By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea began the post-Jose Mourinho era with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Stamford Bridge to ease away from the Premier League’s bottom three on Saturday while Leicester City moved five points clear at the top.
Mourinho, sacked on Thursday after Chelsea’s worst start to a season since 1978, had his name chanted throughout by fans while Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, who some fans have blamed for the club’s slide, were booed.
Some sense of normality was restored in west London with Branislav Ivanovic, Pedro and Oscar all on target as Guus Hiddink, confirmed on Saturday as interim coach for the second time having also performed that role in 2009, watched on from the stands.
Leicester’s remarkable title challenge continued with a 3-2 victory at Everton that ensures they will spend Christmas top of the table, a year after occupying bottom place heading into the hectic holiday schedule.
Two Riyad Mahrez penalties and a goal from Shinji Okazaki put Leicester on 38 points from 17 games, with chasing Arsenal and Manchester City, who clash on Monday, on 33 and 32 respectively.
Chelsea, who began the day a point above the relegation zone, moved up one place to 15th.
With Mourinho sacked, the managerial spotlight intensified on Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal as his side suffered a third consecutive defeat, lowly Norwich City winning 2-1 for their first victory at Old Trafford since 1989.
Tottenham Hotspur took advantage of United’s woes to move above them into fourth place on goal difference thanks to a 2-0 win at Southampton — Harry Kane and Dele Alli scoring.
Mourinho spent the day watching Brighton and Hove Albion play Middlesbrough in the Championship while his former charges finally produced a display worthy of champions, having lost nine of their opening 16 matches.
That did not stop the home fans displaying their loyalty to the Portuguese who delivered three league titles in his two stints in charge.
“Delighted to get the three points today,” captain John Terry told Sky Sports. “There was pressure on us before the game but we brought that on ourselves.
“We are not used to being (in this position) but the fans will support us through this, and more performances like this will put smiles on their faces.”
Those waiting for Leicester to falter were disappointed again as Claudio Ranieri’s team showed the attacking verve that has earned 11 league victories.
Mahrez slotted home from the spot in the 26th minute after Okazaki was bundled over by Ramiro Funes Mori but Romalu Lukaku equalised soon after with his 13th of the season.
Algerian Mahrez converted his second penalty just past the hour before Okazaki struck and Kevin Mirallas’s late replay proved in vain for the home side.
Mahrez now has 13 league goals this season, two behind team mate Jamie Vardy.
Manchester United were booed off at halftime and fulltime at Old Trafford where they trailed to goals from Norwich’s Cameron Jerome and Alex Tettey before Anthony Martial replied for the misfiring Reds.
Sixth-placed Crystal Palace won 2-1 win at Stoke City while Bournemouth claimed a third consecutive league victory with a late Charlie Daniels penalty sealing a 2-1 success at West Bromwich Albion who had James McClean sent off in the first half and Salomon Rondon in stoppage time.
(editing by Justin Palmer)