This season, Chelsea’s “Special One” might well be Eden Hazard, after the Belgium international produced another superb display on Saturday, scoring a hat-trick to move Jose Mourinho’s team top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Newcastle United, as their main title rivals struggled.
Liverpool exposed previous leaders Arsenal’s frailties in a 5-1 drubbing at Anfield, while third-placed Manchester City was held to a goalless draw at Norwich City.
Hazard, coming off an excellent performance in Chelsea’s surprise win at Man City on Monday last week, scored twice within seven minutes in the first half before adding another from the penalty spot after the interval.
Liverpool went on a scoring rampage at lunchtime, netting four in the first 20 minutes to end Arsenal’s eight-match unbeaten streak.
Hazard’s first goal came in the 27th minute when he slotted home a Branislav Ivanovic pass.
Chelsea struck again on the counterattack as Hazard played a beautiful one-two with Samuel Eto’o.
“It was a very poor day. We were poor defensively, offensively,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
The loss will again raise questions about Arsenal’s ability to win their first title since 2004, with the Gunners having lost 6-3 to Manchester City earlier this season.
Man City’s goal drought continued as Manuel Pellegrini’s team missed the chance to move top of the standings to stay third on 54 points, two behind Chelsea.
Man City had 68 goals from 23 league matches before losing 1-0 to Chelsea and again struggled at Carrow Road against lowly Norwich, who earned a crucial point in the relegation fight.
Aside from Man City’s Alvaro Negredo hitting the crossbar in the first half with a header, it was a quite afternoon for Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy.
The Canaries had a chance to snatch victory in stoppage-time, but Nathan Redmond’s cross failed to find Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
At Anfield, the Reds reignited their title challenge with a win that boosted their hopes of finishing in the top four and booking a Champions League berth next season.
Liverpool were irrepressible in the early stages, swarming all over Arsenal’s defenders and tearing the Gunners apart with every attack.
Martin Skrtel scored in the first minute and doubled his team’s lead nine minutes later. Raheem Sterling then made it 3-0, before Daniel Sturridge beat Wojciech Szczesny with a left-footed shot in the bottom corner. Sterling then completed a brace after halftime.
Mikel Arteta pulled one back for Arsenal from the penalty spot.
Elsewhere in the league, Crystal Palace leapfrogged West Bromwich Albion to send the Baggies into the relegation zone with a 3-1 victory, while Swansea City manager Garry Monk enjoyed a perfect start as his team beat Cardiff City 3-0 to move away from the relegation zone and Hull City moved a point above Palace after winning 2-0 at Sunderland.
Also on Saturday, West Ham United moved two points clear of relegation with a 2-0 win at Aston Villa, as Southampton drew 2-2 with Stoke City.