By Steve Tongue
LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea remain on course for the Premier League title after a 3-0 win at Everton left them four points clear of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who beat local rivals Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday.
Goals by Pedro, Gary Cahill and Willian gave Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side a comfortable win in the end but the Spurs team they beat 4-2 in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend are showing remarkable resilience in the league.
In particular, Tottenham know they can rely for regular goals on England pair Harry Kane and Dele Alli, who have close to 50 between them this season with 27 and 21 respectively.
A cool finish from each — Kane’s coming from the penalty spot after he had been fouled – was too much for Arsenal, whose chances of finishing in the top four to claim their usual Champions League place were badly diminished as a result.
Spurs, chasing their first English championship since 1961, can close the gap on the leaders to one point if they can win a third successive London derby away to West Ham United on Friday.
Victory over their greatest rivals Arsenal to follow a late success at Crystal Palace in midweek means a 10th straight league win in a row would put pressure on Londoners Chelsea.
The leaders do not play until next Monday and, although Conte’s side will expect to beat second-bottom Middlesbrough, their visitors are desperate for points and can see a way out of the relegation mire after recent improved performances.
Chelsea’s players and staff — elated after winning at Goodison Park — must have been disappointed as they monitored the North London derby on the way back from Everton that Arsenal could not make a better fist of the game at White Hart Lane.
Draws for the two Manchester clubs earlier in the day should have given Arsenal added incentive but they were easily beaten and will finish below Spurs for the first time in 22 years.
United suffered another of the home draws that have blighted their first season under Jose Mourinho when relegation-threatened Swansea City salvaged a 1-1 draw, Gylfi Sigurdsson’s fine free kick equalizing a controversial Wayne Rooney penalty.
City, meanwhile, needed a late equalizer by Gabriel Jesus to earn a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough. They were twice behind and missed a chance to go above Liverpool who can move a provisional three points clear of them with a win at Watford on Monday.
With what look like three winnable games after that, Liverpool could finish strongly, but it is only Tottenham who can prevent Chelsea’s animated Italian coach Conte from taking the title in his first season of English soccer.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)