Chelsea kept up its remorseless march to the English Premier League title with a 4—0 thrashing of Tottenham on Saturday, while a rejuvenated Mesut Ozil helped Arsenal secure a place in the FA Cup semifinals for the first time since 2009.
With none of its title rivals Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City in league action this weekend, Chelsea provisionally extended its lead to seven points after capitalizing on a woeful second half from Spurs to score all its goals in the final 34 minutes.
Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring and then was fouled in the area by Younes Kaboul, earning the French defender a straight red card. Eden Hazard converted the 60th—minute penalty, and substitute Demba Ba added two late goals in the space of 75 seconds.
Liverpool and Arsenal are seven points behind the leaders with a game in hand but Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho still thinks Manchester City, which is nine points adrift in fourth place having played three matches less, is the title favorite.
“We don’t have control of our destiny,” Mourinho said, “if we win all our matches then maybe we are not champions. If Man City win all their games, they are champions.”
Elsewhere in a truncated league program, beleaguered champion Manchester United eased past West Bromwich Albion 3—0 to climb to sixth and keep alive its faint hopes of finishing in the Champions League positions.
Arsenal beat Everton 4—1 at Emirates Stadium to become the first team through to the last four of the FA Cup, with substitute Olivier Giroud scoring two of the hosts’ three goals in the final 22 minutes.
Yet it was the display of Ozil that stood out, the Germany playmaker responding to criticism of his lackluster recent performances by scoring the opening goal in the seventh minute, setting up Giroud’s second and working tirelessly for the team.
“Physically he looked regenerated, with more power in his runs,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, “and, as well, what I liked is he did a lot of dirty work for a player like him.”
Arsenal is without a trophy since 2005, with the FA Cup its likeliest chance of ending the drought after a drop in form in the league and a 2—0 loss to Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.
The other FA Cup quarterfinal matches are on Sunday.
Tottenham’s 24—year winless run at Stamford Bridge extended to 27 matches after the team imploded after a dominant first—half display. Spurs stayed in fifth, four points behind City having played three games more, but manager Tim Sherwood believes finishing in the top four is out of the question.
“The club talks about fourth wake up,” Sherwood said. “You can’t legislate for the capitulation, you can’t have that. Lack of characters, too many of them too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts and not want to be someone’s mate all the time.”
Mourinho is a game closer to winning the title in his first season back at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea’s run—in is easier than all its rivals, with Arsenal at home and Liverpool away the only tough matches on paper, at least.
With seven clean sheets in its last 10 league games and unbeaten in 14 matches, the team is ekeing out wins even when it isn’t playing well.
“We’re grinding out results like the old Mourinho teams,” Chelsea captain John Terry said.
The game turned on a mistake by Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen, who slipped and compounded his error by trying to hook the ball back to his goalkeeper. Eto’o nipped in and slotted a low finish into the corner.
Kaboul’s red card then spelt the end for Tottenham.
Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck scored for Man United at The Hawthorns, boosting confidence in the team that dropped to a season low after losing 2—0 at Olympiakos in the Champions League 11 days ago.
“We were hurt after losing to Olympiakos and we wanted to come and show everyone we’re a good team,” Rooney said. “We played with great energy and we always looked a threat.”
United is nine points behind City, which plays defending champion Wigan in the FA Cup on Sunday in a repeat of the 2013 final.
In other league games, Fulham stayed in last place after losing 3—1 at fellow struggler Cardiff, which is third from bottom but level on points with fourth—bottom West Brom. Southampton won 1—0 at Crystal Palace thanks to Jay Rodriguez’s goal and Norwich drew 1—1 with Stoke.