Liverpool guaranteed themselves a place in the Champions League next season with a 3-2 victory over Norwich City at Carrow Road - but their fans are dreaming of grander things now with a first ever Premier League title just seven points from their grasp.

It was a much more nerve-racking finish to the game than the travelling support could have imagined though when their team were 2-0 up within 11 minutes yet somehow found themselves clinging on at the death.

Raheem Sterling blasted Liverpool into the lead after only four minutes with a superb strike from the edge of the box that left John Ruddy grasping at thin air in the Norwich goal. Seven minutes later, he turned provider with a superb low cross that Luis Suarez tucked into the bottom corner.

That was Suarez's 12th goal in four matches against Norwich and his 30th of the Premier League season - making him the seventh player to reach that mark since the league's inception in 1992 and the first Liverpool player to do so in the top-flight since Ian Rush in 1986-87.

Norwich steadily worked their way back into the match and were full value for the goal they clawed back on 55 minutes, though it owed much to a goalkeeping blunder by Simon Mignolet. The Liverpool No.1 came for a hanging cross but succeeded only in punching it into the head of his own defender Martin Skrtel, leaving Gary Hooper with the simple task of tapping in to an empty net from six yards.

However, as Norwich pushed forward for the equaliser, they were always liable to leave gaps at the back and Sterling took advantage with a long run from midfield that ended with a deflected shot that looped over Ruddy, under the ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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Steven Gerrard stated he is not taking anything for granted as Liverpool edge closer to a league title since 1990, but admitted he almost gave up on lifting the Premier League with his boyhood club.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Gerrard revealed he was treating this season like his "one shot" to claim a Premier League winners' medal.

Several of his team-mates have indicated a willingness to win the title for Gerrard and, with Chelsea slipping up against Sunderland on Saturday, Liverpool now sit in a commanding position at the top of the league.

"For us to have not won the league since 1990 is not good enough. A club with this history should have got an awful lot closer - if not actually done it - during those 24 years," Gerrard said.

"There have been times when maybe I have given up on it - or been close to giving up on it. When you are finishing seventh or eighth and you see the gap to the top sides, it's mentally tough. And then, come the end of the season you see the big hitters spending all kinds of money and making their squads even stronger.

"I've got to treat this like it's the one shot. Just because this league is so strong and there are no guarantees next year."

Gerrard has enjoyed a sparkling campaign playing under Brendan Rodgers, the manager who recently hailed his captain as the best deep-lying midfielder in Europe.

The 33-year-old leads the nominations for the PFA Player of the Year award, along with team-mates Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, while Zinedine Zidane recently admitted Gerrard deserves to win the Premier League for his loyalty to the Anfield club.

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Jose Mourinho suffered his first home league defeat as Chelsea manager after his side were beaten 2-1 by Sunderland as their title hopes took a huge dent at Stamford Bridge.

Samuel Eto'o gave Chelsea the lead after 12 minutes with his ninth league goal of the season, volleying in from close range from Willian's corner.

Sunderland equalised six minutes later through Connor Wickham after pouncing on Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer's parry from Marcos Alonso's effort on the edge of the box.

Fabio Borini converted a penalty eight minutes from time to put Sunderland in front after Cesar Azpilicueta fouled Jozy Altidore in the box.

League-leaders Liverpool have the opportunity to extend their advantage over Chelsea to five points if they beat Norwich City on Sunday. The loss is Mourinho's first at home in the league in 77 matches.

Basement club Sunderland climbed within one point of 19th-placed Fulham, following up their 2-2 midweek draw at Manchester City with another impressive result on the road.

Eto'o's 14th goal of the season proved fruitless for Chelsea, with midfielder Ramires facing a premature end to his campaign if he faces punishment for appearing to strike Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson in the face.

The FA's disciplinary department will be likely to review footage of the incident, able to impose sanctions given referee Dean took no action during the match.

Ramires' two red cards this season could see him receive a five-match ban.

Chelsea's insistence on elaborate approach play limited their first-half opportunities, leaving the hosts frustrated to be level 1-1 at the break.

Nemanja Matic and Willian failed to trouble Vito Mannone from early efforts, before Eto'o stole into the Sunderland box only to have the ball nicked off his toe by Santiago Vergini.

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Wayne Rooney is hoping Manchester United manage to secure qualification for next season's Europa League.

United are currently seventh in the Premier League, six points behind Tottenham but with two games in hand, but remain 10 points off fourth-placed Arsenal.

