London: Sadio Mane struck twice as Liverpool kept their noses in front of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League after a packed Wednesday programme featuring all of the top seven sides.
Jurgen Klopp’s men eased past in-form Watford 5-0 at Anfield to calm fears over their staying power as they chase down their first top-flight title since 1990.
City finally broke the resistance of West Ham at the Etihad Stadium in the second half to stay just one point behind Liverpool, while third-placed Tottenham slipped to a damaging 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.
Arsenal swatted aside a limp Bournemouth team 5-1 to remain in fourth place, one point clear of Manchester United, with Romelu Lukaku taking advantage of the absence of Marcus Rashford to score twice in a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.
Liverpool came into their match after three draws in four league matches but Mane settled their nerves, heading home a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold before the pair teamed up again, with the Senegalese forward producing an audacious backheel strike.
Divock Origi extended the lead midway through the second period and defender Virgil van Dijk netted twice late on to complete the rout.
City dominated possession in a one-sided first half at the Etihad but were frustrated by Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham side.
Sergio Aguero broke the deadlock for City from the penalty spot in the 59th minute, with the spot kick awarded after after Felipe Anderson brought down Bernardo Silva.
Aguero sent Lukasz Fabianski the wrong way as he registered his 18th Premier League goal of the season.
Unai Emery made six changes for Arsenal’s home game against Bournemouth, with one eye on Saturday’s Wembley clash against London rivals Spurs.
Arsenal opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Mezut Ozil scored his fifth goal of the season, Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubling the lead shortly before the half-hour.
Lys Mousset pulled a goal back but Laurent Koscielny restored Arsenal’s two-goal cushion early in the second half and there were further goals for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s injury-hit United kept up the chase for a Champions League place, beating Crystal Palace thanks to two goals from Romelu Lukaku and a late third from Ashley Young, who restored United’s two-goal cushion after Joel Ward had given Palace hope.
United, with Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic all missing from their squad and Rashford on the bench, maintained their unbeaten domestic record under their interim boss.
Spurs will now be looking nervously over their shoulders after a second consecutive defeat left them just four points clear of Arsenal ahead of the weekend meeting between the two sides.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was dropped by Maurizio Sarri as the Blues goalkeeper paid the price for his refusal to be substituted during Sunday’s League Cup final.
Sarri opted to replace Kepa with Argentine veteran Willy Caballero.
Chelsea broke the deadlock in the 57th minute when Cesar Azpilicueta fed the ball to Pedro, who slotted past Hugo Lloris and they doubled their lead when Kieran Trippier accidentally passed the ball into the back of his own net.
Southampton beat Fulham 2-0 with goals to edge out of the the relegation zone, with Claudio Ranieri’s men now 10 points off safety and looking doomed.
On Tuesday there were wins for Everton, Huddersfield, Leicester and Newcastle.