Saturday, December 13, 2014 8:42 pm
Leaders Chelsea and nearest rivals Manchester City preserved the status quo at the top of the Premier League table with a pair of unspectacular victories on Saturday.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa scored as Chelsea won 2-0 at home to Hull City, who had Tom Huddlestone sent off, while champions City beat Leicester City 1-0 despite losing Edin Dzeko and Vincent Kompany to injury.
Chelsea remain three points clear of City, who opened up an eight-point lead over Manchester United ahead of Louis van Gaal’s side’s home game with Liverpool on Sunday.
West Ham United squandered an opportunity to claim third place after being held to a 1-1 draw at Sunderland, while fifth-place Southampton’s downturn in form continued as they fell to a fourth straight loss at Burnley.
Arsenal drew level on points with Southampton, two points below the Champions League places, after Olivier Giroud and birthday boy Santi Cazorla each scored twice in a 4-1 win at home to Newcastle United.
A minor injury to Thibaut Courtois meant that Petr Cech made his first league start of the season in goal for Chelsea, who were bidding to bounce back from last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle.
Jose Mourinho’s side went ahead in the seventh minute at Stamford Bridge, with Hazard ghosting in from the right flank to head home Oscar’s in-swinging cross from the left.
Hull lost centre-back Michael Dawson to injury shortly after, with Alex Bruce coming on, and saw Huddlestone given his marching orders on the hour for a sly stamp on Filipe Luis.
“It was not a special performance; it was just a good-enough performance,” said Chelsea manager Mourinho. “We were never in trouble.”
Manchester City registered a seventh successive win in all competitions, but victory at the King Power Stadium came at the cost of injuries to striker Dzeko and captain Kompany.
Having previously lost top scorer Sergio Aguero to a knee injury that will keep him out until next year, City saw Dzeko withdraw from the starting XI after hurting himself in the warm-up.
– Lampard milestone –
It meant that 18-year-old Spaniard Jose Pozo started up front on his own, but after a laboured start, the champions went ahead in the 40th minute when Frank Lampard tucked away a pass from Samir Nasri.
It was the former Chelsea midfielder’s 175th league goal, taking him level with Arsenal great Thierry Henry in fourth place in the all-time Premier League scoring chart.
But the afternoon ended on a sour note for Manuel Pellegrini’s side when Kompany, who was making his return from a hamstring injury, had to go off after apparently aggravating the problem in the latter stages.
“The more injuries, the more difficult it is to make a starting XI,” said Pellegrini, whose side qualified for the Champions League last 16 by winning 2-0 at Roma on Wednesday.
“With Edin Dzeko, it’s very unlucky. We must see. Maybe we are going to be without the three strikers (Dzeko, Aguero and Stevan Jovetic) for at least one month.”
Giroud’s 15th-minute header put Arsenal in front against Newcastle and he completed his brace with a delightful near-post flick in the 58th minute after Cazorla had marked his 30th birthday with a classy dinked finish.
Ayoze Perez’s 63rd-minute header brought Newcastle back into the contest, but Cazorla made the game safe with a late penalty that he nervelessly chipped down the centre of the goal.
West Ham remain fourth after their draw at Sunderland. Stewart Downing equalised for the visitors with a low, deflected shot shortly after Jordi Gomez had put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute.
Burnley climbed out of the relegation zone by beating Southampton 1-0 at Turf Moor, with Ashley Barnes claiming a 73rd-minute winner after Southampton winger Dusan Tadic’s penalty was saved by Tom Heaton.
Craig Gardner scored the only goal as West Bromwich Albion won 1-0 at home to his formative club Aston Villa, who had West Brom old boy Kieran Richardson dismissed for a studs-up lunge on Stephane Sessegnon.
Meanwhile, Stoke striker Peter Crouch swiftly cancelled out a headed 11th-minute opener by James McArthur as Mark Hughes’s team claimed a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.