Tottenham overcome Leicester challenge to stay in title hunt
MANCHESTER, England, Feb 10, (RTRS): Manchester City’s on-fire striker Sergio Aguero struck his second hat trick in a week as the champions ruthlessly destroyed woeful Chelsea in a 6-0 win at The Etihad on Sunday to return to the top of the Premier League.
While Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday cut short talk of title run-in nerves on Merseyside this City victory, achieved with some glorious football against a top six opponent, was an emphatic statement.
In the past week City have beaten Arsenal at home and Everton away before taking Maurizio Sarri’s side to pieces with four goals in the opening 25 minutes.
Rampant City have now scored 33 goals in their last five home games in all competitions and have a chance of lifting their first silverware of the season when they face Chelsea again at Wembley in the League Cup final on Feb 24.
City and Liverpool are both on 65 points with City having the better goal difference although they have played one more game than their rivals. Third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who beat Leicester City 3-1 earlier on Sunday, are five points behind.
Aguero, who scored a hat-trick seven days ago against Arsenal, has equalled Alan Shearer’s record of 11 Premier League hat tricks and is now joint top scorer in the league this season with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
Chelsea had no time to settle before Raheem Sterling fired City ahead in the fourth minute with a side-foot finish after a quick free-kick from Kevin De Bruyne caught the visiting defence napping.
After Aguero had somehow missed an open goal from two metres, the Argentine promptly beat goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga with a blistering strike from 25 metres, underlining the fact that he is far more than a penalty area poacher.
A poor header by Chelsea’s Ross Barkley towards his own goal gifted Aguero with City’s third, the Argentine firing home with a first-time shot on the turn, and then a low drive from Ilkay Gundogan made it 4-0 after 25 minutes.
Following the break, Aguero, who also became City’s all-time top scorer in league games, headed against the bar before he completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Sterling had been brought down by Cesar Azpilicueta.
Sterling completed the rout, turning in a low cross from Oleksandr Zinchenko in the 80th.
The defeat was Chelsea’s worst since their 7-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in 1991 and will raise serious questions about the direction the team is going in under Italian Sarri as they slipped to sixth place on 50 points, a point off the top four.
Tottenham 3, Leicester 1
Goals from Davinson Sanchez, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min helped Tottenham Hotspur overcome Leicester City 3-1 in an entertaining Premier League match at Wembley Stadium.
Tottenham went ahead through Sanchez who scored his first goal for the London club by meeting Eriksen’s whipped cross with a diving header in the 33rd minute, although Leicester’s players complained he was in an offside position.
Leicester missed the chance to equalise on the hour mark when substitute Jamie Vardy’s penalty – his first touch after coming on – was pushed away by Hugo Lloris after Jan Vertonghen was adjudged to have fouled James Maddison in the box.
“Lloris saved us a few times and we were lucky that he took out the penalty which gave us confidence. You felt that in the whole stadium, and we’re happy to have Hugo,” Eriksen said.
Tottenham doubled their lead three minutes later as Eriksen collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area and unleashed a fierce shot past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Vardy made up for his earlier miss by tapping in from close range 14 minutes from the final whistle after a well worked move allowed Ricardo Pereira to drill in a cross from the right.
After a sustained period of Leicester pressure, Son settled nerves of the home supporters by slotting in Tottenham’s third with a solo run from the halfway line.
Victory took title contenders Tottenham to 60 points from 26 matches, five points behind leaders Liverpool and two adrift of champions Manchester City who play Chelsea later on Sunday.
Eriksen said Tottenham had showed plenty of character to see off a determined Leicester, a quality that could help them in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg clash against Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.
“We didn’t make life easy for ourselves,” the Dane said.
“The last three games we won in the last 10 minutes, which shows the character of the team and we did that again today. It’s going to be the same on Wednesday.”
Tottenham had a first-half penalty claim denied after Harry Maguire appeared to bring down Son with the referee booking the South Korean for simulation, a decision manager Mauricio Pochettino described as “unbelievable”.
“When you compare the situation with the penalty for Leicester, unbelievable… I’m more relaxed because we won,” Pochettino added.
“Do you think that we’re a team trying to cheat a referee? Come on, we’re one of the nicest teams on the pitch.” Leicester boss Claude Puel bemoaned his side’s finishing.
“Throughout the game we had a feeling we can score… we had chances and half chances,” the Frenchman said. “It’s difficult to accept with all the good intention to go without the reward.
“We need a little more conviction and a clinical edge.”