LONDON: Chelsea again have outright possession of top spot in the Premier League after a 2-0 win over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho’s side started the day ahead of Manchester City simply via alphabetical order given the remarkable identical records of both sides after 20 matches of a so far captivating campaign.
But whilst Chelsea maintained their 100 per cent league record on home soil with a 10th successive victory, Manchester City could manage only a 1-1 draw at Everton and are now two points adrift.
For Chelsea, Oscar made the all-important breakthrough three minutes before half-time with a right-foot drive from 10 yards before Diego Costa netted his 15th goal of the season in the 57th minute to seal the win.
At Goodison Park, Manuel Pellegrini’s side had to settle for a point, with Fernandinho’s 74th-minute opener cancelled out within four minutes by Steven Naismith.
At the bottom of the table, Leicester are just two points adrift of safety as they beat Aston Villa 1-0 at the King Power Stadium, and have now taken seven points from their last three matches.
Paul Konchesky, sent off in the 2-1 defeat at Villa in early December after a clash with Alan Hutton – a decision later overturned on appeal – netted the only goal in first-half injury time.
There were further red cards in the dying stages of another feisty encounter when City’s Matty James and Villa’s Ciaran Clark were both dismissed following a centre-circle melee.
Scott Arfield scored his first goal since the opening-day with a strike in the 12th minute, only for Charlie Austin to equalise from the spot just after the half hour.
Picking himself up after being brought down by Dean Marney, Austin scored his 13th goal of the campaign, but his joy was shortlived as Danny Ings scored what proved to be the winner four minutes later.
Alan Pardew enjoyed a winning start to his reign as Crystal Palace boss as his side came from behind to beat Tottenham 2-1 at Selhurst Park.
Following a goalless first half, Harry Kane’s 17th goal of the season four minutes after the break gave the visitors the advantage.
But Palace then poured forward in search of an equaliser, with Dwight Gayle making the breakthrough in the 69th minute before Jason Puncheon scored his first goal for more than four months to seal a memorable day for Pardew.
In his first league match in charge of West Brom, head coach Tony Pulis conjured up a 1-0 win over Hull at The Hawthorns thanks to Saido Berahino.
Berahino, who failed to celebrate any of his four goals in Albion’s 7-0 FA Cup romp over Gateshead last weekend, certainly did so on this occasion when he fired home the only goal from 12 yards in the 78th minute.
West Ham found themselves managerless for the day with Sam Allardyce absent with a chest infection, and had to settle for a 1- draw with Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.
The Hammers opened the scoring in the 43rd minute when Andy Carroll floated home a superb strike.
But Swansea, without Wilfried Bony in their line-up with their top scorer away on international duty in the African Nations Cup, grabbed a deserved point when pressure saw Mark Noble net an own goal 16 minutes from time.
In the early kick-off at the Stadium of Light, Lazar Markovic’s ninth-minute opener was just enough for Liverpool to claim a 1-0 win over 10-man Sunderland, who had Liam Bridcutt sent off early in the second half.
Despite the numerical advantage for the Reds, who lost captain Steven Gerrard to a hamstring injury at half-time, it was the hosts who came closest to adding to the scoring when Adam Johnson struck the crossbar from 30 yards.
Brendan Rodgers’ side, however, managed to hold on for their third league win in four games to move within four points of the top four.