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Aston Villa, Brighton boost European hopes as Spurs, Chelsea crumble

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Aston Villa moved into contention for a top-four finish in the Premier League as Newcastle were comprehensively beaten 3-0 at Villa Park on Saturday, while Tottenham sank to a 3-2 home defeat to Bournemouth.

Brighton also boosted their chances of European football with a 2-1 win at Chelsea to prolong Frank Lampard’s wait for a first victory since returning to Stamford Bridge as interim manager.

Villa are still six points adrift of the top four, but are the form side in the race after a seventh win in eight games.

Ollie Watkins has now scored 11 goals in 12 matches as he netted twice after Jacob Ramsey had fired Unai Emery’s men into an early lead.

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Newcastle had won their previous five games to climb up to third, but barely laid a glove on Villa to leave Eddie Howe’s men looking over their shoulder.

With Manchester United not in action until Sunday away at Nottingham Forest, Tottenham had the chance to move into the top four but blew it as Bournemouth took a potentially decisive step towards survival.

Son Heung-min fired Spurs into an early lead, but the Cherries hit back before half-time when Matias Vina dinked the ball over Hugo Lloris.

Dominic Solanke then put the visitors in front six minutes into the second half when Davinson Sanchez deflected the ball into his path.

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Sanchez had been introduced as a substitute on 35 minutes but was shown no mercy by interim Spurs boss Cristian Stellini as he was hauled off before the hour mark and booed by his own supporters.

His replacement, Arnaut Danjuma, looked to have salvaged a point when he scored against his old club two minutes from time.

But the drama did not end there as Dango Ouattara curled home in the 95th minute to lift Bournemouth six points clear of the relegation zone.

There were also boos at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea’s winless run extended to six games.

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Lampard named a much-changed side with one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final, second leg against Real Madrid.

Conor Gallagher did at least end the Blues’ wait of over 600 minutes for a goal when his shot deflected in off Lewis Dunk after just 13 minutes.

But Brighton were utterly dominant thereafter and should have had more than a one-goal margin of victory to show from their 26 shots on goal.

Danny Welbeck came off the bench to score the equaliser just before half-time.

Paraguayan teenager Julio Enciso then won the game in spectacular style with a thunderbolt into the top corner 21 minutes from time.

Victory lifts Brighton to within seven points of the top four, but with a game in hand over Newcastle, who they are also still to face at St. James’ Park.

At the bottom of the table, Crystal Palace and Wolves joined Bournemouth in closing in on safety, but it was a terrible day for Everton, who lost 3-1 at home to Fulham.

Southampton are starring down the barrel of relegation after Eberechi Eze scored twice for Palace in a 2-0 win at St. Mary’s to clinch a third consecutive victory for the Eagles since Roy Hodgson returned as manager.

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Wolves are seven points clear of the drop zone after they beat Brentford 2-0 thanks to goals from Diego Costa and Hwang Hee-chan.

Everton remain outside the relegation zone only on goal difference after goals from Harrison Reed, Harry Wilson and Dan James snapped Fulham’s five-game losing run.

In the race for the title, Manchester City can close the gap on Arsenal to three points when they host Leicester later at the Etihad as the defending champions look to extend their winning run to 10 games.

AFP

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