Jose Mourinho bags 100th Premier League win, but are Chelsea title favorites?

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LONDON – Jose Mourinho celebrated his 100th Premier League win in charge of Chelsea on Sunday in style, as his swaggering side ruthlessly dispatched Manchester United with a sublime display of clinical finishing.

Mourinho, who reached the milestone after just 142 games, became the fastest manager in PL history to reach a ton and his Chelsea side is hitting peak form at just the right time.

On the pitch Samuel Eto’o was the hero, as the Cameroonian striker bagged a hat trick in a rout that showcased why Mourinho’s men are serious contenders for the PL crown. With five wins in a row, the Blues are hot on the heels of Arsenal and Manchester City above them and they highlighted many of the reasons why Man United are languishing in seventh.

As for Mourinho’s big day, the Portuguese boss brushed off his remarkable achievement when speaking to reporters after the 3-1 win.

“What it means to me is that we won today, I don’t care about the record,” Mourinho said. “I don’t like these records like ‘how many matches we have won at home’, blah, blah, blah. I want to win the next match. It’s quite a coincidence that the 100th win was against Man United, as the first win came against them and the previous owner of the record was the Man United manager, so it’s quite a coincidence. But the important thing for me is that these 100 wins have given 300 points to Chelsea, and especially today these three points are very important for us.”

After the third goal went in just after half time, the home fans around Stamford Bridge could relax. They promptly belted out chants of “Super Chelsea. Super Chelsea FC. We’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.”

Many would argue they’re the best team in the Premier League right now, and favorites to win the title, but what did Mourinho think of his sides performance?

“We have to improve, I want better,” Mourinho said. “The first twenty minutes were not good, we have to improve. I want us to be in control of the game since the beginning and we were not. But the good thing was that we kept calm and kept the organization. But I want my team to do better. We have good kids and good players and the older one gave stability to the team.”

(MORE: Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United: Eto’o hat-trick extends Moyes misery)

As Mourinho’s comments reinforce, United were the better team for the opening 15-20 minutes, but Eto’o’s opener change the complexion of the match.

source: AP
Chelsea prevailed as their trio of young attackers, plus a clinical Samuel Eto’o, dispatched United ruthlessly.

It was a big call from Mourinho to start Eto’o up top on his own (especially with Fernando Torres in blistering form with two goals in his last two PL matches) and have a young attacking trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Willian supporting him from midfield.

But Eto’o, and the young attackers, delivered. Big time. Eto’o, so often a man for the big occasion, came up with the goods once again in his glittering career, as the 32-year-old became only the fourth player in PL history to score a hat trick against United, joining Romelu Lukaku, Dirk Kuyt and David Bentley.

His first goal came courtesy of a curling effort that deflected off Michael Carrick and past David De Gea, while his second was a tap in from Gary Cahill’s cross and Eto’o’s third was a clinical prod home from close range.

Mourinho hailed Eto’o’s clinical performance and gave his reasons for starting with the veteran, instead of in-form Spaniard Fernando Torres.

“It is a fantastic moment, for one of my players to score a hat trick against Manchester United,” Mourinho said. “My thought was that Man United is not coming here to give me spaces behind the defensive line. United will come here to be compact, with Jones and Carrick in front of Vidic and Evans. I thought Samuel is more of a player that has better technical ability and is good in small spaces. His movement in small spaces is different than Fernando, it was a difficult decisions because Fernando is scoring goals. My feeling for this game was that Samuel was better adapted.”

That hunch paid off big time for Mourinho.

Buoyed by Eto’o’s opener in the 17th minute, Chelsea stormed forward in search of a second in the first half. Hazard showed United defenders Rafael and Nemanja Vidic a clean set of heels on numerous occasions as the Belgian youngster sped down the left wing with real purpose for most of the afternoon.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

In the 40th minute came a great example of what Chelsea’s philosophy is all about. Willian raced clear down the left on the break, then played the ball inside to Hazard who jinxed and darted in amongst United’s defense before cleverly scooping the ball to Eto’o. The Cameroon striker saw his effort deflected in the path of Oscar whose acrobatic bicycle kick went just over the bar.

You want to talk about Chelsea’s style? In that 20 second passage of play, all that’s good about Mourinho’s counter-attacking philosophy was on display. This was a glimpse of how the Blues can win the title, as they clinically dispatched the visitors.

That’s a quality Mourinho admires and enjoyed from his side.

“My players showed solidarity,” Mourinho said. “Normally we need four or five chances to score a goal. Today first shot, first goal. Second shot, second goal. So things were going in our favor.”

Chants of “Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho” rung out from the majority of the 41,465 fans crammed into one of English soccer’s most famous grounds as the game petered out into a comfortable Chelsea win as the home side got the breaks. Were Chelsea that good? Or United just quite bad? It’s unclear whether or not this was the best examination of the West London sides title credentials.

Regardless, the ‘Special One’ got a ruthless and clinical performance from his side, as their defensive solidity and lightning-quick attacks showcased exactly how Mourinho plans to get another 100 wins in the PL. If they carry on like this, it’s hard to not see them winning the PL title this season.

