Chelsea registered a record-equaling 13th successive victory Saturday, as Liverpool fought to a 1-0 win over rivals Manchester City to stay in touch with the English Premier League leaders.
It’s Antonio Conte’s Chelsea that heads into the New Year top of the table after a hard-earned 4-2 victory over a spirited Stoke City.
Later in the day, Liverpool got the better of City thanks to Georginio Wijnaldum’s eighth-minute goal.
All of which mean Chelsea leads second-placed Liverpool by six points as it bids to win its fifth English championship, with City four points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Having twice taken the lead only to be pegged back by Stoke, Chelsea’s superiority eventually shone through as it powered to three points thanks in part to a brace from Willian and a late goal from striker Diego Costa.
But Klopp’s Liverpool responded with a crucial victory of its own.
Dutch midfielder Wijnaldum’s powerful early header from Adam Lallana’s cross was enough to leave Pep Guardiola’s City 10 points adrift of Chelsea.
“We were not cool enough in possession,” Klopp told BT Sport, “but they (City) couldn’t create real chances because we defended so well.
“It’s not about having a philosophy, but adapting to the opponent. We don’t want to show how good we are, we want the three points.”
Meanwhile Conte congratulated his players after their latest win. “To win 13 games in a row in this league is very difficult,” Chelsea’s manager told BBC Sport.
“Now, it’s important to celebrate the arrival of the new year, then to think of the next game against Tottenham,” added Conte referring to Chelsea’s next league game on Wednesday.
“Numbers are not important if you do not win the title. Now, they are fantastic and we are proud, but we must concentrate on the second part of the season.”
Manchester United’s slim title hopes were maintained thanks to a 2-1 defeat of Middlesbrough at Old Trafford, though Jose Mourinho’s side are 13 points behind Chelsea.
After falling behind to Grant Leadbitter’s second-half goal, Mourinho’s team recovered thanks to late goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba.
United’s Portuguese manager credited his team’s recovery to the fans, who he claimed played a crucial role in a comeback win that leaves United sixth.
“In the last 20 minutes, the fans were on the pitch — they were not in the stands,” Mourinho told reporters.
“And this is a credit to the players who showed amazing character to go and go and go and go.”