LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool overcame another obstacle on the path to what looks an almost certain Premier League title triumph as they chalked up a record-breaking 20th win in 21 matches with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
With closest rivals Leicester City suffering a shock 2-1 home defeat by Southampton, Roberto Firmino’s goal sent Juergen Klopp’s side 16 points clear at the top with a game in hand.
Third-placed defending champions Manchester City, who are a point further back, visit lowly Aston Villa on Sunday.
Manchester United roared back to form with a 4-0 demolition of bottom club Norwich City while Chelsea maintained their grip on fourth place with a 3-0 defeat of Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
Southampton produced the biggest surprise of the day as they gained sweet revenge for a 9-0 home drubbing by Leicester in October, Danny Ings scoring a late winner.
Everton shrugged off last week’s FA Cup defeat by Liverpool as their improved league form continued with a 1-0 home win against Brighton & Hove Albion to move level on points with 10th-placed Arsenal who drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace.
Arsenal goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was sent off by the video assistant referee (VAR) for a rash tackle.
Injury-hit Newcastle United ended a three-game losing run as they grabbed a 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Liverpool and Tottenham contested the Champions League final in June but their now appears a chasm between the two clubs.
Klopp’s side are 31 points better off than Spurs, who are in eighth spot, and look unstoppable.
Their 61 points is the most after 21 games of a Premier Lesgue season and such a total has never been achieved at a similar stage of the season in any of Europe’s big five leagues.
“It’s special. To win the number of games, to always be ready to fight, that’s what the boys do,” Klopp said.
“The only thing is that you don’t get anything for best starts. The only thing we’re interested in is what we can get in the summer. This league is so strong. We have to be ready.”
Firmino’s 37th-minute goal proved enough for Liverpool although they had to withstand some late pressure from Jose Mourinho’s side for whom Giovani Lo Celso missed a sitter.
“We intensified the pressure more in the second half. We were more aggressive,” Mourinho, whose side are now nine points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, said.
Manchester United go to Liverpool next weekend and will do so with added momentum after Marcus Rashford scored twice to bury Norwich on his 200th appearance for the club. At 22 he is the third-youngest player to reach that milestone for United.
United, beaten at Arsenal in their last league game, were smarting from a 3-1 League Cup semi-final first-leg home defeat by Manchester City in midweek and Rashford gave them the lead against Norwich in the 27th minute from Juan Mata’s cross.
The visitors capitulated after halftime and goalkeeper Tim Krul needlessly conceded a penalty that Rashford tucked away.
Two minutes later Mata set up Anthony Martial for the third before substitute Mason Greenwood put the icing on the cake.
“We reacted today. We can bounce back and we’re taking more than two or three steps forward before one back because behind the scenes we know we are doing good work,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told reporters.
Chelsea’s home form has been a thorn in their side but they put that out of their minds to thump Burnley with a penalty from Jorginho and goals by Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
When second-placed Leicester took an early lead through Dennis Praet, Southampton’s fans must have feared the worst.
But the south-coast club have made a startling improvement since that dark October night and stunned the hosts with a deflected leveller from midfielder Stuart Armstrong.
Danny Ings, who had missed a slew of chances, struck the winner — his 14th league goal of the season — in the 81st minute after collecting a Che Adams pass.
Leicester thought they had levelled in the 90th but VAR ruled out Jonny Evans’ header.
“We didn’t want to have revenge, we wanted to show ourselves how far we’ve gone in our development,” Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris