Chelsea, Liver­pool per­fect af­ter 5

Times Colonist - - Sports -

LON­DON — The foun­da­tions are be­ing laid for one of the English Premier League’s most ex­hil­a­rat­ing and com­pet­i­tive ti­tle races.

For the first time since the league’s in­cep­tion 26 years ago, two teams — Chelsea and Liver­pool — have a 100 per cent win­ning record af­ter five matches.

Eden Haz­ard’s hat trick pow­ered Chelsea to a 4-1 vic­tory over Cardiff on Satur­day shortly af­ter Roberto Firmino helped Liver­pool over­come Tottenham 2-1. Dual­track per­fec­tion can’t last much longer as Chelsea hosts Liver­pool in a show­down in two weeks.

And the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons are in the slip­stream. Still un­beaten, Manch­ester City beat Ful­ham 3-0 to re­main two points be­hind the fron­trun­ners.

Wat­ford made an un­ex­pect­edly per­fect start to the cam­paign, but that was now over af­ter be­ing beaten 2-1 by Manch­ester United, which is try­ing to close a six-point gap on the lead­ers. HAZ­ARD TAKES TIPS Haz­ard pre­pared for the Cardiff game with some en­cour­age­ment and ad­vice from Chelsea man­ager Mau­r­izio Sarri.

“You can score 40 goals,” Sarri re­called telling the winger. “But you have to spend less en­ergy far from goal and you have to play in the last 25 me­tres of the field.”

Haz­ard’s best tally since join­ing Chelsea in 2012 is 18 in the 2016-17 cam­paign. He al­ready has six from the open­ing five fix­tures.

The Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional surged through the de­fence be­fore fin­ish­ing pow­er­fully in the 37th minute at Stam­ford Bridge to can­cel out Sol Bamba’s sur­prise opener from win­less Cardiff. Be­fore half­time, Olivier Giroud laid the ball off for Haz­ard to un­leash a strike that de­flected in off Bamba to send Chelsea in front. Haz­ard’s third came from the spot in the 80th af­ter a penalty was won by Wil­lian, who curled in the fourth three min­utes later. MONEY TALKS Tottenham spent noth­ing in the off-season. Liver­pool in­vested more than $200 mil­lion in new tal­ent. Now the ta­bles have turned in a ri­valry that saw Tottenham fin­ish a place ahead in third last season.

Liver­pool’s 2-1 vic­tory at Wembley pointed to a tight con­test. Af­ter Erik Lamela pulled one back in stop­page time, Son He­ung-min was un­for­tu­nate not to earn a stop­page-time penalty when South Korea’s re­turn­ing Asian Games cham­pion was kicked by Sa­dio Mane.

But Liver­pool was far more sprightly and dan­ger­ous on the ball in north Lon­don, while Tottenham — par­tic­u­larly striker Harry Kane — was lethar­gic. Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum and Roberto Firmino scored ei­ther side of half­time past Michel Vorm, who was dep­u­tiz­ing for in­jured goal­keeper Hugo Lloris. UNITED RE­COVER United is get­ting its season back on track af­ter a 3-0 hum­bling at home by Tottenham, with vic­tory be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break at Burn­ley fol­lowed by the suc­cess at Wat­ford.

Jose Mour­inho wasn’t com­pletely sat­is­fied. Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling both scored in­side three min­utes in the first half, but United had to with­stand a sec­ond-half fight­back that saw An­dre Gray left un­marked to re­duce the deficit.

United was re­duced to 10 men in stop­page time when Ne­manja Matic re­ceived a sec­ond book­ing for bring­ing down Will Hughes. It then took David de Gea’s fin­ger­tips save from Ab­doulaye Doucoure’s header to en­sure United claimed a third vic­tory. SANE OPENS AC­COUNT Voted the league’s best young player by his fel­low pro­fes­sion­als last season, the re­called Leroy Sane needed only two min­utes to score.

City’s Sil­vas com­bined for the sec­ond. A cross from Bernardo Silva de­flected into the path of David Silva, who net­ted with a halfvol­ley. Ra­heem Ster­ling tapped in two min­utes into the sec­ond half.

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