Pochettino: “Challenge is to keep going” ahead of North London Derby

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Mauricio Pochettino was thrilled to see Tottenham Hotspur’s title push continue with a win over in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Spurs won 1-0 on a beautiful Christian Eriksen goal from distance, moving back to within four points of Premier League leading Chelsea.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-1 Spurs ]

Pochettino’s men didn’t stop fighting for the winner despite relentless fight from the home side, with improving mettle on display this season.

“Unbelievable. Very good performance. I think second half we played much better than in the first half. It was difficult in the first half for us to move the ball and find the space but we changed the shape at half time and it was more fluid, we started to find the space and started to push Palace deeper and deeper.”

After two tough London Derbies — Spurs fell 4-2 to Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal — Tottenham now has the big one: a visit from Arsenal in the North London Derby.

“It was good to get the three points and be alive in the race for the title. The challenge is to keep going. It is always better to win but it is true [the Arsenal game] is a big derby, perhaps the last at White Hart Lane and I think it will be an exciting game.”

We’re ready for it. Spurs will be favored to pick up all three points, but all bets are off when it comes to the NLD. That’s especially true considering the ticking Top Four clock for Arsenal and the title fight for Spurs.

Palace 0-1 Spurs: Eriksen saves the day

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  • Sakho stretchered off
  • Eriksen rescues title hope
  • Spurs four back of Chelsea

Palace made them work for it.

Tottenham Hotspur didn’t exactly sends chills down the spine of Chelsea with its performance, but Spurs found a way past tricky and in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday at Selhurst Park.

Christian Eriksen‘s pretty goal sealed the three points for Spurs, who have five matches to chase down four points from the Blues.

Palace sits 12th, seven points clear of 18th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Two in-forms started with confidence, Harry Kane lashing wide of the frame for Spurs and Wilfried Zaha driving Palace on the right wing.

Another in-form Eagles attacker, Christian Benteke, did well to create space and hit a low shot that forced Hugo Lloris to ground.

Victor Wanyama was on yellow when he slid to intercept Andros Townsend, taking the Englishman to the turf. Jon Moss gave Wanyama a harsh warning, but did not produce the red card.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min were called upon soon after the break to liven up Spurs attack.

The substitution that stood to shake up the match was Palace center back Mamadou Sakho, who was hurt with about 40 minutes to play.

Eriksen stung a shot across goal for the eventual winner, a rare moment of class from a three-match day that didn’t quite fit the standard of the Premier League.

Arsenal 1-0 Leicester City: Only an own goal

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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  • Chances at a premium
  • Monreal forces Huth own goal
  • Arsenal moves sixth
  • Foxes six clear of drop

Nacho Monreal‘s desperate shot ricocheted off Robert Huth‘s chest and gave Arsenal a 1-0 win over Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Entertainment value wasn’t high over the course of the match, as Arsenal had trouble piercing Leicester’s congested back four.

Arsenal is now three points back of Manchester United and four behind Man City before Thursday’s Manchester Derby.

Leicester is six points clear of 18th and has played one less game than most of the teams chasing them.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal had most of the ball to start the match, but needed to make the first big stop. Petr Cech kept the match goalless when he flew to stop a left-footed whip from Riyad Mahrez.

At the other end, Mesut Ozil set up Theo Walcott for a chance that prodded a solid save from Kasper Schmeichel.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Wilfried Ndidi was again a monster in the middle third for Leicester, arguably the main reason the Foxes have rebounded from their relegation plight.

Arsenal had a chance pushed away from danger by Robert Huth after Alexis Sanchez misjudged his time on the ball in front of goal in the 56th minute.

Schmeichel then dove to slap away a deflected Francis Coquelin shot.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Laurent Koscielny went down in pain after landing awkwardly in the 79th minute, leaving a gap in space that Shinji Okazaki would’ve exploited were it not for a block from Gabriel Paulista.

Leicester’s Yohan Benalouane should’ve seen red with 10 minutes to play following a leaping boot to the back of Olivier Giroud, but only a foul was given.

Ndidi made a sliding intervention on Mesut Ozil in the 85th minute, another terrific bit of work from the Nigerian.

That’s when Huth’s unlucky moment lifted Arsenal to the lead.

Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland: Derby honors and a bit of life

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  • Boro’s first PL win since Dec. 17
  • Smoggies move within six of 17th
  • Sunderland on verge of relegation

Marten De Roon snared Middlesbrough new hope at safety and a derby win as Boro scored early to complete a season sweep of Tees-Wear Derby rivals Sunderland on Wednesday.

The 1-0 win means Sunderland is 12 points back of 17th place Hull City with five matches to play. Hull has four matches left.

For Boro, it’s six points back of Hull but a devastating run-in that includes Man City, Chelsea, Southampton, and Liverpool.

The win was USMNT backstop Brad Guzan‘s second of the Premier League season, the first coming in the reverse fixture.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

De Roon tilted the Tees-Wear Derby to Boro’s side with an opening goal that could signal the end of Sunderland’s slim safety hopes.

Stewart Downing tempted 2-0 with a hard low shot that Jordan Pickford did very well to save with a leg.

Sunderland did find a bit of danger when Didier N’Dong forced Brad Guzan into a save, but Billy Jones nodded over the frame.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]