LONDON – Chelsea crushed Everton 5-0 on Saturday to storm to the top of the Premier League with a vintage display after Manchester City was held 1-1 at home by a last-minute goal from promoted Middlesbrough.
It was the first time City had been knocked off the top all season. Chelsea’s sparking performance sent it a point clear, although Arsenal and Liverpool had an opportunity to overtake them by winning home games on Sunday.
Successive losses to those teams in September raised questions about whether Antonio Conte’s side was ready for a serious attempt to regain the title it lost last season.
But Chelsea produced an irresistible performance with Belgian forward Eden Hazard scoring twice to inspire a fifth successive win for his team without conceding a goal.
Marcos Alonso, Diego Costa and Pedro completed Chelsea’s biggest victory under Conte, and sixth-placed Everton’s heaviest defeat by far since Ronald Koeman became manager in the close season.
“When you win in this way, it’s fantastic,” Conte told BT Sport. “It’s a pity that now we have to stop for the international break.”
Koeman was philosophical after his team’s heavy defeat.
“You have to accept sometimes in life your opponent is by far the better team,” the Dutchman said.
All had seemed well for City when Sergio Aguero scored his 150th goal for the club, converting Kevin de Bruyne’s pass, to put it ahead just before halftime.
City, which beat Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, had 19 goal attempts in a dominant first-half performance but failed to make its early dominance pay and was stunned when Boro’s Martin de Roon headed home powerfully in the 91st minute.
“We did absolutely everything to win the game, controlled the game and in the last minute we concede a goal. It is a pity,” City manager Pep Guardiola said.
He denied, though, that his side had suffered a hangover after its thrilling triumph over Barcelona.
“Not really, we started amazing and played really good in the first half. We created six or seven chances and didn’t score,” Guardiola said.
Sunderland, bottom of the table and without a win all season, fought back for a shock 2-1 victory at Bournemouth.
Victor Anichebe equalized Dan Gosling’s early goal for the home side and despite being under pressure with 10 men after midfielder Steven Pienaar was sent off for a second yellow card, the Black Cats claimed three points at last thanks to Jermain Defoe’s penalty.
It was the former England striker’s sixth goal of the season.
“It’s been difficult but we showed great team spirit and character,” Defoe told Sky Sports.
“We got a bit of luck at the right time,” added manager David Moyes, who had to watch the match from the stands after being dismissed from the dugout at Southampton last week.
Crystal Palace suffered a fourth successive defeat, losing 3-2 at Burnley to a stoppage-time goal after fighting back from conceding two early goals.
The home side scored twice in the opening quarter of an hour through Welsh international Sam Vokes and Iceland’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Substitute Connor Wickham pulled a goal back for the London side early in the second half and record signing Christian Benteke equalized with a penalty.
Even after Ashley Barnes put Burnley back in front in added time, Palace’s Andros Townsend hit the post in a dramatic finish.
A fourth home win of the season sent promoted Burnley into ninth position and pushed Palace down two places into the bottom six.
“It’s fantastic to be ninth in the table for a club like Burnley,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. “There are questions asked of us in the Premier League but we’re enjoying the ride.”
Stoke City extended its unbeaten run to six games with a 1-1 draw at West Ham.
Glenn Whelan’s own goal gave the home side the lead but Bojan Krkic equalized to earn a point.
Arsenal was set to meet Tottenham in the north London derby between two of the top five on Sunday, when Liverpool hosts Watford and Manchester United visits Swansea City.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5