Giroud winner sees Chelsea home against Liverpool

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Chelsea boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification as Olivier Giroud’s first half header earned a 1-0 win over Liverpool.

Tottenham’s loss at West Brom on Saturday and Giroud’s fourth goal in five games, earning a win over Champions League finalists Liverpool, took Antonio Conte’s Blues two points behind their London rivals with two games to go.

The Reds have work to do to secure their place in Europe’s elite competition as an intense contest in stifling heat proved too much at the end of a week which saw Jurgen Klopp’s men advance to the Champions League final.

The Blues play Huddersfield and Newcastle; Spurs play Newcastle and Leicester, both at home.

Victory against Brighton next Sunday would secure Liverpool’s top four place, despite Klopp’s first loss in six meetings against Chelsea.

Liverpool, who play Real Madrid on May 26 seeking a sixth European Cup, started the better as Chelsea struggled to string passes together.

It took until the ninth minute and a crunching tackle from James Milner on Eden Hazard to rouse the hosts.

Marcos Alonso, immediately restored following suspension, shot straight at Loris Karius, but danger lurked for Chelsea.

N’Golo Kante’s covering tackle halted Sadio Mane as the striker bore down on a back-pedalling Gary Cahill.

Mane hit a half-chance over from Nathaniel Clyne’s cross and then his crisp strike from 25 yards was turned away by Thibaut Courtois.

The goalkeeper clawed away Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner as Virgil van Dijk loitered at the far post and Mane was then twice denied by Courtois.

Chelsea had chances too. Tiemoue Bakayoko headed Victor Moses’ cross just wide across goal before Chelsea scored from the same source.

Bakayoko found Victor Moses, who checked back on to his left foot. His cross deflected slightly off Mane for Giroud to plant a perfectly placed header into the corner.

Curiously the Frenchman celebrated by signalling out David Luiz, the injured Chelsea defender who was sitting behind the home dugout. The pair shared a bear hug to celebrate Giroud’s fifth goal in his last six Premier League starts.

Chelsea might have made it two within moments of the restart. Hazard fed Cesc Fabregas in the right channel and the playmaker’s shot fizzed wide across goal.

Mohamed Salah, who was having a mixed afternoon against Antonio Rudiger, was booked for diving on the edge of the area and Clyne followed for an ugly tackle on Alonso.

Hazard hoodwinked Roberto Firmino, Georginio Wijnaldum and Clyne and Karius scrambled the cross clear. Rudiger thought he had scored from the resulting corner, but the Germany defender was offside.

Clyne was replaced by Jordan Henderson – the captain had been rested from the starting line-up – and Alexander-Arnold returned to right-back.

Henderson provided more of an attacking threat to Kante and Bakayoko in Chelsea’s midfield, but the battle-hardened Blues pair stood firm.

Salah fell to ground under a challenge from Cahill, but referee Anthony Taylor waved the appeal away.

Klopp wanted more from his side. Dominic Solanke, whose transfer fee from Chelsea is yet to be decided by tribunal, came on with 16 minutes remaining.

Alonso volleyed wide from Moses’ cross with a strike reminiscent of Marco van Basten, without the accuracy.

Liverpool threw bodies forwards, but created few chances. Solanke, seeking his first Reds goal, headed over and then wide and the Reds were beaten.

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