Liverpool remained in pole position in the English Premier League as the top four in the table all won on Saturday. The Reds’ 3-1 victory away to struggling Blackburn Rovers kept them a point ahead of Chelsea, after the Londoners beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0.
Chelsea’s win saw them surpass Tottenham Hotspur’s English record of 10 successive top-flight away victories set in 1960.
Reigning champions Manchester United remained six points behind Liverpool in third place, although it needed Nemanja Vidic’s stoppage-time goal to secure a 1-0 win over managerless Sunderland at Old Trafford.
Arsenal stayed in the top four with a 1-0 win at home to Wigan Athletic secured by a goal from Emmanuel Adebayor.
Elsewhere, Newcastle United, on course for victory after Michael Owen scored twice, were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Stoke City, while Hull City came from behind to beat Middlesbrough 2-1.
Earlier, Fulham and Manchester City shared the points in a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was pleased by his side’s return to winning ways against Blackburn Rovers after their goalless draw on Monday against lowly West Ham United.
“Clearly, it was an important three points for us,” the Spaniard said. “We are in a very good position and we want to stay there.”
Spain international Xabi Alonso broke the deadlock at Ewood Park in the 69th minute when he side-footed in Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s cross.
Then, 10 minutes later, Yossi Benayoun went past Stephen Warnock before shooting beyond Paul Robinson in the Rovers goal.
Roque Santa Cruz pulled a goal back four minutes from time, before Gerrard wrapped up the three points with an injury-time effort.
The defeat increased the pressure on Blackburn boss Paul Ince, the former Liverpool midfielder, with Rovers still rooted in the relegation zone after a fifth successive defeat.
Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins, a former Blues captain, praised his team’s attitude as well as their skill after the win over Bolton Wanderers.
“I thought the spirit and commitment the guys showed was absolutely first-class, coupled with some extremely good passing of the ball as well,” Wilkins said.
Former Bolton striker Nicolas Anelka headed Chelsea into a ninth-minute lead at the Reebok Stadium. The Blues made it 2-0 in spectacular fashion through Portugal midfielder Deco’s acrobatic bicycle-kick in the 21st minute.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who saw Vidic shoot into an unguarded net after Michael Carrick’s deflected strike hit the post against Sunderland, said: “We deserved to win simply because we were the team that wanted to win and Sunderland, understandably, wanted to survive.”
Sunderland caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia said: “The players are disappointed, but they gave us everything.”
All the goals at Hull City’s KC Stadium came in a frantic final 11 minutes. Middlesbrough went ahead through Turkey international Tuncay Sanli, only for Hull to equalize three minutes later when Bernard Mendy’s shot eventually went in off goalkeeper Ross Turnbull for an own-goal.
Hull, fifth in the table, then went ahead through Marlon King’s 85th minute penalty, with Boro’s David Wheater sent off for the foul on Geovanni that led to the spot kick.
At St James’ Park, Owen gave Newcastle United the lead against Stoke City when he turned in an eighth-minute cross from Jonas Gutierrez, before making it 2-0 in the 24th minute after good work by Obafemi Martins.