Jose Mourinho’s future as manager of Chelsea was plunged into further doubt as the troubled English Premier League champions crashed to a 3-1 defeat against Liverpool on Saturday.
Mourinho’s mounting problems took centre stage on a dramatic day in the Premier League which saw Manchester City stay on top after escaping with a late 2-1 win against Norwich. Arsenal are second, behind City on goal difference, after battering Swansea 3-0, while misfiring Manchester United failed to find the net once again in a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace.
At Stamford Bridge, Mourinho’s side took an early lead through Ramires but any hopes that would alleviate the crisis were destroyed by Philippe Coutinho. The Liverpool forward hit a superb equaliser in first half stoppage time and punished sloppy Chelsea defending to put Jurgen Klopp’s team ahead in the 74th minute.
With Mourinho fuming that Liverpool midfielder Lucas avoided a red card for what looked like a possible second booking at 1-1, his misery was compounded when Christian Benteke scored Liverpool’s third seven minutes from full-time.
The Blues have now lost six of their 11 league games and are languishing four points above the relegation zone, prompting more debate about how long Mourinho can survive the axe from owner Roman Abramovich. Reports before the Liverpool game had suggested that he could be dismissed in the event of another defeat, but, asked if he was worried about his losing his job, Mourinho said simply, “no”.
“The fans are not stupid. They know how much myself and the players are trying,” added Mourinho, who has repeatedly denied rumours of a dressing room mutiny. “The fight goes on, but sometimes there are fights very impossible to win.
“I have some players really sad in the dressing room and I am full of respect for them.”
At Eastlands, City defender Nicolas Otamendi opened the scoring with a bullet header in the 67th minute to notch his first goal since signing from Valencia in August. Norwich snatched an 83rd minute equaliser when City goalkeeper Joe Hart spilled a corner and Cameron Jerome punished the embarrassing blunder.
But City hit straight back to win it when Norwich defender Russell Martin was sent off for deliberate handball. Yaya Toure stroked in the resulting 89th minute penalty and there was still time for City to miss a spot-kick in stoppage-time when Aleksandar Kolarov fired wide.
“Of course I think we deserved to win,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “We have the character, the personality and the trust to win. We are not finished until the last minute.”
Arsenal remain hot on City’s heels as they bounced back from their shock League Cup exit with a stroll at Swansea. Beaten by second tier Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, the Gunners took the lead when Olivier Giroud headed home in the 49th minute for Arsenal’s 2000th goal under Arsene Wenger.
Laurent Koscielny got the second in the 68th minute when Swansea’s former Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski dropped a corner and the French defender slotted in. Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell completed the victory with his first goal for Arsenal, four years after joining the Gunners, in the 73rd minute.
“They took six points off us last year and that shows we’ve moved forward. After we scored the first goal it was all us and there was only one winner,” Wenger said.
Manchester United did little to quell criticism of their “boring” style in a dour stalemate at Crystal Palace.
United manager Louis van Gaal was slammed by Old Trafford legend Paul Scholes for his cautious tactics in midweek and there was no immediate response from his players after a third successive goalless draw that leaves them in fourth place.
Watford halted West Ham’s impressive run as Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo struck twice in a 2-0 win at Vicarage Road. West Ham defender James Collins was sent off for a nasty challenge six minutes from full-time.
Leicester climbed to third place as Jamie Vardy scored for the eighth successive league game to clinch a 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion. Salomon Rondon headed Albion into the lead in the 30th minute, but Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez equalised in the 57th minute.
Mahrez put Leicester ahead seven minutes later before England forward Vardy netted in the 77th minute for his eighth in a row -- a superb run that only Ruud van Nistelrooy and Daniel Sturridge have surpassed in Premier League history.
Rickie Lambert’s 84th minute penalty for Albion came too late to rescue a point.
Newcastle missed a chance to move out of the relegation zone after a 0-0 draw against Stoke at St James’ Park.