By Mike Collett – LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea were not at their imperious best but still beat battling strugglers Queens Park Rangers 2-1 with a late penalty from Eden Hazard to remain undefeated, four points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
Hazard scored from the spot after 75 minutes of a hard-fought London derby against the resolute visitors, who pulled level when Charlie Austin back-heeled the ball home after 62 minutes.
That cancelled out Brazilian Oscar’s stunning first-half goal, which he scored by bending in a low angled drive with the outside of his boot from 12 metres after 32 minutes.
The victory lifted Chelsea on to 26 points from their opening 10 matches, four clear of second-placed Southampton, who won 1-0 at Hull City with Victor Wanyama scoring with an astonishing speculative 40-metre chip after three minutes as the Saints won for the 10th time in 11 matches in all competitions.
Champions Manchester City, who are third on 17 points, will attempt to close the gap on the leading pair when they face Manchester United at the Etihad on Sunday.
Arsenal moved up to fourth, pulling level with City on 17 points and leaving Burnley bottom of the table and without a win from their first 10 games, by beating them 3-0 at the Emirates.
Chile striker Alexis Sanchez scored twice, either side of a Calum Chambers effort, with all the goals coming in the last 20 minutes.
West Ham, who slipped one place back to fifth, came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. They are also on 17 points.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, after seeing his team make it five home wins out of five in the league, told Sky Sports: “It was a completely deserved victory but not a good performance.
“We didn’t play consistently well. We had some good periods and a good reaction after their goal, but I don’t think we played a complete game like we have been doing in the Premier League this season.”
QPR manager Harry Redknapp, whose team remain one spot off the bottom, was nevertheless pleased with their performance but not with the penalty that tilted the match Chelsea’s way.
Referee Mike Jones awarded it after ruling that Eduardo Vargas fouled Hazard, but Redknapp said: “I am not one to complain about referees but I thought it was two little men going shoulder to shoulder and it was a soft penalty really.
“But I can’t fault the effort we made and the way we played the game.”
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman praised another winning performance, which came after Wanyama capitalised on a poor clearance from Hull’s third choice keeper Eldin Jakupovic, sending his flighted shot back into the net over the keeper’s head.
“I never scored a goal that,” said Koeman, who did score some memorable goals in his stellar career, including a rasping 30-metre effort to win the 1992 European Cup for Barcelona.
“It was an incredible one, maybe it was the fault of the goalkeeper, but shooting from that distance with that precision, it was incredible.”
Koeman’s team have now made the best ever start by a Southampton side in the top flight after 10 matches, having two points more than their previous best performance at this stage in 1983-84.
Newcastle United maintained their recent revival with their third straight league win, beating Liverpool 1-0 at St James’ Park in the lunchtime kickoff with Spain Under-21 international Ayoze Perez scoring the winner 17 minutes from time.
That was enough to give Newcastle the points from a drab encounter and came after Perez pounced on some poor defending by Alberto Moreno, who failed to clear a loose ball in the box. Perez also scored the winner when Newcastle won 2-1 at Tottenham Hotspur last week and his strike on Saturday, after coming on as a substitute at halftime, lifted Newcastle to 11th after they were in the relegation zone two weeks ago.
Although they failed to win, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was pleased his team left the Britannia with a point after battling back from 2-0 down.
Victor Moses and Mame Biram Diouf put Stoke 2-0 ahead after 56 minutes before Enner Valencia (60th) and Stewart Downing (73rd) brought the Hammers back into the game.
“When you’re 2-0 down away from home anywhere in the Premier League, getting anything is a terrific comeback,” Allardyce said. “For us, that’s what it had to be.
“It wasn’t that we weren’t trying, but we couldn’t get our passing game going — partly because of the conditions, and partly because Stoke were doing a good job on us.”
In the other matches Everton drew 0-0 with Swansea City, who had Jonjo Shelvey sent off and West Bromwich Albion won 1-0 at Leicester City.