Manchester United were left frustrated by a VAR penalty controversy in their 0-0 draw at Chelsea, while the revitalised Gareth Bale struck twice in Tottenham’s 4-0 rout of Burnley on Sunday.
Second-placed United had hoped to close the gap on Manchester City with a victory at Stamford Bridge.
But instead they now sit 12 points behind the Premier League leaders as their title hopes fade following a run of one win from four games.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is unbeaten in nine matches in all competitions since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard, but the stalemate was a blow to his team’s top-four challenge.
The fifth-placed Blues are one point behind fourth-placed West Ham and four ahead of sixth-placed Liverpool, who visit Sheffield United in Sunday’s late game.
The biggest talking point of a dour clash came in the first half when United’s appeal for a penalty was rejected by referee Stuart Attwell after he consulted the pitchside monitor when Callum Hudson-Odoi appeared to handle in a challenge with Mason Greenwood.
“It was a penalty, 100 percent nailed on. If that’s a natural position for a hand to be in when the ball comes in then I must be blind,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.
Tuchel disagreed, saying: “How can this be a VAR intervention? I don’t understand why the referee has to check it but I’m glad it was no penalty.”
Bale lives up to expectations
After five defeats in their previous six league games, Tottenham eased the pressure on Jose Mourinho with a significant contribution from Bale, who made just his third league start of the season.
The Wales forward’s most impressive display since his season-long loan move from Real Madrid gave him four goals in his last four appearances.
Bale, who had clashed with Tottenham boss Mourinho over his fitness earlier in February, took just 68 seconds to score with a clinical close-range finish from Son Heung-min’s cross.
In the 15th minute, Bale’s superb long pass picked out Harry Kane’s run and the England captain’s shot deflected off James Tarkowski for his 22nd goal of the season.
Lucas Moura netted with a predatory finish after Sergio Reguilon’s cross was deflected into the Brazilian’s path by Tarkowski in the 31st minute.
Bale, in his second spell with Tottenham after leaving for Madrid in 2013, scored again with a cool strike from Son’s 55th-minute pass.
Tottenham are up to eighth, six points behind the top four with a game in hand.
“Sometimes you (the media) like to say things that are not really true but there is not one single manager in the world that doesn’t play Gareth Bale if Gareth Bale is in very good condition,” Mourinho said.
“There is not one, but now he is better than ever. It’s not just about the two goals he scored, it’s fundamentally about his physical performance.”
Liverpool snaps losing streak
A Curtis Jones strike and a Kean Bryan own goal gave Liverpool a 2-0 win over bottom side Sheffield United as the stuttering Reds snapped a run of four straight Premier League defeats.
With Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson on compassionate leave following the death of his father this week, Adrian took over between the posts for Liverpool but it was Blades keeper Aaron Ramsdale who shone in the first half with some excellent saves.
There was little he could do to stop Jones early in the second half, however, as he blasted home Roberto Firmino's backheel three minutes into the second half, and the Brazilian's 64th-minute shot took a heavy deflection off Bryan before flying into the net to make it 2-0.
Liverpool's first league win since beating West Ham United 3-1 on the last day of January leaves them in sixth position in the table on 43 points, one behind their next opponents Chelsea. Sheffield United remain bottom on 11 points.