Man City stretch lead, Chelsea end dismal run
London: Manchester City took another step towards the Premier League title when they brushed aside Blackburn Rovers 3-0 for their 18th successive home league win to move five points clear of Manchester United at the top of the table on Saturday.
Chelsea ended a five-match run without a win when they beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0 to ease some of the pressure on under-fire coach Andre Villas-Boas.
Newcastle United, challenging for a top four finish for the first time since 2003, stumbled to a 2-2 home draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers for whom Terry Connor was in charge for the first time as caretaker manager.
There appears to be no stopping City who won with goals from Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and substitute Edin Dzeko to move on to 63 points from 26 matches, five clear of the champions who play at Norwich City on Sunday.
Tottenham Hotspur, who visit Arsenal in the North London derby on Sunday, are third on 53 points, seven ahead of Chelsea. Arsenal are fifth on 43, the same tally as Newcastle United.
The reconciliation of Argentine striker Carlos Tevez with his club dominated the off-field headlines earlier in the week, but Man City`s form on the field showed again they could well win their first title since 1968 whether he plays or not.
Their victory was rarely in doubt after Balotelli ended a swift City counter-attack by thumping home first time after 30 minutes. Aguero made it 2-0 when he took advantage of Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson`s flap at a corner to fire in from close range after 52 minutes.
Dzeko scored with a superb header after 81 minutes - less than two minutes after replacing Balotelli - which completed five successive domestic and Europa League wins for City during the month.
"It has been a good February, and now we need a good March and April and to be top of the table in May," happy City boss Roberto Mancini told ESPN afterwards.
"We had to be patient, it was difficult, Blackburn play with 10 players behind the ball and if you don`t score you have a problem but in the end we scored three goals with all three strikers scoring and we deserved to win the game."
Balotelli celebrated his goal in his usual manner by raising his shirt to reveal a t-shirt with the slogan "Raffaella I Love You" in Italian, and while he may love his girlfriend, Mancini was also full of adoration for him.
"He scored a fantastic goal, he had a very good game again," he said.
City have become the first top flight side to win 13 consecutive home league games from the start of a season since Newcastle in 1996, and only the sixth top flight side to win 18 home league games in a row since the League started in 1888.
The result left Blackburn mired in the drop zone in 18th place after being totally outclassed.
Chelsea put their recent dismal run behind them and eased some of the pressure on Villas-Boas with their eighth successive league win over Bolton who are one off the bottom.
The future of the 34-year-old Portuguese has come under intense scrutiny after a poor run of results and widespread reports of dressing room unrest.
However goals from David Luiz, who curled in the opener after 48 minutes, a 61st minute close-range Didier Drogba header and a 79th minute volley lifted some of the gloom surrounding Stamford Bridge in recent weeks.
The goals from Drogba and Lampard were both milestones too. Lampard`s was his 150th career league goal including his early spell at West Ham United, while Drogba`s made him Chelsea`s fourth all-time highest scorer with 151 in all competitions.
Villas-Boas told Sky Sports afterwards: "It was a good result and gets us back on track for Champions League qualification. It was an important three points and hopefully we can build on that for the future.
"There is a big fixture tomorrow between Arsenal and Tottenham and hopefully we can benefit from that in some way."
Newcastle`s hopes of a top four finish took a knock as they were held 2-2 at home by Wolves.
They raced into a two-goal lead with goals from Papiss Demba Cisse and an edge-of-the-box screamer from Jonas Gutierrez after 18 minutes but Wolves, who sacked Mick McCarthy this month, fought back with goals by Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle to edge out of the relegation zone.
Fulham pushed their former boss Mark Hughes, now managing their West London neighbours Queens Park Rangers, closer to the bottom three with a 1-0 win at Loftus Road where Pavel Pogrebnyak scored the only goal after seven minutes.
Mali international Samba Diakite was sent off on his QPR debut, the fifth QPR player sent off at home this season.
West Bromwich Albion beat Sunderland 4-0 while Wigan Athletic stayed bottom after a 0-0 draw with Aston Villa.