EPL Week 24 Saturday results: Goals galore as Chelsea lead stays at nine points

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Saturday February 4th, 2017

Chelsea increased its lead at the top of the English Premier League table thanks to a 3–1 win over Arsenal, while multi-goal thrillers in the remainder of the fixtures will continue to make things interesting throughout the table. 

Full recaps and highlights from Saturday's action are below...

Eden Hazard scores mesmerizing solo goal as Chelsea beats Arsenal

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Saturday February 4th, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Eden Hazard ran half the length of the pitch, fending off Arsenal's brittle resistance, to score a mesmerizing solo goal as Chelsea coasted to a 3-1 victory on its charge to the Premier League title.

A goal of such exceptional quality, between Marcos Alonso's header and Cesc Fabregas' lob into an empty net, embodied the leaders' transformation since a 3-0 loss in the reverse fixture in September.

That defeat saw an eight-point chasm open up between Chelsea, then in eighth place, and front-runner Manchester City. Now, Chelsea is 12 points in front of north London clubs Tottenham and Arsenal at the summit.

Coming four days after a home loss to Watford, it was another unsettling day for a bedraggled Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger, who was forced to watch from the stands as he continued his four-match touchline ban for pushing a fourth official. The Frenchman was right in the middle of the celebrating Chelsea fans as Hazard produced a moment of magic eight minutes into the second half.

It was a fusion of strength, aggression and pace that four Arsenal players couldn't disrupt.

Hazard started the run from the center circle. Laurent Koscielny was the first opponent brushed aside and Francis Coquelin was left spinning, trying forlornly to put in a tackle before slipping to the turf.

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Hazard just continued to zip forward. Koscielny had darted back in defense, but was as ineffective immobilizing Hazard a second time. Hazard weaved his way past the captain and then outmuscled Shkodran Mustafi before slotting a low shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech.

The Belgian international has 10 goals in 23 appearances this season, eclipsing last season's haul of four in 31. There was awe at the goal across the stadium: Owner Roman Abramovich was high-fiving people in his executive box and manager Antonio Conte flung himself into the crowd behind the dugout, swarmed by fans.

It was a day when they had much to celebrate, starting with Alonso's 13th-minute goal.

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Diego Costa initially nodded a cross against the bar and Alonso darted in to meet the rebound with a header. The wing back had caught the side of Hector Bellerin's head with his arm as he leapt over the defender but he was not penalized. Following concussion protocols, a dazed Bellerin was forced off, injured.

Little went Arsenal's way at Stamford Bridge. Even the usually reliable Cech was exposed on his return to his former club. With five minutes to go, the goalkeeper's misplaced clearance went straight to former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, who chipped the ball into an empty net.

Arsenal's only achievement was denying Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois a clean sheet, with substitute Olivier Giroud heading in a stoppage-time consolation.

Harry Kane penalty leads Tottenham over Middlesbrough

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Saturday February 4th, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Harry Kane's penalty was decisive as Tottenham took advantage of its rivals' losses and secured a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the Premier League on Saturday.

Despite being frustrated for long periods by the organized Middlesbrough defense, Kane's 14th league goal this season was enough to secure a vital three points at White Hart Lane for second-placed Tottenham.

With Arsenal and Liverpool both having lost earlier on Saturday, Tottenham seized the opportunity to move ahead of its rivals at the top of the table behind leader Chelsea.

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The crucial moment came in the 58th as Heung-Min Son cut inside from the left side of the Middlesbrough penalty area and Espinosa Bernardo brought down the South Korea forward for a clear penalty.

Kane made no mistake as he sent Victor Valdes the wrong way to give his side a lead it never looked like relinquishing.

Aside from Bernardo's blip in concentration, Middlesbrough had done well to frustrate a Spurs team, which has now won its last seven league games at White Hart Lane and boasts the only unbeaten home record in the division.

Valdes saved well from Son early on and did well to keep out Christian Eriksen's powerful strike moments after Spurs had taken the lead, while Kane had a goal rightly ruled out for offside three minutes before the break.

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Middlesbrough's resilience was no surprise. Aitor Karanka's team holds the third best defensive record away from home in the Premier League, but its shortcomings at the other end were apparent.

Alvaro Negredo's header over the bar after just four minutes was the closest Middlesbrough came until stoppage time, when substitute Patrick Bamford came close to snatching a point for the visitors as he shot narrowly wide.

