London: Trent Alexander-Arnold’s thunderous strike inspired Liverpool’s 2-1 win against Chelsea as the Premier League leaders moved five points clear at the top on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side extended their perfect start to the title race as they became the first club to win their opening six games in consecutive top-flight seasons.
Alexander-Arnold’s blistering free-kick opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge.
Roberto Firmino increased Liverpool’s advantage before the interval and N’Golo Kante’s fine goal was not enough to give Chelsea tangible reward for a vibrant second half.
Earlier, West Ham inflicted more away-day pain on a poor Manchester United side with a comfortable 2-0 win at the London Stadium.
Andriy Yarmolenko’s goal shortly before half-time and a wonderful late Aaron Cresswell free-kick extended United’s barren run on the road.
United, who started the season by thumping Chelsea 4-0, have lost twice already in their opening six league games and lie seventh, without an away win in any competition since March.
Injury-hit United were without midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Anthony Martial and huffed and puffed but failed to break down their dogged opponents.
West Ham are riding high under Manuel Pellegrini, unbeaten since a 5-0 drubbing in the first match of the season and this victory followed a home win last season against United at the London Stadium.
It was a chastening day for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, just a day after champions Manchester City came close to matching United’s Premier League record for margin of victory — 9-0 against Ipswich in 1995.
In another late match on Sunday, ten-man Arsenal twice came from a goal down to claim a much-needed 3-2 win over Aston Villa in dramatic fashion thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s free-kick six minutes from time at the Emirates.
The Gunners’ winless run in the Premier League seemed set to stretch to four games when John McGinn gave Villa the lead and Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s sending-off four minutes before half-time gave Unai Emery’s men a mountain to climb.
Nicolas Pepe’s first Arsenal goal from the penalty spot briefly brought the Gunners level, but Wesley soon restored Villa’s lead.
Arsenal heart and commitment was questioned after blowing a two-goal lead to draw at Watford last weekend.
But they showed no little spirit as Calum Chambers looped home an equaliser before Aubameyang took centre stage to rifle home a free-kick from the edge of the area.
After Manchester City thrashed Watford 8-0 on Saturday, this was the ideal response from Liverpool as they bid to win the title for the first time since 1990.
Pipped to the trophy by City on the final day of last season, Liverpool are playing with a burning desire to end their rivals’ two-year reign as champions.
In contrast to the Champions League holders’ scrappy midweek defeat at Napoli, this disciplined display showed the Premier League is Liverpool’s top priority this term.
They are on a club-record run of 15 successive league wins and have lost just once in 45 top-flight matches, going unbeaten in the last 23.
Significantly for their title prospects, Liverpool’s success at the Bridge was just their second win in 13 away league games against the other established top-six teams.
Although they were hanging on by the end, if Liverpool take more points against the big guns, even City might struggle to keep them at bay.
Frank Lampard’s raw side, 10 points behind the leaders, competed gamely to offer hope of a bright future.
However, Chelsea are a work in progress — yet to keep a clean sheet in seven games and without a win in their opening four home games in all competitions.
A frenetic start could have brought a Chelsea opener when Tammy Abraham stretched in a vain attempt to turn in Mason Mount’s teasing low cross.
Those two Chelsea youngsters have caught the eye at the start of Lampard’s reign.
But it was Liverpool who took the lead in the 14th minute thanks their own gifted prodigy.
Fabinho’s pass broke to Sadio Mane and the Liverpool winger was bundled over on the edge of the penalty area by Andreas Christensen’s clumsy challenge.
Mohamed Salah back-heeled the free-kick into the path of Alexander-Arnold and the 20-year-old right-back smashed a sublime shot past Kepa Arrizabalaga into the top corner for his first goal since November 2018.
Abraham has already scored seven Premier League goals, but the striker fluffed his lines when he beat the Liverpool offside trap to meet Christensen’s long pass.
Clean through on goal, Abraham should have equalised but could only shoot straight at Liverpool keeper Adrian, who saved with his legs.
Chelsea thought they had equalised in the 27th minute when Cesar Azpilicueta prodded home from close range after Willian’s cross deflected to the defender off Fabinho.
But, in a huge momentum swing, the goal was disallowed after a VAR review showed Mount was offside in the build-up.
Lampard wore a rueful smile on the touchline and, moments later, the Chelsea manager’s expression was misery personified as Liverpool doubled their lead in the 30th minute.
Andrew Robertson curled over a free-kick from the left edge of the Chelsea area and Firmino, gifted far too much space by Christensen and Marcos Alonso, rose highest to head his third goal of the season.
Kepa made a good save to stop Firmino putting Liverpool further ahead from Alexander-Arnold’s cross early in the second half.
But Chelsea’s effort couldn’t be faulted and, having harried Liverpool onto the back foot, they reduced the deficit in the 71st minute.
Kante turned away from Fabinho with a graceful glide and, with Liverpool sitting deep, the France midfielder curled a superb strike into the top corner.
Michy Batshuayi was inches away from equalising in the final minutes, but Liverpool held on.
United boss Solskjaer played the same side that triumphed against Leicester last week while Pablo Fornals came in for the injured Manuel Lanzini for the home side.
Both sides were cagey at the start of the match, with neither side able to create clear-cut chances.
West Ham looked the more inventive team when they broke forward while United looked ponderous in attack and lacking in ideas, with Marcus Rashford isolated up front.
The match was drifting towards the interval before Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko combined to sap United’s confidence with a goal in the 44th minute.
United went close to an equaliser early in the second half as the rain came down in London, with Juan Mata missing from close range after an Andreas Pereira cross.
Already short of options up front and missing creators in midfield, they lost Rashford just before the hour mark, replaced by the out-of-form Jesse Lingard.
West Ham went close to doubling their lead shortly afterwards but David de Gea got down low to keep out an Anderson shot from a tight angle.
United upped the pressure and West Ham had goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to thank for keeping out a Harry Maguire strike from close range.
But West Ham continued to look more dangerous on the break and made United pay when Ashley Young brought down Mark Noble on the edge of the penalty area.
De Gea was a bystander as Cresswell curled a free-kick into the top right-hand corner to add to United’s pain.
Diogo Jota’s last-gasp equaliser earned Wolverhampton Wanderers a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace as their wait for a first Premier League win of the season continued.
A mistake by Joel Ward five minutes into stoppage time allowed Jota to score from close range, earning Wolves a fourth draw from their six games.
They had to do it the hard way though as they played the final stages with 10 men after Romain Saiss was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Wilfried Zaha.
Palace, who could have gone sixth with a win, took the lead a minute after halftime when Ward’s powerful shot was headed into his own net by Leander Dendoncker.