14 Dec 2014

Ruthless Chelsea and Man City march on

12:25 pm on 14 December 2014

Leaders Chelsea and second placed Manchester City tightened their stranglehold on English football's Premier League title race after recording victories over struggling clubs to stretch further clear of their pursuers.

Chelsea v Hull City - Willian of Chelsea in action with Andrew Robertson of Hull City.

Chelsea v Hull City - Willian of Chelsea in action with Andrew Robertson of Hull City. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Normal service was resumed at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea maintained their three-point lead over City at the top with goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa sinking 10-man Hull City 2-0.

Defending champions City maintained their ever more convincing chase, sealing their fifth successive league win at bottom club Leicester City 1-0 courtesy of a 40th-minute goal from the evergreen Frank Lampard.

City's delight, though, was tempered by the likelihood of another spell on the sidelines for captain Vincent Kompany who, on his return after a three-game absence with a hamstring problem, limped off again with the same trouble.

Fourth-placed West Ham's progress was checked by a 1-1 draw at Sunderland and fifth placed Southampton lost 1-0 to an Ashley Barnes goal at Burnley.

That left the chasing pack, headed by third-placed Manchester United and West Ham, 11 points behind Chelsea and eight adrift of the champions.

It also put pressure on Louis van Gaal's United before their match against Liverpool on Monday.

Arsenal drew level on points with fifth placed Southampton after thrashing Newcastle United 4-1 in the late match.

Chelsea, smarting about their first defeat of the season at Newcastle last weekend, responded with a performance which satisfied manager Jose Mourinho. "It was not a special performance," said the 'Special One'. "It was just a good enough performance."

Much more had been expected when Hazard headed home Oscar's seventh-minute cross but Chelsea were initially sloppy and Steve Bruce ended up unhappy that Chelsea defender Gary Cahill, already on a yellow card, was not sent off after what the Hull manager felt was a blatant dive.

Only after Tom Huddlestone was dismissed for a nasty second half stamp on Filipe Luis did Chelsea seal the deal, Costa scoring his 12th goal of the season from a Hazard assist after 68 minutes to make it eight home wins out of eight.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, already without his injured totem Sergio Aguero, was forced to hand a start to Spaniard Jose Pozo, the 18-year-old striker being hailed as the 'Mini Messi', after Edin Dzeko pulled up injured in the warm-up.

The youngster, however, found it hard going against Leicester's committed defenders and it was left to the remarkable Lampard to make the breakthrough.

The midfielder timed his run into the box with predictable efficacy to sidefoot the ball home simply after fine work from Samir Nasri.

The 36-year-old's latest crucial intervention will not have escaped his old disciples at Chelsea as Lampard's 175th goal took him to fourth equal on the all-time list of Premier League scorers, an astonishing achievement for a midfielder.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was left raging by the award of a 22nd-minute penalty to Sunderland, after Adam Johnson had tumbled rather too easily for his liking. He was even angrier when Jordi Gomez converted.

"It was not a penalty and it is as simple as that," Allardyce told the BBC. "It was given by the assistant referee and he got it horribly wrong."

Even though Stewart Downing equalised seven minutes later, the Hammers missed their chance to win when Andy Carroll shot wide in the dying seconds.

After a tremendous start to the season, Southampton's woes continued with a fourth consecutive defeat. They paid the price after Tom Heaton saved Dusan Tadic's penalty on the hour and Burnley jumped out of the bottom three with Barnes's winner.

Crystal Palace's James McArthur and Stoke's Peter Crouch swapped early goals in the space of two minutes in a 1-1 while West Brom's Craig Gardner scored a 72nd-minute winner against his old club Aston Villa, who had Kieran Richardson sent off.

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