EDEN HAZARD scored a hattrick as Chelsea capitalised on Arsenal’s crushing defeat at Liverpool by beating Newcastle United 3-0 to claim top spot in the Premier League today.
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 backheel by Samuel Eto’o.
A foul on Eto’o by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa presented Hazard with an opportunity to complete his first Chelsea hattrick from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute and he duly obliged by sending Tim Krul the wrong way.
Chelsea crept a point clear of Arsenal and two points above 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 topscorer Sergio Aguero they came no closer to scoring than a first half Alvaro Negredo header that hit the crossbar.
West Ham United 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.
January signings Tom Ince and Joe Ledley marked their Palace debuts with goals, only for West Brom debutant Thievy Bifouma to hit back, but Marouane Chamakh sealed victory with a penalty midway through the second half.
Sunderland fell to within one place of the drop zone after losing 2-0 at home to Hull City.
The visitors prevailed through goals from new signings Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic after Wes Brown had been sent off for the hosts in the third minute for a last-man foul on Long.
In another match at the St. Mary’s, Stoke City twice came from behind to force a 2-2 draw with Southampton.
In the day’s late game, Swansea City made a winning start to life after Michael Laudrup by beating Cardiff City 3-0 to leave their fierce rivals mired in the Premier League relegation zone.
Laudrup was sacked as manager on Tuesday and replaced by rookie coach Garry Monk, but second half goals from Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Wilfried Bony saw Cardiff blown away in the south Wales derby.