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Ibrahimovic, Costa light up Premier League

Associated Press logo Associated Press 17/12/2016 Rob Harris

As fog engulfed English stadiums, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa illuminated the English Premier League.

And the 35-year-old Ibrahimovic is fast catching the striker seven years his junior on the scoring leaderboard with only two goals separating them.

Ibrahimovic provided both goals at the Hawthorns on Saturday as Manchester United rolled over West Bromwich Albion 2-0 for a third consecutive league victory.

At Crystal Palace in south London, Chelsea clocked up an 11th consecutive win for the first time in a Premier League season.

Costa secured a 1-0 victory for Antonio Conte's side with his 15th goal of the league campaign.

And Costa is far ahead of Ibrahimovic on a more significant table.

Costa's Chelsea tops the Premier League, sitting 13 points ahead of Ibrahimovic's sixth-placed United and nine clear of nearest rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.

"I am pleased with this level we have reached, but it is important to understand we are only at the 17th game in the season," Conte said.

"We must not look at the table. We must not look at our rivals and continue working hard ourselves."

The gulf is unsettling for United manager Jose Mourinho, who celebrated a third consecutive victory on the first anniversary of being fired by Chelsea for a second time.

Returning United to the top four Champions League places, let alone challenging for the title, is a tough mission for Mourinho.

The United manager was full of praise for Ibrahimovic.

"He is playing amazingly well but even in the period he was not scoring goals he was important for us. We bought him for more than just to score goals," Mourinho said.

Three of the teams ahead of United are in action on Sunday.

There's a meeting of Arsenal and Manchester City - third versus fourth - at the same time fifth-place Tottenham hosts Burnley.

In Saturday's other matches, struggling champion Leicester conceded twice against Stoke after Jamie Vardy was sent off before staging a late comeback to finish 2-2 but still slipped to 15th place.

Vardy saw red in the 28th minute for a tackle on Mame Diouf.

Danny Simpson's hand ball then gave Stoke a penalty that Bojan Krkic converted, and Joe Allen sent the hosts into a two-goal lead at halftime.

Leonardo Ulloa began the recovery in the 74th and Daniel Amartey headed in his first Leicester goal in the 88th to give Leicester only its second point on the road.

Middlesbrough climbed four points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-0 win over Swansea, who are only off the bottom on goal difference.

Alvaro Negredo scored two first-half goals and Marten de Roon added a third in the 58th.

Bob Bradley's Swansea has conceded 11 goals in their past three away games in the league and scored only once.

West Ham defeated Hull 1-0, thanks to a penalty from Mark Noble while Sunderland defeated Watford 1-0 with Patrick van Aanholt tucking the ball in off the far post four minutes into the second half.

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