as champions after winning 2-1 away at fifth-placed Aston Villa. Sheffield United, who finished runners-up and also gained automatic promotion to the Premier League, ended with a 2-2 draw at Stoke City.
Third-placed Leeds United, who for so long seemed destined to go up automatically before a late-season slump, finished their regular season with a surprise 3-2 defeat by bottom club Ipswich Town.
It means Leeds and Derby will face each other in a two-legged playoff semifinal clash with added spice after the so called "spy-gate" saga in which Leeds officials were caught at Derby's training ground before the sides met in January.
Head coach Marcelo Bielsa subsequently admitted he had spied on all of Leeds' opponents in a similar manner.
Leeds were fined 200,000 pounds by the Football League — a fine Bielsa has since said he paid from his own pocket. The other semifinal will be an all-Midlands affair between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.
The winners of the two playoff semifinals will face each other on May 26 in what is widely-regarded as the most lucrative match in world soccer thanks to the Premier League's astronomical television deals. — Reuters
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