LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool roared back into the mix for a top-four finish with a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday that opened the door for Chelsea to strengthen their vice-like hold on the Premier League title race.
Two goals from Sadio Mane in a vibrant first half scuppered second-placed Tottenham’s hopes of cutting Chelsea’s lead to six points and the Blues will go 12 points clear with 13 matches left if they win at Burnley on Sunday.
While Chelsea look unstoppable, the real battle is below them where only two points separate Tottenham and sixth-placed Manchester United.
Arsenal put two Premier League defeats - and days of uncertainty about manager Arsene Wenger - behind them to beat Hull City 2-0 and move above Manchester City into third.
United stayed sixth after beating Watford 2-0 - a victory that meant they become the first club to reach 2,000 points in the Premier League since it began in 1992.
Fifth-placed Manchester City play Bournemouth on Monday when victory would leapfrog them into second.
At the other end of the table, the bottom three all lost with 20th-placed Sunderland thrashed 4-0 at home by Southampton, for whom new striker Manolo Gabbiadini scored twice, and 19th- placed Crystal Palace going down 1-0 at Stoke City.
Liverpool were without a league win in 2017 and had been knocked out of both domestic cups during a recent slump, but rediscovered their verve to outplay a lacklustre Tottenham side whose nine-game uneaten league run came to shuddering halt.
Senegalese Mane, whose absence on African Nations Cup duty coincided with Liverpool’s slump, scored in the 16th and 18th minutes and could have doubled his total.
Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp was delighted as his side moved into fourth place, a point behind the two north London clubs and ahead of Manchester City on goal difference.
“Today the pressure was on us but we dealt with it,” Klopp said. “We had a really bad period. We are still around, not with Chelsea but with the rest.”
Alexis Sanchez scored both goals for Arsenal at the Emirates, although his first in the 34th minute owed much to luck as the ball went into the via his hand.
“The referee apologised to us after halftime and said it was a handball,” Hull defender Andrew Robertson said.
The Chilean’s second also came via a goalline handball, this time from Hull’s Sam Clucas in stoppage time, which led to a penalty and sending-off. Sanchez’s spot-kick took his tally to 17 goals in 25 league games, including four against Hull.
At Old Trafford, Manchester United looked unrecognisable from the side who spluttered through the early months of the season and extended their unbeaten league run to 16 games.
Juan Mata put them ahead before Anthony Martial doubled their lead after the break.
“Sixteen games unbeaten is an amazing record,” United manager Jose Mourinho said.
Southampton are getting an instant return on the 14 million pounds ($17.5 million) they paid Napoli for Italy striker Gabbiadini on transfer deadline day.
His brace against Sunderland, including a brilliant turn and shot, means he has now scored three in two games.
Sunderland and Palace remained rooted to the bottom on 19 points after Joe Allen’s sixth league goal of the season for Stoke - his best-ever haul - was enough to see off Sam Allardyce’s struggling Palace side.
Fifteenth-placed Middlesbrough earned a valuable 0-0 draw to move two points clear of third-bottom Hull. Champions Leicester City face a relegation battle at Swansea City on Sunday.
Mid-table West Bromwich Albion had Gareth McAuley’s last-gasp equaliser to thank for a 2-2 draw at West Ham United.
Editing by Ed Osmond