LONDON -- This season at Chelsea, the Special One might well be Eden Hazard. The Belgium international produced another superb display on Saturday, scoring a hat trick as Jose Mourinhos team moved top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Newcastle while its main rivals in the race for the title struggled on the road. Liverpool exposed previous leader Arsenals frailties in a 5-1 drubbing of the Gunners at Anfield and third-placed Manchester City was held to a goalless draw at Norwich. Hazard, coming off an excellent performance in Chelseas surprise win at City on Monday, scored twice within seven minutes in the first half and added another goal from the penalty spot after the interval as the Blues leapfrogged bitter rival Arsenal. Liverpool went on a scoring rampage at lunchtime, netting four times in the first 20 minutes to end Arsenals eight-match unbeaten sequence with a bang. "It was a very poor day. We were poor defensively, offensively," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said after the hammering. "Liverpool played very well, so congratulations to them. But it was a poor performance on a day when we couldnt afford it." The loss will again raise questions about Arsenals abilities to win its first title since 2004 with the Gunners having already lost 6-3 to Manchester City earlier this season. "Defensively we need to be more stable," Wenger said. "Today we were too open. From the front to the back we were not at the level we are used to." Citys current goal drought continued as Manuel Pellegrinis team missed the chance to move top of the standings. Saturdays draw left City third with 54 points, two behind Chelsea. Hazards first goal came in the 27th minute, with the Belgium playmaker slotting home from Branislav Ivanovics pass from the right. Chelsea scored again on the counter-attack as Hazard played a beautiful one-two with Samuel Etoo. "I know today we are top of the league but I look to fifth place," Mourinho said, playing down the importance of his teams result. "I look to Tottenham vs Everton and Manchester United vs Fulham tomorrow and I want to be far from fifth. When we are far from fifth and have a Champions League position under control, then it will be time to look at Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool and see where they are and see the distances." City had scored 68 goals from 23 league matches before losing 1-0 to Chelsea and again struggled at Carrow Road against lowly Norwich, which earned a crucial point in the relegation fight. City hit the crossbar in the first half through a header from Alvaro Negredo but Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy otherwise spent a quiet afternoon as the Canaries missed a chance to snatch victory in stoppage time when Nathan Redmonds cross flew through the six-yard box just ahead of Ricky van Wolfswinkel. At Anfield, the Reds reignited their title challenge with a victory that boosted their hopes of finishing in the Top 4 as they look to secure Champions League football next season. Liverpool was irresistible in the early stages and all over Arsenal defenders, with every attack tearing apart the Gunners. Martin Skrtel scored in the first minute and doubled his teams 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 half-time. Mikel Arteta pulled one back for Arsenal from the penalty spot. "We went out there and did what the manager told us. The first 20 minutes were unbelievable and its about the team. We worked as a team and we are getting results. It starts form the back and the boys have been excellent," said Sturridge in his post-match interview. Arsenal, which was handed its first defeat at Liverpool since 2007, will be looking for revenge when the two sides meet a week on Sunday in the FA Cup fifth round at the Emirates. In the bottom half, Crystal Palace leapfrogged West Brom and sent their opponents into the relegation zone with a 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park. Tom Ince and Joe Ledley scored on their debut for Palace, which has taken 16 points from a maximum 21 at home under manager Tony Pulis, who took over after Ian Holloway resigned last October with the Premier League club five points adrift of safety. Thievy Bifouma pulled one back for West Brom after the interval before Marouane Chamakh sealed the game from the penalty spot. Swansea manager Garry Monk enjoyed a perfect start as his team won the south Wales derby 3-0 against Cardiff to move away from the relegation zone and Hull moved a point above Palace after winning 2-0 at 10-man Sunderland. West Ham moved two points clear of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win at Aston Villa and Southampton drew 2-2 with Stoke in a mid-table encounter. Jon Weeks Texans Jersey
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. Everton Preview West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has been around the game long enough to not get too high when things are going well and not get too low when they arent.LOS ANGELES - With sluggish starts costing his team two of their last three games, Dwane Casey has considered making a change to the lineup ahead of Friday nights contest against the Clippers. The Raptors have been outscored 88-66 in the opening quarter over a three-game span to begin the month of February. Their most recent loss, 109-101 in Sacramento on Wednesday, was eerily similar to Saturdays defeat at the hands of the Trail Blazers. After digging themselves an early hole on both nights, the Raptors were unable to close out late-game comeback bids, forcing Casey to question his first units disposition. "Every team has their cross to bear and ours is starting games," he said after practice Thursday afternoon. "Whether weve got to change the lineup to start the game or whatever, I dont know we have to see." "Thats been our problem and it just didnt start [in Sacramento Wednesday], its been going on for a while. Weve been able to dig out of it but you cant get hit like that and expect to bounce back that way every game, it just takes too much of a toll on your body." In many ways the Raptors have been defeating themselves. Over that three-game stretch they held opponents to 43 per cent shooting in the first quarter, an impressive mark, but the hustle stats tell a different story. Toronto was out-rebounded in the opening 12 minutes of each game and put both Portland and Sacramento on the line 12 times. "We addressed it, we talked about it," Casey said, citing his teams focus, toughness and attention to detail. If Casey does opt to shake up his starting lineup in Los Angles, even temporarily, the most likely casualty would be slumping California-native Amir Johnson. Johnson has been hampered by a sore right ankle after turning it late in last weeks win over Orlando. He has logged fewer than 20 minutes in just six games this season, yet three of those have come in the last four contests. The forward has been Torontos most reliable and valuable player over the last three years but its clear he hasnt been himself, even before his most recent injury.dddddddddddd After averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds on 63 per cent shooting in December, Johnsons production dropped last month, scoring 9.5 points and grabbing 6.0 rebounds a night. His 47 per cent field goal shooting in January was his lowest in a full month since March of 2011. As a team the Raptors surrendered 11 points more than they scored with Johnson on the floor in the month. Johnson, who routinely tops the team in the plus/minus stat, was the only Raptor (minimum 50 minutes) that was a net-minus in January, per NBA.com/stats. Mired in a similar slump, and with the team struggling late in November, Johnson was pulled from the starting lineup in favour of Tyler Hansbrough (Johnson told the Toronto Sun that he had requested a move to the bench). Johnson would go on to play his best basketball of the season over the following nine games, averaging 18.0 points and 9.6 rebounds on 68 per cent shooting, and getting his starting job back after three games when Hansbrough went down with an ankle injury. Poised to make a run at the playoffs, the Raptors need Johnson, a nine-year veteran, healthy and focused late in the season. Another temporary demotion could be in the best interest of both the Raptors and their best defensive player. Although Hansbrough could be a candidate to replace him should a change be made, without disrupting the chemistry of the second unit, he has fallen out of Caseys regular rotation since returning from injury. Patrick Patterson would seem to be the most logical choice. Often the first player of Torontos bench, Patterson has been consistently effective since coming over in the trade from Sacramento in December. The forward has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 20 games, averaging 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds, shooting 52 per cent from the field and connecting on 17 of his 35 attempts from three-point range over that stretch. The Raptors have outscored opponents by 132 points when hes been on the floor during that span. Wholesale NFL Jerseys
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