LIVERPOOL, England (AP) :One by one, Chelsea’s closest challengers are falling away in the English Premier League title race.After implosions by Manchester City, Liverpool, and then Arsenal over the past month, it was second-place Tottenham’s turn to trip up yesterday.Spurs were outplayed at Liverpool in a 2-0 loss and could be 12 points behind Chelsea if the leaders beat Burnley today. With 13 rounds remaining, Chelsea could then canter to a second title in three years.Sadio ManÈ scored both goals in a two-minute spell in the first half, as Liverpool rediscovered their form of the first half of the season to gain a first-league win in six attempts in 2017.It was only Tottenham’s third loss in this campaign and instead of having faint hopes of catching Chelsea, the priority for Mauricio Pochettino’s players will be preserving a top-four place to get back in the Champions League. In a potentially demoralising defeat, they were outplayed and out-pressed by Liverpool.Arsenal and Manchester United also won 2-0, against Hull and Watford, respectively, as the race for a top-four finish intensified. Two points separate Tottenham and sixth-place United.LIVERPOOL 2 TOTTENHAM 0ManÈ scored in the 16th and 18th minutes to cap a first half in which Liverpool blew away Tottenham with their intensity and movement that had been lacking in recent games.Liverpool’s slump in form coincided with ManÈ’s absence at the African Cup of Nations in January, and his return could be the catalyst the team needs to clinch a top-four place.ManÈ raced through the middle to latch on to Georginio Wijnaldum’s pass and lifted home a well-taken finish for his first, and was celebrating again after driving a rising shot into the net from close range.Spurs were so overwhelmed, they should have lost by a bigger margin.”It’s difficult to fight for the Premier League if you show that performance,” Pochettino said. “There was a lack of aggression and desire to play for a win.”MAN UNITED 2 WATFORD 0Recalled to the team, Anthony Martial took his opportunity to impress United manager JosÈ Mourinho.The France winger set up Juan Mata for a 31st-minute opener against Watford before scoring the second in the 60th in a comfortable win for United at Old TraffordMartial – signed for £36 million in 2015 – has been in and out of the team under Mourinho, who has called on him to show improvement with so many other wide players competing for places.United extended their unbeaten streak in the league to 16 games.ARSENAL 2 HULL 0It was a tale of two handballs at Emirates Stadium.Alexis S·nchez bundled in his first goal from close range using his right hand, with officials deciding it was accidental as the ball deflected up off goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovi.In injury time, Hull midfielder Sam Clucas blocked a header from Lucas PerÈz on the goal line using his hand and was sent off. S·nchez drove home a low penalty for a league-high 17th goal of the season.Other results: Sunderland 0 Southampton 4; Stoke City 1 Crystal Palace 0; West Ham 2 West Brom 2; Middlesbrough 0 Everton 0.
The best playmaker in England?Juan Mata produced an inspired performance to help spearhead Manchester United’s crucial comeback victory over Wolfsburg in the Champions League on Wednesday night.United prevailed 2-1 to earn their first group stage points of the season, mainly thanks to the Spaniard’s penalty and a sublime piece of skill to set up Chris Smalling for the winner.Red Devils fans waxed lyrical about their number eight throughout the 90 minutes, and many of the best Twitter reactions can be found below: Juan Mata 1