London (AFP) – Manchester City opened up a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a first half demolition of Leicester in a thrilling 6-3 win as Arsenal and Tottenham were also comfortable winners on Sunday.
Three of the scheduled nine Boxing Day matches were postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks as Britain battles record numbers of cases caused by the Omicron strain of the virus.
Earlier this week, Premier League clubs rejected the option of temporarily halting the season to allow a circuit breaker for infections.
And a stop to the season may be the only way to slow City’s charge towards a fourth title in five seasons as Pep Guardiola’s men have now won nine league games in a row.
Leicester were blown away by four goals inside 25 minutes.
Kevin De Bruyne blasted home to open the floodgates before Riyad Mahrez netted against his former club from the penalty spot.
Ilkay Gundogan rounded off a brilliant City team move to make it 3-0 before Raheem Sterling won and converted the champions’ second penalty.
Leicester are one of the sides to have been decimated by Covid infections and injuries in recent weeks, but they produced a stirring second half fightback thanks to James Maddison.
The midfielder pulled a goal back before leading a break finished off by Ademola Lookman.
Kelechi Iheanacho made it 4-3 when he bundled home from close range after Ederson could only turn Maddison’s shot onto the bar.
But City quickly restored some order as Aymeric Laporte powered home from a corner and Sterling rounded off the scoring from close range.
– Five-star Arsenal –
Arsenal consolidated their position in fourth with a routine 5-0 win at rock bottom Norwich.
Goals from Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney put the result beyond much doubt before half-time.
Saka added a second before Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty and substitute Emile Smith Rowe rounded off a fifth consecutive win for Mikel Arteta’s men.
Spurs moved up to fifth, six points behind their north London rivals but with three games in hand, after easing past a depleted Crystal Palace.
Palace’s request for the game to be postponed was dismissed by the Premier League despite a coronavirus outbreak that left them without manager Patrick Vieira.
The Eagles were still able to field a strong side that featured just one change from their previous outing.
However, a rejuvenated Spurs under Antonio Conte never looked back after scoring twice in two minutes just after the half hour.
Harry Kane swept home just his third Premier League goal of the season before Lucas Moura powered in a header.
Palace’s task was made even tougher when Wilfried Zaha was stupidly sent-off for two bookable offences before half-time.
Son Heung-min added a third 16 minutes from time.
West Ham’s bid for the top four is falling apart fast as they were beaten 3-2 at home by Southampton.
The Saints led three times through Mohamed Elyounoussi, James Ward-Prowse and Jan Bednarek and held out to move nine points clear of the bottom three.
Chelsea badly need to end a poor run of one win in four league games when they visit Aston Villa, who will be without manager Steven Gerrard due to a positive Covid test.
The Blues are now nine points off City and just three clear of Arsenal.
Villa’s next match against Leeds, scheduled for December 28, was also called off on Sunday taking the total number of Premier League games postponed over the past two weeks to 14.
No restrictions have yet been put in place for the size of crowds at matches in England, although supporters do have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test taken in the previous 48 hours.
Sport in Wales will be forced back behind closed doors from today, while in Scotland a restriction of 500 outdoor public events has seen Scottish Premiership clubs bring forward their winter break by a week after Sunday’s fixtures.
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