Chelsea, Liverpool perfect after 5
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.