LONDON (AP) — Manchester City took charge of the Premier League title race as Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure scored first-half goals for a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
After leader Liverpool lost 2-0 against Chelsea at home, City cut its deficit to three points with one game in hand. If it wins the three remaining matches and keeps a superior goal difference, Man City will be crowned champions.
Recovered from a thigh problem, Toure made a spectacular return to competition, setting up Dzeko’s opener in the fourth minute with a precise cross the striker headed home. The powerful midfielder then started and concluded a superb collective move two minutes before halftime with a curling shot.
Chelsea slowed Liverpool’s title charge and kept its own chances alive with a 2-0 victory against the sloppy leaders.
A resilient Chelsea beat a team on an 11-game league winning streak.
Demba Ba seized on Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s slip in first-half stoppage time to make it 1-0. Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge gave the ball away in the 90th minute and Chelsea launched a quick counterattack that Willian finished off.
It was Liverpool’s first loss since falling at Chelsea four months ago. Chelsea is two points behind Liverpool with two games remaining.
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Atletico Madrid moved one step closer to its first Spanish league title in 18 years with a 1-0 victory at Valencia, while Lionel Messi completed an emotional 3-2 comeback win for Barcelona at Villarreal two days after the death of former coach Tito Vilanova.
Atletico midfielder Raul Garcia scored with an impressive header in the 43rd minute, and its defense did the rest as it gave Valencia no chance to rally at its Mestalla Stadium.
Diego Simeone’s side moved six points clear of Real Madrid, which has a game in hand, while Barcelona remained within four points after coming from two goals down to beat Villarreal in its first game since the death of Vilanova.
Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets wept as the two teams gathered at the center circle before kickoff at El Madrigal Stadium to observe a minutes of silence for Vilanova, who died on Friday after a battle with cancer, having led Barcelona to the league title last season. Vilanova was honored similarly across Spain’s first division this weekend.
Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said his team had been “very affected” by Vilanova’s death, who was honored this weekend by more than 50,000 people who attended a memorial site at Camp Nou.
“It has touched all of us,” Iniesta said. “I will take with me the example he set for us, both when he was with us and after.”
Barcelona defender Dani Alves responded to a racist taunt at Villarreal by picking up a banana that landed at his feet, peeling and then eating it before proceeding to take a corner kick.
Alves said after the match that humor is the best way to combat racism in sports.
“We have suffered this in Spain for some time,” Alves said. “You have to take it with a dose of humor. We aren’t going to change things easily.
“If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective.”
Ruben “Cani” Gracia and Manuel Trigueros scored from counterattacks for Villarreal to go 2-0 up by the 55th minute.
But Villarreal then self-destructed with own goals by Gabriel Armando in the 65th and Mateo Musacchio in the 78th, both redirecting passes by Dani Alves into their team’s net.
Messi finally beat goalie Sergio Asenjo after Busquets and Cesc Fabregas combined to set the forward up to net his 27th league goal of the campaign and reach the 40-goal mark in all competitions for the fifth straight season.
Earlier, Garcia’s ninth goal of the league season kept Atletico on course for its first league title since 1996.
With a better head-to-head record against Madrid, Atletico can clinch the domestic crown by winning two of its remaining three games. It first plays at Levante, then hosts Malaga, and finally travels to Barcelona.
AMSTERDAM (AP) – Ajax won its 33rd Dutch league title and fourth straight after drawing at Heracles Almelo 1-1.
Lasse Schone put Ajax ahead with a free kick after 13 minutes. Simon Cziommer equalized 10 minutes later, also on a free kick, as an out-of-form Ajax settled for the draw.
Last week, Ajax lost the Dutch Cup final 5-1 against PEC Zwolle.
Other Dutch teams have won four straight championships, including PSV Eindhoven twice , but Ajax’s Frank de Boer becomes the first coach to win four in a row.
“Every year we try to put together a team, and we’ve done it again … I’m proud,” De Boer said.
Feyenoord claimed second place and a berth in Champions League qualifying in style, beating SC Cambuur 5-1. Third-place FC Twente will play in the Europa League after another big win, 5-2 at NEC Nijmegen.
SOCHAUX, France (AP) – Sochaux, trying to avoid relegation, put Paris Saint-Germain’s title celebrations on hold by salvaging a 1-1 draw in the French league.
PSG striker Edinson Cavani chested down a long ball from Thiago Motta to fire in an off-balance strike in the 24th minute. But Sochaux tied it with an own-goal by PSG’s Thiago Silva in the 56th.
PSG leads Monaco by eight points at the top of the league with three rounds left.
MILAN (AP) – Luca Toni scored a goal to help Hellas Verona rout relegation-threatened Catania 4-0 in Serie A to boost its chances of qualifying for European play.
In the sixth minute, Catania goalkeeper Alberto Frison palmed away Juan Iturbe’s shot and Toni fired in the rebound. Toni thought he scored again in the 28th when he headed home a shot, but it was later changed to an own goal because the ball hit the goalpost and then bounced in off Frison.
Toni has 19 goals this season.
Marquinho extended Verona’s lead just before halftime with a low drive following Juanito’s pass. Juanito scored in the 75th minute on a curling shot into the far corner.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – Hamburger SV lost 3-1 in Augsburg for another setback in the struggle to avoid the first Bundesliga relegation in the club’s history.
Also, Borussia Moenchengladbach won 1-0 at Schalke on a first-half goal by Patrick Herrmann. Schalke failed to strengthen its grip on third place and a direct slot in the Champions League.
Hamburg’s eighth straight away loss also means four teams are safe from relegation: Werder Bremen, Hannover, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Only Stuttgart can be overhauled by Hamburg, which is 16th and in a relegation playoff sport. But Stuttgart is five points ahead with two matches remaining, while Nuremberg and Eintracht Braunschweig are one and two points behind, respectively.
The two-leg playoff involves the 16th-place team from the Bundesliga and the third-place team from the second division.
Halil Altintop had two goals and Andre Hahn gave Augsburg a 3-0 lead before Heiko Westermann pulled one back for Hamburg in the 44th.