Eden Hazard scored a hat-trick as Chelsea capitalised on Arsenal’s crushing defeat at Liverpool by beating Newcastle United 3-0 to claim top spot in the Premier League on Saturday.
Arsenal’s 5-1 demolition at Anfield earlier in the day handed their nearest rivals an opportunity to leapfrog them at the top of the table and Chelsea took full advantage at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester City were unable to follow suit, however, drawing 0-0 at Norwich City and slipping to third place in the process.
Chelsea had served notice of their title credentials with an impressive 1-0 win at City on Monday and they were quick to take control against Newcastle despite captain John Terry missing out with a muscular strain.
Hazard broke the deadlock in the 27th minute with a first-time finish from a Branislav Ivanovic pass and the Belgian added a second seven minutes later following a neat back-heel by Samuel Eto’o.
A foul on Eto’o by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa presented Hazard with an opportunity to complete his first Chelsea hat-trick from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute and he duly obliged by sending Tim Krul the wrong way.
“I know today we are top of the league, but I look to fifth place,” said Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
“When we are far from fifth and have a Champions League position under control, then it will be time to look at Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool and see where they are and see the distances.”
Victory took Chelsea a point above Arsenal and two points clear of City, who were unable to repeat their 7-0 annihilation of Norwich from earlier in the season.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side dominated proceedings at Carrow Road, but in the continued absence of top scorer Sergio Aguero they came no closer to scoring than a first-half Alvaro Negredo header that hit the crossbar.
“Every team will drop points, but we are still two points behind the leaders and we have 39 points to play for so we will continue exactly the same,” said City manager Pellegrini.
Liverpool are now only six points off the summit after re-energising their title challenge with a clinical victory over Arsenal.
Elsewhere, Swansea City overwhelmed local rivals Cardiff City 3-0 in the south Wales derby to begin life without sacked manager Michael Laudrup in memorable style.
West Ham leapt out of the relegation zone after captain Kevin Nolan took his tally of goals to four in two games with a brace in a 2-0 success at Aston Villa.
West Bromwich Albion slid into the space vacated by West Ham after going down 3-1 at Crystal Palace.
Sunderland had Wes Brown sent off after three minutes in a 2-0 loss at home to Hull City that saw them fall to within one place of the drop zone, while Stoke City twice came from behind to force a 2-2 draw at Southampton.