Manchester City will spend Christmas top of the Premier League after Joao Cancelo’s superb performance helped the defending champions cruise past Newcastle on Sunday afternoon.
Defending champions City crushed Newcastle 4-0 to confirm their position at the top of the table at Christmas.
Eddie Howe’s side shot themselves in the foot in just the fifth minute, when calamitous defending handed City the lead after goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had carelessly conceded a corner.
The defence only half-cleared and Joao Cancelo hooked the ball back into the six-yard box. Newcastle appeared to be in little danger but Ciaran Clark inexplicably chose not to make a simple headed clearance and Ruben Dias headed the loose ball into the net.
The home side rallied and Joelinton went close to equalising with a stinging shot from distance that flew just wide of Ederson’s right-hand post.
But City silenced the passionate crowd at St James’s Park shortly before the half-hour, when Cancelo jinked his way past Joe Willock and Isaac Hayden before smashing a right-footed shot past the helpless Dubravka from the edge of the area.
City maintained their firm grip on the match in the second half, with Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling doubling their lead.
Pep Guardiola’s City have now won eight league games in a row to move four points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who are in action at Tottenham later on Sunday.
But relegation-threatened Newcastle remain three points from safety having now played two games more than Watford, who are just outside the drop zone.
The Magpies’ wealthy new Saudi-backed owners have indicated they will invest significantly in the squad but before the January transfer window opens they have fixtures against Manchester United and Everton.
Elsewhere, COVID-hit Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by Wolves on Sunday after the Premier League rejected their request to postpone the game as Manchester City put struggling Newcastle to the sword.
Just four games were left on the schedule this weekend out of the original 10 as Britain’s worsening coronavirus crisis took its toll on the Premier League.
Clubs will meet on Monday to discuss what action to take, with growing questions over the integrity of the competition as the busy festive period looms.
Stumbling Chelsea, who have struggled with illness and injuries in recent weeks, were only able to name four outfield players on the bench for their match at Molineux.
The visitors, who have now won just two of their past six league games, enjoyed the bulk of possession but mustered just one shot on target and are now six points behind leaders City.
Thomas Tuchel was without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who have all tested positive for Covid-19. Jorginho, Kai Havertz and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were also not in the squad.
Chelsea earlier confirmed that their request to have the game called off been turned down.
The European champions’ request is understood to have been rejected because the Blues were deemed to have had enough players to fulfil the fixture according to Premier League regulations.
“We did ask to postpone the game,” Tuchel confirmed before kick-off.
“We thought we had a strong case regarding the security and the health of the players.
“We have seven positive cases and every single day we’ve had another positive case coming in. We travelled together for three hours on the bus, we are in meetings together, we have lunch and dinners together. The situation does not feel like it will stop.”
Liverpool lost ground in the Premier League title race in a pulsating 2-2 draw at Tottenham that was packed with incident and saw Andrew Robertson sent off for the visitors.
On a weekend of depleted Premier League action, these sides served up a thrilling encounter packed with drama at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Both teams, however, also faced Covid-related interruptions to their own preparations.
Liverpool were missing a number of key players, with Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Thiago among those absent following positive Covid tests, while Jordan Henderson had a cold, allowing a first Premier League start for 19-year-old Tyler Morton, who was 10 days old when midfielder partner James Milner made his league debut in 2002.
Tottenham had to close their first-team training facility for three days last week and have had three games in five days postponed, despite travelling to Leicester on Thursday.
Harry Kane ended his Premier League goal drought when he found the bottom corner from Tanguy Ndombele’s pass but Spurs wasted a number of opportunities to double their lead.
Ndombele, making his first league start under Spurs manager, Antonio Conte, showed his undoubted quality with a superbly weighted pass for Kane that the England captain swept into the far corner for only his second goal in the Premier League this season and first in seven games.
Diogo Jota made the hosts pay on 35 minutes by heading in a cross from Robertson, who had missed a golden chance of his own in the opening 70 seconds.
For all Liverpool’s pressure, Tottenham could have been out of sight with Dele Alli – another awarded a chance by Conte – the next to fail to convert a glorious chance from Son’s clever pass, although Alisson got a vital fingertip to his effort.
Robertson then headed the Reds in front in the second half only for Son Heung-min to level after a mistake by Alisson four minutes later in an open and frenetic game.
After what had been a superb display, the Liverpool full-back was sent off for a reckless hack on Emerson Royal, a decision given after Paul Tierney reviewed the decision on the pitch-side monitor.
The draw extends Antonio Conte’s unbeaten league start at Tottenham to five games, though his side stay seventh with games in hand on those above them.
And while second-placed Liverpool may have slipped further behind leaders City, the Reds’ impressive form continues and they have now lost just once in the past 35 games in all competitions.
Klopp’s side also scored their 50th Premier League goal of the season in what is their 18th match, reaching that landmark faster than in any other previous top-flight campaign.
Additional reporting from AFP and BBC