London – Manchester City opened up a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a first-half demolition of Leicester in a thrilling 6-3 win, while Chelsea got back on track with a 3-1 victory at Aston Villa on Sunday.
Three of the nine matches scheduled for Boxing Day were postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks, as Britain battles a record number of cases caused by the omicron strain of the virus. Earlier this week, Premier League clubs rejected the option of temporarily halting the season to allow teams to get a handle on infections.
Stopping the season may be the only way to slow City’s march toward its fourth title in five seasons, as Pep Guardiola’s men have now won nine league games in a row.
City’s Kevin De Bruyne blasted home to open the floodgates before Riyad Mahrez netted against his former club from the penalty spot. Ilkay Gundogan rounded off a brilliant City team move to make it 3-0, before Raheem Sterling won and converted the champions’ second penalty.
Leicester produced a stirring rally in the second half, thanks to James Maddison.
The midfielder pulled a goal back before leading a break that was finished off by Ademola Lookman. Kelechi Iheanacho then made it 4-3 when he bundled home from close range after Ederson could only turn Maddison’s shot onto the bar.
City quickly restored order as Aymeric Laporte powered home from a corner and Sterling rounded off the scoring from close range.
“It was a roller coaster,” Guardiola said. “It was a typical Boxing Day game, lots of goals. It was entertaining for everyone.”
After one win in its previous four league games, Chelsea came from behind against a Villa team that was without coach Steven Gerrard due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Hampered by injuries and COVID absences, Chelsea lost its grip on first place during a spluttering run before Christmas.
The Blues were in trouble again when Reece James headed Matt Targett’s cross into his own net in the 28th minute.
Jorginho equalized six minutes later, however, with the Italian stroking home a penalty after Matt Cash tripped Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Romelu Lukaku, who joined the club this year from Inter Milan, came off the bench at halftime and headed in his sixth goal of the season in the 65th minute. Lukaku later won a stoppage-time penalty after his powerful run was halted by Ezri Konsa’s foul, and Jorginho did the job from the spot once again.
“The own goal made things super complicated,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said. “The reaction was very good. It was a deserved win but hard work,”
Third place Chelsea has the same number points as second-place Liverpool, which had its game against Leeds postponed.
Arsenal solidified its position in fourth with a routine 5-0 win at rock-bottom Norwich.
Goals from Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney put the match beyond reach before halftime.
Saka added a second before Alexandre Lacazette convered a penalty, and substitute Emile Smith Rowe rounded off a fifth consecutive win for Mikel Arteta’s men.
“We looked really sharp and committed,” Arteta said. “It’s a big win for us.”
Spurs moved up to fifth— six points behind their north London rival but with three games in hand — after easing past a depleted Crystal Palace 3-0.
Palace’s request for the game to be postponed was dismissed by the Premier League despite a coronavirus outbreak that left it without manager Patrick Vieira.
Harry Kane swept home just his third Premier League goal of the season, before Lucas Moura powered in a header.
Wilfried Zaha was sent-off for two bookable offenses before halftime and Son Heung-min added a third for Tottenham with 16 minutes remaining.
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