LONDON – Premier League leader Chelsea left it late to beat Everton 1-0 on Wednesday and maintain its seven-point advantage over Manchester City as the champions won 4-1 at Stoke.
Willian’s 89th-minute winner for Chelsea came a minute after a foul on the midfielder led to Everton midfielder Gareth Barry being sent off for a second bookable offense.
The victory dashed City’s hopes of closing the gap on Chelsea on a night when Sergio Aguero scored twice to end the second-place team’s four-game winless run.
“We are not thinking about Chelsea,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “If they lose points it is good for us but the first thing for our team is to recover the sensation of (being) a good, solid team. That was the target and we did it.”
Manchester United remained five points behind neighbor City but rose to third with an unconvincing 3-1 victory over Burnley.
Southampton dropped to fourth after being held 0-0 by 10-man West Ham, while Crystal Palace drew 1-1 with manager Alan Pardew’s former club Newcastle. West Bromwich Albion climbed four points clear of the relegation zone by beating Swansea 2-0.
At Stamford Bridge, Everton manager Roberto Martinez was unhappy that in the melee around Barry’s dismissal, Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic was not sent off for an apparent attempted head-butt on James McCarthy.
“That shouldn’t be allowed,” Martinez said. “He grabs James McCarthy around his neck in a very forceful manner and then he puts his head against him when James McCarthy never reacted. If you want to be that fair with the law, it’s a red card.”
But Mourinho told BT Sport television: “Did Branislav Ivanovic go in with his head? Don’t make me laugh. Don’t make me laugh.”
It was a more routine night in Stoke, free of controversy for City, which rediscovered its scoring form to end its run of six visits to Britannia Stadium without a win.
Aguero, who had gone six games without a goal, gave City the lead with a low shot in the 33rd minute that was canceled by Peter Crouch’s header before halftime.
But City was rampant after the break, with James Milner heading the visitors in front, Aguero netting from the spot after David Silva was fouled and Samir Nasri completing the victory.
At Old Trafford, there was an unlikely scorer, with defender Chris Smalling netting twice after replacing the injured Phil Jones after five minutes. Smalling scored within 22 seconds by heading in a corner.
Although it was canceled out by Danny Ings, Smalling restored United’s lead by meeting another corner with a header before the break. Robin van Persie scored a late penalty after Angel di Maria was fouled.
Despite the win after Sunday’s drab 1-1 draw at West Ham, United’s players still heard signs of frustrations among its supporters.
Villa dismisses Lambert
Birmingham England AP
Aston Villa fired manager Paul Lambert on Wednesday, a day after the club dropped into the relegation zone to leave its unbroken stay in the Premier League in jeopardy.
Fans had started to turn on Lambert, with the team easily the lowest scorers in all four of the English leagues with just 12 goals in 25 games and on a run of five straight league defeats.
Lambert, a Champions League winner as a player with Borussia Dortmund in 1997, took over at Villa in June 2012.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5