14:00 FT: Sheffield United faltered on Sunday, in its bid for a Champions League spot, losing 3-0 at Newcastle, who could be under new ownership by a controversial Saudi-backed consortium.
Manager Steve Bruce admitted before the match that it had been a “distraction” but it did not prevent his side from securing an impressive victory, helped by the second-half dismissal for two yellow cards of visiting defender John Egan.
The lively Allan Saint-Maximin scored the opener soon after Egan departed and Matt Ritchie doubled Newcastle lead with a well-hit strike 14 minutes later.
The icing on the cake for Newcastle fans was the third — a rare goal for Brazilian striker Joelinton, who earlier had missed a cast-iron first-half chance to put his side ahead.
It was his first goal in the league since August 25 against Tottenham and only his fourth of the season following his £40 million ($44 million) move from Hoffenheim last year.
Despite a draw and a loss since the restart of the campaign, Chris Wilder’s United are just two points behind fifth-place Manchester United, which drew 1-1 with Tottenham on Friday.
Earlier on Sunday, Chelsea cemented its grip on fourth place with a 2-1 win at relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
Kortney Hause put Villa ahead against the run of play just before halftime, but after the break it continued to be one-way traffic as Chelsea dominated possession without carving out a string of chances.
Manager Frank Lampard sent on US international Christian Pulisic in a bid to spark his attack and it paid almost immediate dividends as he connected with a Cesar Azpilicueta cross to half-volley an equalizer in the 60th minute.
The winner came just two minutes later as Olivier Giroud was allowed time to turn in the penalty box and his deflected shot beat Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal.
Liverpool took a stuttering step towards its first English league title in 30 years as the champion-elect was held to a goalless draw by Everton in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on Sunday.
It was not the result that Jurgen Klopp’s men wanted on their return to action after a three-month hiatus, but with a 23-point lead over Manchester City, celebrations will not be long delayed.