LONDON (AFP) – Marcos Alonso netted a picture-perfect free-kick as Chelsea triumphed 3-1 at Bournemouth on Saturday (April 8) to restore their seven-point advantage at the top of the Premier League.
Tottenham Hotspur had cut Chelsea’s lead to four points by crushing Watford 4-0, but Antonio Conte’s men responded to take another step towards the title.
Liverpool remain third after Brazilian substitutes Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino inspired a 2-1 comeback win at Stoke City, while fourth-place Manchester City beat Hull City 3-1.
Chelsea went 2-0 up inside the first 20 minutes at Bournemouth, Diego Costa’s mishit shot ballooning in off Adam Smith for an own goal before Eden Hazard added a second.
Freed by N’Golo Kante’s pass, the Belgian sprinted in on goal, rounded goalkeeper Artur Boruc and slipped in his 14th goal of the campaign.
Benik Afobe volleyed against the post for Bournemouth before Josh King reduced the arrears in the 42nd minute with an effort that fizzed past Thibaut Courtois via a deflection off David Luiz.
But Alonso settled the visitors’ nerves with 22 minutes to go, the Spanish wing-back arcing a sumptuous free-kick over the wall and into the top-right corner, leaving Boruc rooted to the spot.
Earlier, South Korean forward Son Heung-Min scored twice as Tottenham overpowered Watford at a sun-soaked White Hart Lane, with Dele Alli and Eric Dier also on target.
“The message for us is to keep pushing, winning games,” said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, who also welcomed back top scorer Harry Kane after an ankle injury.
“The team deserve full credit because the energy and the way they played was fantastic.” Alli opened the deadlock with a sublime effort in the 33rd minute, arcing a shot into the top-right corner from 25 yards, before his England team-mate Dier battered in Spurs’ second.
Son struck either side of half time – a left-foot curler followed by an adroit right-foot volley – to seal Spurs’ 11th consecutive home win in the league.
Liverpool sit five points below Spurs, having played a game more, after Firmino’s stunning strike secured victory at Stoke.
Jonathan Walters’s header – his seventh league goal against Liverpool – put Stoke ahead shortly before half time.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made a double change at the break, sending on Coutinho and Firmino for teenagers Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn, and it proved a winning move.
Coutinho, a pre-match doubt due to illness, levelled in the 70th minute and two minutes later Georginio Wijnaldum freed Firmino to thump in a glorious, dipping winner from 20 yards.
“Second half was really good, but we played a big gamble on a low battery bringing on Firmino and Coutinho,” said Klopp.
“No team in the world wins only the very, very good games. You need to win games like this.” Manchester City trail Liverpool by two points, but have a game in hand, after seeing off Hull at the Etihad Stadium to end a run of four league games without victory.
City manager Pep Guardiola, who recalled goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, saw his side take a 31st-minute lead when Ahmed Elmohamady turned in Jesus Navas’s cross for an own goal.
Sergio Aguero made it 2-0 early in the second half, polishing off Raheem Sterling’s cross after a sweeping team move, and Fabian Delph lashed in the hosts’ third.
Andrea Ranocchia replied for Hull, who remain two points above the bottom three in 17th place.
City now have a seven-point cushion in the fourth and final Champions League qualifying spot, although fifth-place Arsenal and sixth-place Manchester United each have two games in hand.
“It was important for us to win after many days without a win,” said Guardiola, whose side lost 2-1 at Chelsea in mid-week after three successive draws.
“We could have scored many more goals. It is frustrating not to get a clean sheet, but we defended poorly at set-pieces.” West Ham United eased their relegation fears as Cheikhou Kouyate’s low drive secured a 1-0 home win over third-bottom Swansea City, who trail Hull by two points.
Second-bottom Middlesbrough squandered an opportunity to claim a precious win in a 0-0 draw at home to Burnley.
Jordie Clasie struck from Dusan Tadic’s lay-off as ninth-place Southampton won 1-0 at eighth-place West Bromwich Albion.