Nine points behind Chelsea, Tottenham moved three points clear of Arsenal and four of Liverpool.

Middlesbrough has now failed to win its last seven league games and remains 15th, just one point above the relegation zone and two points clear of bottom team Sunderland.

Lukaku hits four, Everton tops Bournemouth in nine-goal thriller

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Saturday February 4th, 2017

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Romelu Lukaku scored four goals, his first after just 30 seconds, in Everton's 6-3 demolition of Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday.

Almost immediately after the opening whistle, Lukaku breached Bournemouth's defense with the Belgium striker weaving past defenders to curl in a superb finish. It was the quickest goal scored by Everton at Goodison Park in the Premier League and also the joint fastest in the top flight this season. Chelsea's Pedro also scored after 30 seconds against Manchester United in October.

Lukaku then turned provider for Everton's second goal midway through the first half although it had a touch of luck. Lukaku did all the hard work, cutting the ball back from the right to James McCarthy whose shot struck Steven Cook before bouncing back off the Everton man's knee and into the net.

Having conceded twice just a quarter of the way through the game, Bournemouth could not afford to make any further mistakes at the back but Simon Francis then gifted Everton a third goal five minutes later.

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Francis gave away the ball to Lukaku who then only had Artur Boruc to beat. He did that comfortably, lifting the ball over the Polish 'keeper.

Bournemouth made a fight of it after halftime and threatened a comeback when Joshua King scored twice to make it 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining.

But Lukaku struck twice more in quick succession and even though Harry Arter got another back for Bournemouth, Ross Barkley grabbed a sixth goal for Everton in stoppage time.

Everton is seventh in the league, with Bournemouth 14th.

Liverpool stumbles again in 2–0 loss to Hull

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Saturday February 4th, 2017

HULL, England (AP) — Liverpool's hopes of making a Premier League title challenge appear over after its poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Hull.

Juergen Klopp's side, with only one win in its last 10 games in all competitions, was sunk by a goal in each half from newcomer Alfred N'Diaye and Oumar Niasse.

Liverpool, which drew midweek against Chelsea after three straight defeats, is still without a league win this year and now trails league leader Chelsea by 13 points.

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N'Diaye, on loan from Spanish team Villarreal, pounced in the 44th minute after Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had flapped at a corner.

In a scrappy game, Liverpool had more possession but failed to create enough chances to score.

Philippe Coutinho wasted Liverpool's best effort when he skewed wide and Hull made sure of three points when Niasse, on loan from Liverpool rival Everton, raced clear to slot in a second goal six minutes from time.

First half flurry leads Sunderland to big win over Crystal Palace

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Saturday February 4th, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Sunderland scored three times in the final six minutes of the first half, including two goals in added time by Jermain Defoe, in a 4-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday that spoiled manager Sam Allardyce's first game against his former club.

Sebastian Larsson found Lamine Kone with a free kick in the ninth minute to put Sunderland ahead before Didier Ndong doubled the lead in the 43rd. Defoe then finished from a tight angle in the first minute of added time before beating goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey again shortly after.

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Former England manager Allardyce saved Sunderland from relegation late last season and was hired in December to do the same at Palace.

Sunderland had not scored four goals in its last nine away Premier League games combined.

Sunderland remains last with 19 points from 24 games. Last-but-one Palace also has 19 points.

West Ham rallies from behind in 3–1 win vs. Southampton

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Saturday February 4th, 2017

SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — Defender Jose Fonte made a winning return to St. Mary's stadium as West Ham rallied from a goal down to beat Southampton 3-1 in the Premier League on Saturday.

Fonte joined West Ham in the January transfer window and the center-back's departure, along with an injury to Virgil van Dijk, left the hosts with weaknesses in defense.

The Saints did score first through new signing Manolo Gabbiadini, who joined on transfer deadline day from Napoli.

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Gabbiadini smashed the ball home off the underside of the bar in the 12th minute but Southampton's lead lasted only two minutes. Andy Carroll equalized with his fourth goal in four games after the big front man was sent clear.

Pedro Obiang beat Fraser Forster with a deflected strike from 30 meters (yards) — his first league goal for West Ham — to put the visitors ahead just before halftime.

Mark Noble's 52nd-minute free kick gave the Hammers a two-goal cushion.

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