MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – Chelsea signaled its intent to surge up the Premier League by crushing Crystal Palace 3-0 on Sunday in a stylish display that had shades of last season’s cruise to the championship.
Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa scored for Chelsea, which is out of realistic title contention following a dismal start to its defense but could still challenge for a Champions League berth.
The Blues are unbeaten in four matches under caretaker manager Guus Hiddink, since the firing of Jose Mourinho a week before Christmas, but are still languishing in 14th place — 13 points behind fourth-place Tottenham.
Spurs lost ground in the title race by drawing 1-1 at Everton in Sunday’s other game, with Dele Alli’s superb volley earning Spurs a point and canceling out Aaron Lennon’s opener.
But Spurs’ domination at Goodison Park shows they are genuine challengers for the trophy. Only six points separate Tottenham and first-place Arsenal, and Spurs have only lost twice in the league this season.
Tottenham ended the busy festive period with 10 points from a possible 12, more than any other side in the league.
“The way we played today, we can achieve what we want,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said.
Alli has been one of the success stories of this season, establishing himself as a regular for Tottenham and also breaking into the England squad in his first year in the Premier League. Last season, he was playing in the third tier with MK Dons.
His goal against Everton was another example of his talent, as he controlled a long pass forward from Toby Alderweireld on his chest and buried a first-time volley from just inside the area during first-half injury time.
Lennon put Everton ahead against his former club in the 22nd, against the run of play. Harry Kane and Ben Davies struck shots against the goal frame either side of Lennon’s goal, as Spurs drew for the ninth time in 20 games this campaign.
Optimism appears to be back at Chelsea, which looks like a different side than the one that struggled under Mourinho. Its attacking players are operating with more freedom, with Spain internationals Cesc Fabregas and Costa excelling against Palace.
Costa ran onto Fabregas’ through-ball, cut in and squared a pass for Oscar to sidefoot home into an empty net for the opening goal in the 29th. Willian struck a rising shot into the net from long range to make it 2-0 in the 60th and then played a part in the third goal, sending in a shot that was parried out to the feet of Costa inside the goal area.
“That was the Chelsea of last year, I think,” Blues captain John Terry said.
The only negative for Chelsea was the sight of Eden Hazard hobbling off with a groin injury. The Belgium winger has failed to reproduce his fine form of last season, when he was voted player of the year in England.