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Sunday March 23, 2014 MYT 5:42:05 AM
Sunday March 23, 2014 MYT 5:42:05 AM
by toby davis
LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea ripped apart 10-man Premier League title rivals Arsenal in a 6-0 mauling on Saturday to ensure Arsene Wenger's 1,000th game turned sour as Liverpool and Manchester City kept up the pressure with big wins.
Yaya Toure scored a hat-trick, including two penalties, as City wrapped up a punishing 5-0 victory over 10-man Fulham and Luis Suarez's prolific run continued with a treble as Liverpool twice came from behind to thrash Cardiff City 6-3.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scored twice, including a wonder strike from near the halfway line reminiscent of a goal by the watching David Beckham, in a 2-0 win at West Ham United.
The goals were spread about for Chelsea with Samuel Eto'o, Andre Schuerrle, Eden Hazard, Oscar (2) and Mohamed Salah on target for the leaders in a match likely to be remembered for a bizarre refereeing blunder as much as the hosts' cut and thrust.
Official Andre Marriner flashed a red card at Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs for a handball on the goalline when his team mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the culprit.
The referee "expressed his disappointment to Arsenal when he was made aware of the issue", the Professional Game Match Officials later said in a statement, while the FA said on Twitter that Arsenal can appeal against mistaken identity.
The sending-off did little to affect the destination of the points, however, as Arsenal were already 2-0 down when defender Gibbs was dismissed and Hazard stepped up to convert the resulting penalty to make it 3-0 after 17 minutes.
Chelsea stayed four points clear of second-placed Liverpool, the Londoners having played a game more, with Manchester City six adrift of the leaders in third but with three games in hand. Arsenal slipped to fourth seven points off the pace.
Norwich City midfielder Alex Tettey added to Saturday's tally of 32 Premier League goals with a scorching volley into the top corner from 25 metres as they improved their chances of avoiding the drop by beating relegation rivals Sunderland 2-0.
Everton moved up to fifth with a 3-2 win over struggling Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion lost 2-0 at Hull City and Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse scored in stoppage time to inflict a painful 1-0 defeat on lowly Crystal Palace.
Arsenal manager Wenger did not have to wait long to realise his 1,000th game would not be a fond occasion to look back on.
It was the second time in six weeks that his side had visited a major title rival and left with their tails between their legs after a 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool last month.
In a similar vein to that encounter, their defence was all at sea in the early stages at Stamford Bridge, allowing Chelsea to effectively wrap up the points within minutes of the kickoff.
"We started incredibly," Mourinho told BT Sport. "Seven minutes gone we were 2-0 up, it's game over...We were too strong for them."
Terrible defending allowed Chelsea to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, with Eto'o curling a superb left-foot finish into the corner for the opener and Schuerrle finishing with a low drive to make it 2-0 after seven minutes.
It was then referee Marriner's turn to rival Arsenal's blundering backline for the day's costliest error as he gave Gibbs his marching orders after Oxlade-Chamberlain had made a diving fingertip save to deny Hazard.
Replays showed an incredulous Oxlade-Chamberlain mouthing, "It was me" at the official, but the decision stood, with Hazard
firing home from the spot and Oscar sidefooting in from close range to make it 4-0 at the break.
Oscar curled in a second and Salah came off the bench to slot home his first goal for the club to complete the rout and leave Wenger nursing a painful sense of personal failure.
"This defeat is my fault," he said. "I take full responsibility for it. I don't think there's too much need to talk about the mistakes we made. We got a good hiding today."
Liverpool also hit six, but were given a testing workout by a Cardiff side scrapping for their Premier League lives.
Goals from their Uruguay forward Suarez and defender Martin Skrtel cancelled out Cardiff efforts by Jordan Mutch and Fraizer Campbell, before Liverpool took control.
Slovakian Skrtel headed his second of the game and Suarez netted another after an audacious backheel across goal from strike partner Daniel Sturridge, who then got in on the act himself with a close-range finish.
Mutch reduced the deficit with two minutes left but Suarez grabbed his hat-trick with a calm finish when through on goal to equal Robbie Fowler's Premier League record for Liverpool with his 28th league goal of the season.
Manchester City's powerhouse Ivory Coast midfielder Toure scored two penalties and a stunning third from 25 metres to put City in control against bottom club Fulham who had Fernando Amorebieta sent off after 53 minutes.
Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis added two more late on to give the scoreline a humiliating feel for Felix Magath's side.
City's local rivals United picked up where they left off after beating Olympiakos Piraeus in the Champions League in midweek, with England striker Rooney shining in a central striking role in the absence of the injured Robin van Persie.
His looping effort from nearly 50 metres bamboozled West Ham's Spanish keeper Adrian who completely lost his bearings as Rooney's volley bounced into the net.
"I think it's just instinct," Rooney told Sky Sports as he joked it was better than Beckham's strike against Wimbledon in 1996. "I've turned, had a quick look and seen the keeper off his line. I've tried that many times but thankfully it's gone in."
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Rooney's second was handed to him on a plate as Mark Noble's poor clearance landed at his feet and was stroked home to leave United in seventh place, two points behind Tottenham Hotspur who play on Sunday.
Everton kept up their push for European football with a Leighton Baines penalty before Romelu Lukaku put them back in front after Wilfried Bony's leveller. Ross Barkley made it 3-1 with a header before Ashley Williams grabbed a late consolation.
Norwich fans have had little cheer this season but Tettey's volley from 25 metres, a feat of extraordinary technique, had them on their feet at Carrow Road after Robert Snodgrass had put them ahead against Sunderland.
(Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)
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