Fernando Torres returned to form in stunning fashion as his double-strike inspired Liverpool’s 2-0 win over champions Chelsea, while Andy Carroll gave Newcastle a surprise 1-0 victory at Arsenal on Sunday.
Torres had scored just twice this season before Chelsea’s visit to Anfield, fuelling talk that his lacklustre displays were a sign he is keen to leave the Reds.
But the Spain striker was back to his predatory best as he netted with a cool finish from Dirk Kuyt’s pass in the 11th minute and then curled a brilliant second past Petr Cech from the edge of the penalty area just before half-time.
Those two lethal finishes condemned Chelsea to their second league defeat this season and left Carlo Ancelotti’s league leaders just two points ahead of second placed Manchester United.
Liverpool’s victory extended their recent revival to four successive wins in all competitions and lifted Roy Hodgson’s team into mid-table.
“He is a vital player for us and would be any club. You can’t have success if you don’t have front players who do a good job for you,” Hodgson said of Torres.
“He wants the club to do well and can see we’re moving in the right direction. He couldn’t say much when club was in the throes of being sold but like myself he sees a bright future with new owners.”
Ancelotti added: “Liverpool played very well and at 2-0 down it was difficult to come back in the game. Torres played very well and scored two fantastic goals.
“We are still top of the table. It’s impossible to win every game, sometimes you lose but the team showed the same mentality and strength. We don’t have to react – we have to win the next game.”
At the Emirates Stadium, Newcastle’s Carroll finally made headlines for the right reasons as the striker gave the Magpies a shock victory over Arsenal.
Carroll, who along with team-mate Kevin Nolan had been the subject of lurid newspaper allegations about his private life hours before kick-off, netted the winner when he rose superbly to beat Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski to Joey Barton’s free-kick moments before the interval.
That was enough to ensure Newcastle claimed a third successive league victory, while Arsenal’s title challenge was dented by their third defeat of the season.
The Gunners failed to offer enough of an attacking threat despite dominating long periods of possession and a miserable afternoon was summed up by the dismissal of Laurent Koscielny in added time.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: “It was a big disappointment because our performance was not good enough. But I think we were unlucky because they had one shot on target and we lost 1-0.”
Mario Balotelli eased the pressure on Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini by scoring twice before being sent off in the 2-0 win against West Bromwich Albion.
Balotelli netted twice in six minutes in the first half at The Hawthorns before he made a rapid transformation from hero to villain with a straight red card in the second half for a reckless kick at Youssouf Mulumbu, who was also later sent off.
City had lost their last three matches but were more menacing thanks to the return of Carlos Tevez and his cross allowed Balotelli to bundle the ball over the line in the 20th minute.
Balotelli ruthlessly capitalised on suspect Albion defending from Gabriel Tamas six minutes later to beat Scott Carson with a low drive.
Mancini said: “We played a fantastic game. My players played so well and we can score more goals than that. We always had the ball.
“For me, Mario Balotelli played very well. The referee should not have given a red card, absolutely not. It’s possible we may appeal.”