Any realistic hopes of qualifying for the Champions League appeared to be ended by their quarter-final elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich in this season's competition.

Manager David Moyes is being placed under pressure by the club's owners, the Glazer family, to secure Europa League qualification, club sources have told ESPN.

Tottenham head coach Tim Sherwood, however, has raised concerns about playing in the competition, admitting missing out on qualification is "certainly a benefit" and suggesting the Europa League has a detrimental effect on Premier League form.

But Rooney remains unconcerned and wants to finish as high up the table as possible. Asked if he wanted to play in the competition next year, he told MUTV: "Yes, I think so.

"You want to be playing in the Champions League but it's important to finish as high up the table as you can and, if that means playing in the Europa League then so be it.

"It's a difficult competition [to win] so if we qualify for it we'll have to make sure we're ready for that."

United head to Everton - who are battling with Arsenal for the final Champions League spot - on Sunday with Rooney passed fit to feature against his boyhood club after recovering from a toe injury.


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Christian Eriksen was again the architect as Tottenham halted embattled Fulham's Premier League resurgence with a 3-1 win at White Hart lane.

The Dane has been one of the few shining lights in a disappointing season for Spurs, whose top-four charge looks destined to fall short in another trophyless campaign.

The underwhelming season is expected to cost Tim Sherwood his job, but Eriksen is certainly helping the head coach focus on the positives, setting up two goals in a man-of-the-match display against relegation-threatened Fulham.

It was far from easy for the north London side, who had goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and some wayward finishing to thank for restricting the visitors to one Steve Sidwell goal.

That strike came moments after Paulinho had given Spurs a first-half lead by ghosting in unmarked to prod home an Eriksen free-kick.

Tottenham regained the lead moments into the second half when Harry Kane glanced in his third goal in as many games, before more poor defending from an Eriksen free-kick allowed Younes Kaboul to bundle home.

Eriksen gave away a late penalty by handling a Hugo Rodallega flick, but Lloris saved his blushes and his late substitution was met by a standing ovation.

Fulham boss Felix Magath made five alterations in a bid to make it three successive wins, while the main Spurs team news was Sandro's absence from the squad.

The Brazil midfielder took to Twitter at 10.20am to forewarn fans of his absence, posting "just to let you know that i'm not injured!".

Fulham first threatened inside the opening two minutes when Alex Kacaniklic hit the side-netting, with Rodallega volleying wide soon after.

Scott Parker's dead leg after an innocuous collision with Emmanuel Adebayor gave Spurs time to settle, but they were struggling ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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Manchester United coach Phil Neville says it has been "difficult to look at the league table" this season, with the club set for their lowest finish in 23 years.

Neville won six Premier League titles in 10 years as a player at United before returning to the club to work as a first-team coach under David Moyes last summer.

However, Neville has not been able to replicate the success of his playing days, with United currently in seventh position and heading for a finish outside of the top three for the first time since 1991.

And Neville admits it has been difficult to take, telling the BBC's Football Focus: "We have not fulfilled any levels of expectations this season. We have failed on the football pitch and that doesn't sit kindly with anyone."

"We are not hiding away from the fact we have underperformed. It's been difficult watching other teams above us do well and to even look at a league table."

Along with the majority of United's coaching team, Neville returns to Everton - where he played for eight years after leaving Old Trafford - on Sunday, as they chase a spot in the Europa League.

It will be Moyes' first trip back to Goodison Park since leaving the job he held for 11 years at the end of last season, with the United boss recognising that there has been "animosity" towards him from the Everton fans after he signed former player Marouane Fellaini in August and also pursued Leighton Baines.


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INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta's Jeff Teague demolished the Pacers' grand playoff plan.

As his teammates set up around the 3-point line, Teague simply blew through open lanes to the basket repeatedly.

The Pacers didn't have an answer.

Teague scored a playoff career-high 28 points, Paul Millsap added 25 and the eighth-seeded Hawks won their first road playoff game in three years, shocking top-seeded Indiana 101-93 to take a 1-0 lead in the first-round series.

"I just wanted to win," the Indianapolis native said after beating his hometown team.

Perhaps that's why Teague finally cracked a hesitant smile in the locker room before stepping to the podium.

Or it could be that Teague remembers the frustration Indiana caused when it clinched last year's 4-2 first-round win on Atlanta's home court. As one of the few remaining links to that team, Teague wasn't about to let something like that happen again.

