Sunderland dents Chelsea’s title hopes
LONDON (AP) In another twist to this unpredictable English Premier League season, last-place Sunderland damaged Chelsea’s title hopes with a 2-1 upset at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
After surprise losses to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace in recent weeks, Chelsea again stuttered against weaker opposition, as Jose Mourinho’s 77-match unbeaten home run as Chelsea boss came to an end in a major boost for league leader Liverpool.
Chelsea could not hold onto its lead after Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring, as Connor Wickham leveled from the rebound six minutes later following Marcos Alonso’s long-range effort. Fabio Borini then scored from the spot after Cesar Azpilicueta brought down United States forward Jozy Altidore in the box with eight minutes remaining.
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace claimed a fifth consecutive win with a 1-0 defeat of West Ham to secure its place in the topflight next season and Swansea secured a vital 2-1 win at Newcastle that piled more pressure on Magpies manager Alan Pardew.
Peter Whittingham’s second-half penalty gave Cardiff a precious point in a 1-1 draw against Stoke, and Aston Villa could record only a goalless home draw with Southampton.
Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone made 14 saves as Chelsea blew the opportunity to dislodge Liverpool from top spot. The Reds will have the chance to extend their lead to five points at Norwich on Sunday.
Bayern Munich ground out a hard-fought 2-0 victory over last-place Eintracht Braunschweig to end the champions’ three-game winless streak in the Bundesliga.
Claudio Pizarro broke the deadlock in the 75th minute, when Mario Goetze sent the Peruvian through, and Mario Mandzukic secured the win with four minutes remaining as the home side pushed for an equalizer.
Bayern failed to impress for long periods, however, and will hope for improvement for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg at Real Madrid.
”It was important to win before the game against Real Madrid. It gives us confidence,” Pizarro said.
Second-place Borussia Dortmund secured Champions League football next season by defeating visiting Mainz 4-2, and Freiburg took a giant step in its fight against relegation by beating Borussia Moenchengladbach by the same score.
Mario Balotelli set a career best with his 14th goal of the Serie A season and set up another score as AC Milan beat visiting Livorno 3-0 for its fifth straight win.
Still, Milan remained five points behind city rival Inter Milan in the race for fifth place and the final Europa League berth, after Inter beat 10-man Parma 2-0.
Meanwhile, Paul Pogba led the way as Juventus stayed on course for a third consecutive title with a 1-0 win over relegation-threatened Bologna.
The France international and former Manchester United midfielder scored with a long, low shot from beyond the area in the 64th minute, moving Juve 11 points ahead of second-placed Roma, which was visiting fourth-placed Fiorentina later.
With 90 points and four matches remaining, Juventus has a chance to become the first Serie A club to break the 100-point barrier. Inter set the record of 97 points in 2006-07.
Valencia forward Jonas came on in the second half and scored a late equalizer to secure a 1-1 draw at Osasuna in the Spanish league.
Striker Oriol Riera put Osasuna ahead in the 19th minute when he tapped in a rebound that Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita knocked down to his feet for his 12th league goal of the season.
Hosts Osasuna controlled the match with Roberto Torres hitting the upright in the 53rd, until Jonas took a pass from fellow Brazilian substitute Araujo on the run and slotted an angled shot inside the far post in the 82nd.
The draw left Valencia in eighth place and six points off the final Europa League berth, while Osasuna is four points from the relegation zone.
Valencia visits Sevilla on Thursday in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal.
Also, Getafe stayed in the drop zone after ending a 0-0 draw at Levante with 10 men following Alexis Ruano’s second yellow card in the 81st.