Manchester: A much-changed Manchester City stretched their Premier League lead to 17 points with a 3-0 win at Fulham on Saturday, while Chelsea gave the chasing pack in the race for a place in next season’s Champions League hope with a 0-0 draw at Leeds.
Pep Guardiola could afford the luxury of making seven changes ahead of City’s Champions League last 16, second leg against Borussia Monchengladbach in midweek with Kevin De Bruyne among the key players handed a rest.
However, City’s strength in depth shone through once more as the visitors struck three times in the first 15 minutes of the second-half at Craven Cottage.
John Stones opened the floodgates before an emphatic finish from Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero’s first Premier League goal for 14 months from the penalty spot round off the scoring.
“We’ve all played so many games, we know the squad is rotated because of the schedule,” said Stones.
“We all know our roles and responsibilities and everyone who came in today deserves all the credit for the way we played, fought and stayed so patient.”
Manchester United have two games in hand on the runaway league leaders to close the gap, but there seems little doubt City will claim a third league title in four years in the coming weeks after a run of 23 wins in 24 games.
Fulham remain rooted in the bottom three after just a second defeat in eight games.
– Chelsea not clinical –
Fourth-placed Chelsea stretched their unbeaten run since Thomas Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard to 12 games at Elland Road.
However, the Blues have been far from prolific despite the wealth of attacking talent at Tuchel’s disposal.
Tuchel left strikers Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud on the bench with Kai Havertz keeping his place as a false nine and the German had his side’s best chance with a driven effort than Illan Meslier tipped over.
Leeds lost top scorer Patrick Bamford to injury in the first-half, but could have claimed victory themselves as Edouard Mendy made brilliant saves to deny Tyler Roberts and Raphinha.
“We created enough chances and enough touches in the box to score one or two goals. Unfortunately, we didn’t, so we have to live with a draw,” said Tuchel.
A point edges Chelsea three points clear of West Ham, who have two games in hand.
Everton are still five points adrift of the top four as Burnley won 2-1 at Goodison Park.
The visitors’ bright start was rewarded with a vital three points in their battle to beat the drop. Chris Wood opened the scoring before Dwight McNeil’s sensational strike doubled the visitors’ lead.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin pulled a goal back for Everton, but Burnley comfortably held out to open up a seven-point gap above the relegation zone.
“It is a big disappointment because we lost a great opportunity to climb the table,” said Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti.
“We made the same mistake as most of the games in Goodison Park, we didn’t start well.”
– ‘Stand tall’ –
Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player not to take a knee prior to kick-off of a 1-0 win over West Brom.
The Ivory Coast international stood tall while the rest of his Palace team-mates and their opponents took the knee.
The 28-year-old revealed last month that he would no longer perform the gesture against racial injustice, which has been followed by Premier League players, officials and staff since June.
“As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking stronger action against people who abuse others online – not just footballers,” Zaha said in a statement.
“I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall.”
Once the action began, Luka Milivojevic scored the only goal from the penalty spot to plunge the Baggies ever closer to a return to the Championship.