This time, surrounded by a mostly new group of 3-point shooters, a first-year coach and a game plan that the Pacers never adapted to, Teague kept getting to basket.

He wound up 9 of 19 from the field and 9 of 10 from the free throw line with five assists and three rebounds on a night the Hawks snapped an eight-game road losing streak in the playoffs and became the first team to beat Indiana on its home court twice this season.

Atlanta won its first road playoff game since Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals at Chicago, and they'll have a chance to do it all again Tuesday in Game 2 before the best-of-seven series moves to Atlanta, where the Pacers have won only two times since December 2006.

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LOS ANGELES -- The Golden State Warriors stumbled out of the gate, missing their first eight shots while falling behind by 11 points and forcing coach Mark Jackson to call two timeouts to steady his young team.

Stephen Curry glanced at the clock and realized there was still plenty of time left to knock off the Los Angeles Clippers.

Klay Thompson scored 22 points, spiking the ball as time expired, and Golden State beat Los Angeles 109-105 after getting Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in foul trouble in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Saturday.

"A big way to start the series," Curry said. "We've been resilient all year. We're not going to quit."

David Lee had 20 points despite his own foul trouble and Curry scored 14 for the Warriors, who rallied in the third when Griffin and Paul were on the bench together.

"I'm proud of my guys," Jackson said. "We just had a tremendous will and competitive spirit."

Game 2 is Monday night at Staples Center.

"The pressure is all on them," Thompson said. "They can't afford to go down 0-2 and go on the road. It's tough to come back down 0-2."

Paul led the Clippers with 28 points, and J.J. Redick added 22 points in 30 minutes. Griffin finished with 16 points, fouling out with 48 seconds left and the game tied at 105. DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 14 rebounds.

The Warriors built an 11-point lead early in the fourth, helped by back-to-back dunks by Jermaine O'Neal and Thompson's turnaround fadeaway jumper. Then they withstood Paul's desperate but error-filled bid to bring his team all the way back.

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TORONTO -- The Brooklyn Nets made a case for the important of playoff experience in their opening victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each had 24 points, Paul Pierce scored nine of his 15 points in the final quarter and the Nets beat the Raptors 94-87 Saturday in Game 1 of their first-round series.

Playing in his 137th career postseason game, Pierce connected on four of his five shot attempts in the fourth as the Nets kept the Raptors at bay.

"You just get that feeling, you've been in those situations a number of times," Pierce said. "I don't get rattled in the fourth quarter, down the stretch or in playoff settings. I've been in pretty much every playoff setting that you can imagine. I just try to stay calm and bring my calmness to the game."

Nets coach Jason Kidd said Williams "set the tone" by scoring 18 points in the first half.

"He came out with high energy," Kidd said. "I thought he was looking to be aggressive in scoring the ball. He got the guys off to a good start."

Shaun Livingston scored 10 points and Kevin Garnett had five as the Nets won despite making 4 of 24 3-pointers.

"We didn't shoot well from 3 tonight but we made up for that by taking care of the ball, good defense down the stretch, making plays offensively," Williams said. "That's why we got the win."

The Nets turned the ball over nine times, while the Raptors had 19, leading to 17 Brooklyn points.

"That was the biggest issue," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.

Kyle Lowry scored 22 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 18 rebounds for the Raptors.

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant put a dazzling end to Memphis' gritty comeback.

The Grizzlies erased most of a 25-point deficit before Durant, the league's scoring champion, got hot. He scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat Memphis 100-86 on Saturday night in the opening game of their first-round playoff series.

The Thunder already were regaining control in the fourth quarter before Durant took over. He scored 11 points in a 5-minute, 21-second surge that stretched Oklahoma City's lead from seven points to 14 and put the game out of reach.

"We just stayed together," Durant said. "We made plays in the fourth quarter. The third quarter was tough for us, but we stayed together. We didn't stray away."

Russell Westbrook had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder.

Zach Randolph led Memphis with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but he made just seven of 21 shots and got into foul trouble in the second half. Mike Conley had 16 points and 11 assists, Marc Gasol scored 16 points and Tony Allen added 13 points for the Grizzlies. Memphis might have stolen the game if not for a miserable first half.

"We've got to make adjustments to get off to a better start," Randolph said. "We can't exert so much energy trying to come back from 20 points. It's the first game, we've got to stick together. We've been here before, we know what we've got to do and come out and be ready for Monday."

Memphis shot just 36 percent from the field and made just 18 of 31 free throws.

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