Five things we learned from
In the end, Chelsea did again what it has done repeatedly over the last two months and scored late to squeeze out another unimpressive victory. It has now won eight out of nine. Ahead of Sunday's big game, it is just three points behind United with an almost identical goal difference. Defeat for United at the Emirates on Sunday, will put Chelsea in position to grab first place if it wins at Old Trafford next Sunday. As recently as March 1, before Chelsea beat United, 2-1, at Stamford Bridge, the gap was 15 points.
Chelsea took the gamble before the season of trying to win with veterans and paid the cost when John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and David Drogba all missed games and lost form because of illness or injury. Even now, at close to full strength, the team has not come close to recapturing its devastating form of the first month of the season. Yet those veterans are finding ways to win, however ugly. It's a valuable quality, unfortunately for Chelsea; it is one United also has.
One of FIFA's reasons for refusing to introduce goal-line technology is that it has not yet seen a method guaranteed to give the right answer. The striking thing about the replays was that cameras at different angles gave different answers.
The laws of soccer state that all of the ball has to be over the line, either in the ground or in the air. In practice, the convention tends to be that when the ball is on the ground, if grass is visible between the ball and the line, it's over. From some angles, the ball did not appear to be touching the line. From others it did.
The goal Saturday, seemed to deflate Spurs. They played the second half in a daze but still held out until the 88th minute. Replays suggested Salomon Kalou was offside when he scored the decisive goal. But that's altogether a different can of videotape.
QPR won, 2-0, at Watford on Saturday with goals by Adel Taarabt (of course) and Tommy Smith (a former Watford player). That ensures it will finish first in the Championship. The top two teams in the standings are promoted from the Football League to the Premier League.
The Premier League needs to approve the club. Blackpool had to do some desperate work on its ground last summer. But while Loftus Road only holds 18,000 it's a neat, modern stadium.
For QPR the potential problem lies with the third governing body in English soccer. In March, the Football Association charged Rangers over the 2009 signing of Alejandro Faurlin, an Argentine midfielder, who has since made over 80 appearances for the club. Faurlin, it seems, was bought not from another club but from three agents. Third-party ownership of a player's rights is banned in England, though the Football League only introduced rules after the Faurlin transfer. It supposedly means clubs cede control of the players to the agents -- which may seem odd given how powerless clubs often appear even against accredited agents who do follow the rules.
The most celebrated case followed West Ham's purchase of two Argentines, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, from agent Kai Joorabchian in 2006. Nine months later, Tevez's goals kept West Ham up at the expense of Sheffield United, managed at the time by Neil Warnock who is now in charge at QPR. A string of inquiries and court cases determined that, Joorabchian had kept control of Tevez's registration. The league fined West Ham £5.5 million ($9.2M at current exchange rates). A court then awarded Sheffield United £15 million ($25M) in compensation. That's a large enough sum, even in English soccer, to focus the attention of the governing bodies. QPR might have a problem.
For other fans it was time to bask in the sun and start dreaming of next season. West Brom gave a full debut to a Mexican youngster, Carlos Vela. He looked promising. Fulham started teenager Gael Kakuta, a Franco-Congolese striker. He scored to set his team on the way to a 3-0 victory at Sunderland. One of Aston Villa's most impressive performers in its loss at West Brom was Kyle Walker, a 20-year old fullback already on the fringe of the England squad. Young players like these, gaining experience in meaningless spring matches give fans hopes to nurture over the summer. Except that Kakuta is on loan from Chelsea, Walker belongs to Spurs and Vela, something of a poster boy for the hit-and-miss nature of a youth-first program, has been at Arsenal since 2005. In that time he has been loaned out to four different clubs. Who knows where he will be next year.