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Chelsea go nine points clear at top of EPL

AAP logoAAP 17/12/2016 By Simon Cambers

Diego Costa grabbed the headlines again as Chelsea won 1-0 at Crystal Palace on Saturday to claim a club-record 11th straight win, putting them nine points clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Spaniard headed the winner just before half-time - Chelsea's fourth 1-0 win in their past six games - to extend their advantage over Liverpool, who play Everton on Monday.

Sunderland moved off the bottom thanks to a 1-0 win over Watford, while Hull dropped to the foot of the table after losing 1-0 at West Ham.

Swansea are ahead of them only on goal difference after they went down 3-0 at Middlesbrough. Manchester United won 2-0 at West Brom to go level on points with fifth-placed Tottenham.

The only Chelsea downsides were yellow cards for Costa and N'Golo Kante, which means they will miss the game with Bournemouth on Boxing Day, but captain Gary Cahill said the London side is riding the crest of a wave.

"We feel very confident," he said. "We're a very strong team, we've worked hard, physically we're in great shape and we've got some great players.

"You build momentum when you win games. We feel confident when we step on the pitch. It's a record we should be very proud of."

Chelsea had to do their fair share of defending as they earned a ninth clean sheet in those 11 wins as Palace tried to attack.

But they took their best chance when Cesar Azpilicueta lifted a cross to the far post and Costa headed the ball back into the opposite corner for his 13th Premier League goal of the season.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte reiterated that nothing was won at this stage of the season.

"The run is fantastic," he said. "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.

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

Palace, who have now won just once in their past 11 games, are 17th and just one point above the bottom three.

Dutchman Patrick van Aanholt lifted Sunderland above Hull and Swansea with his goal in the 1-0 win over Watford.

"I think it was on the verge of must-win, to make sure we didn't get detached from others around us," Sunderland manager David Moyes said.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored both goals as Manchester United won 2-0 at West Brom to put the pressure on fifth-placed Tottenham, who play Burnley on Sunday.

Alvaro Negredo scored twice as Middlesbrough cruised to a 3-0 win over Swansea.

Manager Aitor Karanka said the win was "their worst performance" but admitted the three points were vital.

Jamie Vardy was sent off in the first half but champions Leicester staged a 10-man fightback to clinch a 2-2 draw at Stoke.

"It was a fantastic spirit and we wanted to fight until the end so it was important for us to play well," said Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, whose side climbed to 15th.

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