LONDON: Chelsea showed no mercy in extending their Premier League lead to six points yesterday, brushing aside promoted Norwich City 4-0 while second-placed Everton were held to a 0-0 draw at Blackburn Rovers.
First-half goals from Damien Duff, Frank Lampard and Arjen Robben and a superb Didier Drogba header late on handed Jose Mourinho's side a comfortable win at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, who have now hit four goals in six of their last nine league games, hold an eight-point advantage over champions Arsenal who can reduce that gap to five if they overcome Portsmouth at Fratton Park today.
Manchester United, in fifth, host Crystal Palace in yesterday's evening clash.
Chelsea, who never had to hit top gear, served up another four-goal show for their fans in defeating a Norwich side who have won only two matches since their return to the top flight.
A shock was never in doubt once Duff was gifted his seventh goal of the season on 10 minutes from a wayward pass.
More slack defending led to Dutch winger Robben squaring for Lampard to crash an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net for his 50th Premier League goal and Robben hit the third just before halftime. Substitute Drogba added the gloss with a fine header from Duff's corner seven minutes from time.
Everton remained in am automatic Champions League place but missed the chance to notch their 12th victory against a resilient Blackburn side who edged out of the relegation zone by taking a point at Ewood Park.
Blackburn, without a home league win since September, could have taken all three in stoppage time but Brett Emerton's deflected shot struck the woodwork.
Middlesbrough leapfrogged Manchester United into fourth, completing a satisfactory week by following up Wednesday's UEFA Cup win over Partizan Belgrade by seeing off Aston Villa 3-0 at the Riverside.
The result slightly flattered Boro who conceded the majority of possession to Villa but took the points with goals from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Joseph-Desire Job and Michael Reiziger.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Martin Jol described Jermain Defoe as the complete striker this week and the 22-year-old rewarded his faith with a first Premier League hat-trick in a 5-1 demolition of hapless Southampton.
The England striker showed the skills and finishing that will make him an international regular in years to come to as Spurs moved up to seventh with their fourth league win a row their best run since 1995.
Defoe struck twice inside the first half-hour at White Hart Lane and completed his hat-trick after Frederic Kanoute had put Spurs three up at the break. Peter Crouch gave Saints a lifeline but Harry Redknapp's side remain stuck in the bottom three.
Manchester City inflicted a fourth successive league defeat on Bolton Wanderers, midfielder Joey Barton tapping in the only goal for a 1-0 success at the Reebok.
Birmingham City cruised to their second Premier League derby win in six days, crushing bottom side West Bromwich Albion 4-0 to leave manager Bryan Robson still seeking his first win.
Albion have picked up just one point in six games since Robson took over as manager and face an uphill struggle to escape relegation.
Birmingham went three up in the first half hour at St Andrews through Robbie Savage, Clinton Morrison and Emile Heskey. Ex-England striker Heskey completed the rout 10 minutes from time when he deflected in Darren Anderton's free kick. Reuters