Dimitar Berbatov scored a hat-trick as Manchester United downed Liverpool 3-2, while Chelsea crushed Blackpool 4-0 to open up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League on Sunday.
Berbatov sealed victory for United with an 84th-minute winner at Old Trafford after Liverpool had recovered from two goals down thanks to a second-half brace from skipper Steven Gerrard.
The win saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side go level on points with second-placed Arsenal, but four points behind Chelsea, who maintained their 100 percent record with a ruthless demolition of Blackpool at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s fifth consecutive win was settled in the opening 45 minutes, with Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba and a Florent Malouda brace putting Carlo Ancelotti’s rampant Blues 4-0 up at the break.
The reigning champions have now rattled in a remarkable 21 goals in only five games and could have had a fifth had they not been denied a certain penalty in stoppage-time after a foul on Drogba.
In the day’s other match, Manchester City moved up to fourth with a 2-0 victory away at Wigan Athletic.
Skipper Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure got the goals at a rainswept DW Stadium as City registered their second victory of the campaign.
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini said his summer decision to hand the captaincy to Tevez was reaping dividends after watching the Argentine score, before setting up Toure’s first goal in English soccer.
“I thought about it during the summer and I spoke to Carlos about it,” Mancini said. “He is an important player, and he can improve as captain and we can have more of him.”
However, the story of the day was at Old Trafford, where Berbatov stole the show with a virtuoso display that left Liverpool shattered and languishing near the foot of the table in 16th position after five games.
It left Berbatov on top of the goalscoring charts with six goals from five games this season.
“It was probably my best day in a United shirt,” Berbatov said. “Obviously, I am happy. I am going home with a smile on my face, but I am nothing special. I am going home to play with my kids.”
Berbatov put United 1-0 ahead on 42 minutes after being left by marker Fernando Torres when Ryan Giggs swung in a corner.
The Bulgarian then doubled United’s lead on 59 minutes with a sublime effort, using one touch to control a Nani cross, before sending an overhead kick crashing in off the underside of the Liverpool bar.
Ferguson later hailed Berbatov’s performance, the striker enjoying his best run of form for United since his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur in 2008.
“There was a lot of criticism of him last season from the media, and it happens when we buy a player for a lot of money and he’s not scoring a hat-trick every game,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “This season he’s started off in the right fashion, his pre-season training was very good, the pre-season tour was good and he’s carried that on, but there’s never been any doubt about the quality of the man and we saw that again today.”
However, for the second league match running, United’s defensive frailties were exposed once more as Ferguson’s men saw a two-goal lead evaporate.
Centerback Jonny Evans blatantly brought down Torres in the box to allow Gerrard to convert a spot-kick on 64 minutes. Then six minutes later, United’s defense was at fault again for Liverpool’s equalizer.