September 15, 2018 / 1:41 PM / 10 days ago

Relentless Liverpool sweep Spurs aside as Chelsea go top

LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Wembley on Saturday to post a fifth consecutive win at the start of the season for the first time since 1990-91 and banish the memory of last year’s London mauling by Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 15, 2018 Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (not pictured) scores their second goal as Tottenham's Michel Vorm looks on REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Chelsea, though, have also recorded a perfect start after Eden Hazard scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Cardiff City, allowing them to edge past Liverpool on goal difference at the top of the Premier League.

It is the first time in 110 years that two top-tier English teams have won their opening five games - and it would have been three had Watford beaten Manchester United but the Hornets surrendered their 100 percent record after losing 2-1 in Saturday’s late kick-off.

Liverpool’s goals came from Georginio Wijnaldum — his first away from home in the Premier League — and Roberto Firmino, who went off with an eye injury but later confirmed it was not serious.

Such was the visitors’ dominance, they could have scored half a dozen times, with Mo Salah twice going close and Tottenham’s defence always looking vulnerable until Erik Lamela’s late strike gave them hope of an unlikely point.

Liverpool held their nerve and look nothing like the team who Spurs ripped apart 4-1 last season.

“We have to show progress,” said Juergen Klopp, who said the performance was Liverpool’s best of the season.

“It was maybe our best against Tottenham in all the years I’ve been here. But only five per cent less and we would have lost. I don’t think Tottenham played bad. We were that good it was difficult for Tottenham.”

At Stamford Bridge Chelsea ran out comfortable winners despite conceding a 16th-minute Sol Bamba opener.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea v Cardiff City - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - September 15, 2018 Cardiff City's Joe Ralls in action with Chelsea's N'Golo Kante REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

That was the cue for Hazard to take charge, scoring on 37, 44 and 80 minutes, the last goal coming from the penalty spot. Willian added their fourth late on to ensure Chelsea’s goal difference is marginally better than Liverpool’s at the top.

Hazard’s display drew glowing praise from Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, who said: “He can become maybe the best player in Europe in the next two years.”

Champions Manchester City remain two points off the pace after a routine 3-0 win over Fulham, who fell behind on two minutes to Leroy Sane and never looked capable of forcing their way back into the game. David Silva and Raheem Sterling also netted. The only worry for City was an ankle injury to Sergio Aguero.

United hit Watford with a one-two halfway through the first half with goals from Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling, whose left-foot volley would have done any forward proud.

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Although Watford set up a tense finish with a goal from Andre Gray, United, who had Nemanja Matic sent off late on, held on to allow manager Jose Mourinho another chance to salute the fans at the final whistle.

Bournemouth sprang the surprise of the day, beating Leicester City 4-2. It was a performance to back up manager Eddie Howe’s pre-match assertion that his side, who have won three of their first five games, have closed the gap on the division’s top teams.

The match was effectively over before the break, with Ryan Fraser scoring twice and Josh King adding a third from the penalty spot. Adam Smith made it 4-0 before James Maddison and Marc Albrighton replied late on.

Leicester’s miserable afternoon was compounded by Wes Morgan’s 69th-minute dismissal — his first in four years — for a second yellow card offence.

Arsenal provided further signs that they have put their jittery start behind them by winning 2-1 at Newcastle United, who now have just one point from five games. Granit Xhaka’s excellent free kick opened the scoring with Mesut Ozil ensuring Arsenal won consecutive away league games for the first time since May 2017.

In the day’s other game, Roy Hodgson celebrated the first anniversary of his appointment as Crystal Palace manager with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield Town. The scorer, predictably enough, was Wilfried Zaha, who marked his return from injury with a stunning solo effort.

But Zaha questioned the protection he is getting from referees. “I feel like I’d have to get my leg broken for anyone to get a card,” he said.

Writing by Neil Robinson; Editing by Clare Fallon and Tony Lawrence

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