LONDON/MANCHESTER: Chelsea overcame an extraordinary 65-yard goal by Charlie Adam to re-establish their seven-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 2-1 defeat of Stoke City on Saturday.
Arsenal had trimmed Chelsea's lead to four points by blitzing Liverpool 4-1 and a twist appeared in store when Adam cancelled out Eden Hazard's 39th-minute penalty in show-stopping fashion at Stamford Bridge.
A minute before half-time, the Scottish midfielder picked up a loose ball deep inside his own half and launched a raking shot with his left foot that Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could only help into the net.
It was a goal that brought to mind David Beckham's famous lob against Wimbledon in 1996 and Chelsea's cause was further harmed when Diego Costa limped off with a hamstring injury 10 minutes after coming on at half-time.
But Loic Remy gave Chelsea victory in the 62nd minute, tapping home a pass from Hazard after Willian had intercepted Asmir Begovic's throw, to leave Jose Mourinho's side seven points clear with a game in hand.
"Every victory is one step ahead," said Mourinho. "The others know they have to win every game. For us, we have to think about ourselves and forget about the others."
Mourinho, who described Adam's strike as a goal "every super player in the world would like to score", said that Costa would be out for a "minimum" of two weeks.
Van Gaal backs United for late title bid
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal insists he has not given up hope of ending his first season in charge as a Premier League champion after a 3-1 win over Aston Villa lifted his team into third place.
United's fifth consecutive victory, courtesy of two goals from Ander Herrera and one from Wayne Rooney, took United above defending champions Manchester City, who they meet in next weekend's derby, and kept them within eight points of leaders Chelsea.
Van Gaal's team also have an eight-point gap over fifth-placed Liverpool, making Champions League qualification all the more likely.
But the Dutchman has now his sights set on overhauling Chelsea, who host United in a crunch clash later this month, rather than worrying about the teams below.
"The Champions League is not done yet but we made a big gap to Liverpool so we can suffer a defeat," said van Gaal. "But of course I'm also looking higher up the table and then we have to win every week and then everything is possible.”
Meanwhile, Tottenham endured a goalless draw against Burnley to draw level on points with Liverpool on fifth.
Pellegrini demands fading City finish on a high
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has challenged his team to end the season with eight successive victories as the champions look to revive their fading bid to retain the Premier League title at Crystal Palace on Monday.
City travel to Selhurst Park nine points behind leaders Chelsea after Pellegrini's side dropped to fourth place following resounding wins for Arsenal and Manchester United over the weekend.
Fortunately for Pellegrini, who has come in for mounting criticism in recent weeks, fifth placed Liverpool were beaten at Arsenal to give City a seven-point cushion in the battle to qualify for the Champions League via a top four finish.
While Pellegrini is not looking over his shoulder at the chasing pack, the Chilean concedes City need a lengthy winning run, ideally to close the gap on Chelsea but also to seal a top four spot.
"I think in this league you can never be sure you are going to have a Champions League place," said Pellegrini. "You have six or seven teams that from the beginning all of them play for that position. At the moment, for the whole year, we are in the position of the Champions League. I hope that now we will continue.”
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