London, Dec 26 (IANS) Defending champions Manchester City and Arsenal registered big wins while Tottenham Hotspur defeated Crystal Palace 3-0 — all three clubs reaping rich rewards in a Premier League in a Boxing Day schedule disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Manchester City made it nine Premier League wins in succession to move six points clear at the top of the table after a remarkable 6-3 victory over Leicester.
In an extraordinary game at the Etihad, City were 4-0 up inside 25 minutes thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling. But Leicester came roaring back to hit three goals in the space of ten second-half minutes to turn the contest on its head. But Aymeric Laporte’s emphatic header made it 5-3 for City before Sterling scored his second goal late in the game to seal victory for Pep Guardiola’s side.
It was chaotic, breathless, and thoroughly entertaining — the highest-scoring Boxing Day fixture in the Premier League era.
Things turned out to be equally profitable for Arsenal as they won their fourth League match on the trot – five in all competitions — with a comprehensive 5-0 away victory against Norwich City.
In a match that Arsenal dominated for large parts, Bukayo Saka scored once in each half, sandwiched by a fine Kieran Tierney goal and an Alex Lacazette penalty. Emile Smith Rowe’s injury-time strike ensured the Gunners moved to within three points of third-placed Chelsea.
Having been hit with a spate of Covid absences, Mikel Arteta had to shuffle his pack and with no fit specialised right back, Ben White moved across and Rob Holding came into the heart of the defence. The shuffling of players worked wonders for Arsenal as they cruised to victory.
There was Boxing Day delight for Tottenham too they enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over Crystal Palace thanks to goals from Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, and Heun’-Min Son.
It’s a day the Spurs will certainly relish playing on, as they made it 15 consecutive Boxing Day games without defeat with this result at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — winning 12 of them — the longest run of any team in the top four divisions of English football.
The Spurs’ entertaining first-half display got the goals they deserved just after the half-hour mark, with two in quick succession as Kane fired them ahead from a Lucas cross before the Brazilian showed great determination and athleticism to climb above Joachim Andersen and power home a header two minutes later.
Palace’s task was then made all the more difficult in the 37th minute when Wilfried Zaha picked up his second yellow card — both for fouls committed on Davinson Sanchez — and was sent off.
With the man advantage, Arsenal were able to take control of the game after the interval and, apart from a brief spell of pressure from the visitors, they were comfortable throughout the half, adding to the scoreline when Son converted via another Lucas assist with 16 minutes remaining.
In another match, Southampton prevailed over West Ham United 3-2.
Sunday’s results mean Man City are at the top with 47 points from 19 games, six points ahead of second-placed Liverpool whose match against Leeds United was postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.
Chelsea are third with 39 but could move ahead of Liverpool if they manage to beat Aston Villa in a late match. Arsenal are fourth with 35 points from 19 games while the Spurs are occupying the fifth spot with 39 points from 16 matches.
It was an unusual Boxing Day in English football as three matches — Liverpool v Leeds United, Wolverhampton v Watford and Burnley v Everton — were postponed as teams did not have enough players for a playing XI because of Covid-19 cases and injuries.