Here are five things we learned in the Premier League last weekend:
No wobble for nerveless Chelsea
Rocked by Fernando Llorente’s unexpected equaliser on the stroke of half-time, Chelsea were suddenly facing the first serious test of their mettle for months – their response was emphatic and no doubt dispiriting to their title rivals. After a disappointing draw with Burnley in their previous outing, the runaway leaders looked shocked to be pegged back after dominating the first half at Stamford Bridge last Sunday (Feb 26). Cesc Fabregas had marked his 300th Premier League appearance with a cool finish in the 19th minute, but Llorente’s header after sloppy marking from Victor Moses raised questions about Chelsea’s focus. But if Antonio Conte was worried that a lack of pressure from their top four challengers had dimmed his players’ desire, he need not have fretted. Pedro restored Chelsea’s lead after a sustained spell of pressure and Diego Costa wrapped up his side’s 17th win in their last 20 league games to put them 10 points clear at the top with 12 games remaining.
Kane is able for ruthless Spurs
Frustrated by their surprise midweek Europa League exit against Gent, Tottenham took their frustrations out on Stoke as Harry Kane once again demonstrated his lethal finishing. After scoring a crucial own goal in the Gent upset, Kane was back on form with a first half treble at White Hart Lane. Kane blitzed Stoke with goals in the 14th, 32nd and 37th minutes to notch his third hat-trick in his last nine appearances. Kane has 12 goals in 11 games in all competitions since the start of 2017 and 22 goals in all competitions this season, the third consecutive campaign in which he has surpassed 20 goals. Dele Alli got Tottenham’s fourth, set up by Kane inevitably, as they moved up to second place.
Allardyce still a firefighter
Sam Allardyce is known for helping teams avoid relegation from the Premier League but even the former England manager’s reputation as a football escapologist appeared to be wearing thing at Crystal Palace. However, a first home league win for the Eagles under Allardyce – a 1-0 success against fellow drop rivals Middlesbrough last Saturday (Feb 25), has turned the battle at the bottom into a “seven-team league” in his words. For all his outward bluster, it is Allardyce’s ability to remain composed in a battle to beat the drop that may prove vital to Palace’s hopes of remaining in the top flight – he did his best to calm anxious Palace fans by writing in his programme notes that the Eagles were “not up to the stage of must-win games just yet”.
To Hull and back
Leading 1-0 with just 18 minutes left against a Burnley side who had taken only one away league point all season, it looked like Hull were on course to secure a valuable win in their fight for survival. Tom Huddlestone’s penalty, awarded for Michael Keane’s handball, had put Marco Silva’s team on the verge of a third successive home win in the Premier League for the first win in their history. But Burnley were fuelled by a sense of injustice over the spot-kick, which they felt shouldn’t have been given because Hull’s Harry Maguire pushed Keane towards the ball. And fittingly it was Keane who made amends when he blasted in the equaliser four minutes later. In the blink of an eye, the Tigers dropped from 16th in the provisional table back down to 19th.