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BPL: Chelsea defeats Liverpool; Arsenal regains top spot

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The Canadian Press
12/29/2013 1:37:24 PM
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Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto'o scored first-half goals as Chelsea came from behind to secure a 2-1 win over title rival Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday.

After Martin Skrtel put the Reds in front from close range at Stamford Bridge after only four minutes, Hazard hit back in the 17th with a superb strike. Eto'o gave Jose Mourinho's team a decisive lead from Oscar's back pass in the 34th.

Third-place Chelsea trails leader Arsenal by two points and Manchester City by one point. Liverpool is six points adrift after slipping to a second consecutive loss.

Hazard was splendid throughout in his playmaker role, while Chelsea's defenders did a good job of containing Luis Suarez, who was reunited with Branislav Ivanovic for the first time since he bit the Serbian defender on the arm last season and was banned for 10 games.

With captain John Terry becoming the fourth Chelsea player to make 600 appearances for the club, the game started at a high tempo, with both sides involved in a gritty contest for possession.

After Eto'o was lucky to escape a booking for his challenge on Jordan Henderson, Liverpool made the most of the subsequent free kick, with Skrtel scoring a poacher's goal from close range. Chelsea failed to clear Philippe Coutinho's free kick, Suarez headed the ball beyond Ivanovic and Skrtel tapped it home.

Chelsea reacted immediately, only for Hazard to see his effort saved before Gary Cahill headed wide from Frank Lampard's free kick in the eighth minute.

Chelsea's penalty appeals were waved away by referee Howard Webb after Hazard appeared to be clipped by Lucas in the box, and Lampard forced keeper Simon Mignolet to tip the ball over with a trademark powerful shot from outside the box.

The home side was rewarded for its pressure soon afterward when Hazard gave Mignolet no chance with a superb curling shot for his eighth league goal of the season.

Mourinho was forced to make an early defensive change as the injured Ivanovic was replaced by Ashley Cole after 30 minutes. But Liverpool struggled to contain the Blues' relentless attacks and Eto'o converted his team's dominance into a goal when he scored from close range from Oscar's pass, despite Mignolet getting a hand to the ball.

The Reds continued to threaten on the break and had a chance to level before the interval, with Joe Allen's shot from the right side of the box drawing a good diving save from Petr Cech.

There were further scoring chances in the second half, with Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho being unlucky to see his looping header hit the crossbar from a free kick as Cech looked well-beaten. At the other end, Eto'o missed a clear-cut chance when he fired straight at Mignolet from a good position in the 54th.

Suarez's volley four minutes later was easily stopped by Cech as Liverpool created more space in the hosts' half.

But Chelsea weathered Liverpool's attacks and could even have won by a bigger margin. Former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres eased past Mamadou Sakho and Skrtel but failed to beat Mignolet with his shot in the closing stages.

 

The France striker ended a run of seven matches without a goal when he broke the deadlock with a header from Theo Walcott's free kick in the 65th minute. It was Giroud's 11th goal this season.

Arsenal overtook Manchester City to regain top spot in the Premier League with 42 points from 19 matches, with City trailing one point behind.

"There was a big satisfaction because we surprised many people and we want to go from there, we played two away games and got six points against West Ham and Newcastle and as you can see the team is ready for a fight," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "Let's keep fighting and trying to develop the team."

In a scrappy encounter with few chances for both sides, the hosts missed an opportunity to level the score in added time when Hatem Ben Arfa fired a shot wide.

Mesut Ozil missed the game with a shoulder injury, and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he expects the Germany midfielder to be out for Wednesday's game against Cardiff as well.

Wenger's team enjoyed long periods of possession and created several chances early on but was unable to convert them before Newcastle almost went ahead toward the end of the first half when Moussa Sissoko's shot was tipped over by Wojciech Szczesny. Mathieu Debuchy also headed against the bar.

Giroud had a chance to double the lead when Walcott's lob from close range was saved by Debuchy but the Frenchman failed to connect properly with the loose ball.

Newcastle pushed forward toward the end but Alan Pardew's team slipped to just its second loss in 10 Premier League matches.

"We certainly didn't deserve to get beat but a mistake cost us at a set play, and we then had some moments at the end but we have come out with our confidence renewed even though we have lost," Pardew said.

New manager Tim Sherwood earned his first win at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Tottenham easily beat Stoke 3-0 in the Premier League.

Roberto Soldado converted his fifth penalty of the season in the first half while Aaron Lennon and Mousa Dembele added goals in the second for a comfortable win.

It was Tottenham's first clean sheet in the league since Nov. 3 and the win puts Spurs level on points with Manchester United with 34 at the halfway point of the season.

Tottenham next travels to Old Trafford to play United on Wednesday.

Stoke never looked like threatening the Spurs goal, although had a penalty appeal waved away when Michael Dawson hacked down Oussama Assaidi in the box when the game was goalless.

Three days after its first home loss in a year, Everton bounced back to beat Southampton 2-1 at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday.

The home side took the lead through Seamus Coleman in the ninth minute when the defender slotted into the net from close range.

Southampton battled back and found the equalizer through Gaston Ramirez, who converted Adam Lallana's pass with a left-footed shot from outside the box in the 71st. But Romelu Lukaku, who came into the game without a goal in five matches, found the winner three minutes later to banish memories of the unlikely 1-0 loss to last-place Sunderland on Boxing Day.

Olivier Giroud ensured that Arsenal will finish the year atop the Premier League standings by scoring the winner for the Gunners in a 1-0 win at Newcastle on Sunday.
Eden Hazard Oscar (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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