Gareth Bale fronted a late fightback by Tottenham in a 3-1 victory over Manchester City on Sunday, giving runaway leader Manchester United a chance to wrap up the Premier League title on Monday.
The defending champions imploded at White Hart Lane as Spurs scored three goals in a seven-minute span, with Bale setting up Clint Dempsey for a 75th-minute equalizer and capping the comeback with chipped finish in the 82nd.
Substitute Jermain Defoe scored Tottenham’s other goal to leave second-place City stunned, even though its hopes of retaining the title had long since been extinguished.
“I cannot believe we lost this game,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. “We had it under control.”
Samir Nasri gave the visitors a fifth-minute lead but their late collapse means United can take away the title from its neighbor’s grasp by beating relegation-threatened Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday. United needs three points from its last five games.
Spurs stayed fifth but a first victory in four league games saw them close in on London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for ChampionsLeague qualification.
“It’s very competitive and will probably go down to the wire,” Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said. “It was a great game and the players did ever so well to come back into it.”
Bale, the leading contender for England’s Player of the Year award, has been Tottenham’s inspiration all season and he sparked the revival in his first match back after two weeks out with an ankle injury.
The Wales forward’s sublime cross found Dempsey, who couldn’t miss from inside the six-yard box.
“As soon as that went in, the crowd lifted, we lifted and we showed the character that the team has got,” said Bale, who was shifted to the right wing in the second half to great effect by Villas-Boas.
Defoe cut inside and fired a powerful shot into the corner in the 79th to make it 2-1 and Bale added further gloss by running in behind the City defense and producing a deft chip to beat goalkeeper Joe Hart, for his 18th league goal of the campaign.
“It’s massive,” Bale said. “The club is moving forward every year and all us players want to be playing in the Champions League week in, week out, playing against the best teams.
“We will be pushing until the end of the season to get in the top.”
A win for United over Villa will clinch the title for Alex Ferguson’s team with four matches to spare. It’s a far cry from the tense finish to the championship last season, when City scored two injury-time goals in its final match to pip United to the title.
Liverpool, Chelsea draw 2-2
The two sides of Luis Suarez were on full display on Sunday as the Liverpool striker first bit an opponent’s arm and then scored a last-minute equalizer for Liverpool in a 2-2 draw against Chelsea in the Premier League.
In the latest chapter in his controversial career, the Uruguay international tussled with Branislav Ivanovic in Chelsea’s penalty box and television pictures showed Suarez biting the top of the defender’s right arm. In 2010, Suarez was banned for seven matches for biting an opponent while playing for Ajax against PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league, earning him the tag ‘Cannibal of Ajax.’
Suarez issued an apology hours after the match, but was harshly criticized by both club officials and pundits.
“I’m sad for what happened this afternoon, I apologize (to) Ivanovic and all football world for my inexcusable behavior,” Suarez said on Twitter. “I’m so sorry about it!!”
As usual, Suarez was the center of attention throughout a frenetic match at Anfield, giving away a penalty with a needless handball to allow Eden Hazard to convert the spot kick and put Chelsea ahead in the 57th minute.
But the striker—who is the Premier League’s leading scorer—made amends by glancing in Daniel Sturridge’s cross with seconds remaining at Anfield.
That still failed to overshadow the biting incident that could land him another long ban. He was suspended for eight games last season for hurling racist insults to Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during a match.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers initially refused to comment on the incident, but criticized Suarez after watching replays.
“Having reviewed the video footage and spoken to Luis, his behavior is unacceptable and I have made him aware of this,” Rodgers said in a statement issued by Liverpool.
The club’s managing director Ian Ayre said Suarez’s behavior “is not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt and Luis is aware that he has let himself and everyone associated with the club down.”
Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez, who was denied a winning return to the club he led to the Champions League title in 2005 during a six-year spell at Anfield, said he didn’t see the biting incident and refused to comment
Benitez recently said he would return to manage Liverpool one day and his family still lives on Merseyside.
The draw left Chelsea in fourth place and one point behind Arsenal, having played a game less, in the race for Champions Leaguequalification. Tottenham is a further point behind after its 3-1 win against Manchester City earlier Sunday.
Oscar put Chelsea ahead in the 26th minute before Suarez supplied a superb cross for substitute Sturridge to sidefoot home in the 52nd.
With his scoring spree this season — the equalizer was his 23rd league goal of the campaign — Suarez was starting to rehabilitate his damaged reputation this season. His penchant for diving aside, even his critics had been starting to warm to one of the world’s most gifted players. He is one of the leading contenders for the annual Player of the Year award voted on by fellow footballers.
Suarez’s equalizer came after the allotted six minutes of injury time in the second half and reduced the gap to local rival Everton to five points with four matches remaining.