Suarez hat trick lifts Liverpool, Newcastle humiliated by Wigan
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (L) in action with Norwich City player Bradley Johnson during England’s Premier League match at Carrow Road in Norwich. (Photo: Chris Radburn)
Luis Suarez warmed up for this week's FA Cup final with a hat-trick in Liverpool's 3-0 win at Norwich City in the Premier League while high-flying Newcastle United were thumped 4-0 at lowly Wigan Athletic.
Third-placed Arsenal, who have taken two points out of a possible nine, drew 1-1 at Stoke City where newly-elected Footballer of the Year Robin van Persie's 28th league goal of the season cancelled out Peter Crouch's opener for the home side.
A glut of goals came on a cold, rainy day when the top two -- Manchester United and Manchester City -- were not in action because they meet in a title decider on Monday.
Saturday's seven matches produced 25 goals and the biggest shock came at the DW Stadium where Wigan dented Newcastle's dreams of a Champions League place next season and boosted their own survival hopes with an emphatic victory.
The outstanding individual performance of the day belonged to Uruguay striker Suarez who scored a contender for goal of the season eight minutes from time when he lobbed Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy from 45 meters.
“He [Suarez] is one of the best in the world on his day. Today was his day and as a team we could have had two or three goals more,” Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard told ESPN television.
The goals also flowed at Goodison Park where Nikica Jelavic struck twice to help Everton crush Fulham 4-0 and at the Liberty Stadium where Swansea City drew 4-4 with relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Newcastle, who had won their previous six games to climb to fourth, came crashing down to earth against Roberto Martinez's Wigan who continued their plucky fight for survival following recent wins over Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.
Wigan came flying out of the blocks with Victor Moses scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes and they were 4-0 up by halftime thanks to Shaun Maloney and Franco Di Santo.
“We have reached a good level in the last stages of the season and have produced some clinical finishing,” said Martinez.
“I am sure many people will say Newcastle had a bad day but we played really well.” Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said: “If you don't have the intensity that matches the other side you are in trouble. We didn't today and they got the early goals that changed the face of the game. They were superb and can take great credit from this victory.”
The result at Wigan threw the race for Champions League places wide open.
Manchester United and Manchester City will take the first two spots while Arsenal look set to finish third.
Arsenal have 66 points, four clear of Newcastle, but it is no longer guaranteed the fourth-placed team will qualify for the Champions League.
If Chelsea, who is sixth, beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League final next month and finish outside the top four, they will take the last qualifying spot.
Eighth-placed Liverpool have already qualified for the Europa League by winning the League Cup and are desperate to finish above city rivals Everton who are seventh.
Suarez did their hopes a power of good with three excellent goals at Norwich, the first two coming in a four-minute spell midway through the first half.
Aston Villa, embroiled in the relegation dogfight after one win in 14 matches, drew 0-0 at West Bromwich Albion to stay sixth from bottom on 37 points, ahead of Wigan on goal difference.
Villa manager Alex McLeish, jeered by the fans when his team lost at home to Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday, said: “I have had to show my experience and leadership.
“I will not curl up and die. I will persevere to the end as I always have done.”
Villa and Wigan are above Rangers (34 points), Bolton (34), Blackburn Rovers (31) and bottom club Wolves (24) who rallied from 4-1 down to share the points at Swansea.
Andrea Orlandi nodded Swansea ahead after 24 seconds -- the quickest goal in the Premier League this season and the fastest for five years.