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Soccer-Leaders City beat Chelsea, Everton drift into trouble

Randy Mancini 8 Jan 15
Premier League - Manchester City v Chelsea
Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Chelsea - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - January 15, 2022 Manchester City's Bernardo Silva in action with Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic REUTERS/Peter Powell

January 15, 2022

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City took a step closer to a fourth title in five seasons with a 1-0 win over second-placed Chelsea on Saturday, opening up a 13 point lead over the London club at the top.

Rafa Benitez’s troubles at Everton continued as they suffered a 2-1 loss to Norwich City, who move off the bottom of the table with their third win of the campaign.

Newcastle United remain in relegation trouble after a late equaliser from Watford earned Claudio Ranieri’s side a point at St James’ Park.

City’s 12th win in a row, thanks to a 70th minute solo strike from Kevin De Bruyne, continues their charge towards a successful defence of their title but manager Pep Guardiola was quick to dismiss such talk.

Third-placed Liverpool are 14 points behind City but have two games in hand, including Sunday’s game at home to Brentford.

“(The players) are going to listen to me that it is not true when people say it is over. In January it is impossible it is over,” Guardiola said.

“If Liverpool win the game in hand, it’s eight points. Now my job is to put in the brains of my players to not believe what the people say. But 12 wins – 36 points from 36 – hats off to them,” the Spaniard added.

After a first half which saw few clear chances, other than Jack Grealish being foiled by Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea had an opportunity to take the lead after the break but Romelu Lukaku’s shot was well saved by Ederson.

City were well in control of the game for large spells and took the three points after De Bruyne burst away from N’golo Kante and beat Kepa with a superb shot into the far corner.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was critical with the performance of his attack, in particular Lukaku, who recently had to apologise for an interview with Italian media.

“He had many ball losses without any pressure, many ball losses in very promising circumstances,” the German told reporters.

“He had a huge chance. We want to serve him, but he is part of the team, and the performance up front, particularly in the first half, we can do much, much better.”

NORWICH LIFELINE

Norwich City threw themselves a lifeline in their battle against relegation but sucked Everton into the mire thanks to a 2-1 victory at Carrow Road.

An own goal by Michael Keane and Adam Idah’s close-range finish in the space of two first half minutes broke Norwich’s long goal famine to put them in control.

Everton fans vented their fury at manager Rafa Benitez but were given something to cheer when Richarlison halved the deficit on the hour mark to set up a tense finale.

Norwich had to endure seven minutes of stoppage time as Everton desperately searched for an equaliser but Dean Smith’s struggling side held on for their third league win of the season to move off the foot of the table.

Everton’s defeat leaves them in 15th place, six points above the relegation zone.

Newcastle United had hoped the addition of 25 million pound ($34.18 million) New Zealand striker Chris Wood, signed from relegation rivals Burnley in midweek, would boost their survival chances but they had to settle for a disappointing point at home to relegation rivals Watford.

Allan Saint-Maximin put the home side in front four minutes after the break with a brilliant solo effort but Watford responded well with Joshua King and Moussa Sissoko both missing excellent chances before Joao Pedro popped up to head home brilliantly in the 88th minute.

Newcastle are in 19th place on 12 points, one ahead of bottom club Burnley, whose game against Leicester City was postponed due to COVID.

Norwich are in 18th place on 13 points while Watford are a point and place above them.

Eighth-placed Wolves continued their good form with a 3-1 home win over Southampton with Raul Jimenez, Conor Coady and Adama Traore on target.

Aston Villa were hosting Manchester United later on Saturday.

($1 = 0.7314 pounds)

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge)