Chelsea thrash Sunderland 7-2 to stay top

Chelsea 7 Sunderland 2
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The Independent Football

Chelsea stormed to a 7-2 victory over Sunderland to remain a point clear at the top of the Premier League as champions Manchester United beat Burnley 3-0 today.

Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka both scored twice for Chelsea against injury-plagued Sunderland.

"We have just given maybe our best performance of the season," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said. "This is how we should continue to play from now until the end of the campaign."

Second-place United took until the second half to get going against Burnley, with Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and Mame Biram Diouf eventually hitting second-half goals at Old Trafford.

"One thing you need is patience to wear teams down," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We have that."

But it was a frustrating day for Liverpool, which conceded a 90th-minute equalizer to draw 1-1 at Stoke, and Tottenham, which was held 0-0 by Hull.

Chelsea, though, delivered a masterclass in attacking football at Stamford Bridge to show it can prosper without African Cup of Nations quartet Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou.

Anelka took just eight minutes to start the rout after rounding goalkeeper Marton Fulop. Florent Malouda added another in the 17th minute, shrugging off two challenges and striking into the bottom corner.

The third came five minutes later when Ashley Cole sprinted onto John Terry' lofted ball and chipped Fulop. Lampard volleyed home from six meters (yards) before the break.

The Blues remained as ruthless in the second half, with the unmarked Ballack heading in Joe Cole's cross in the 52nd, Anelka slotting into an empty net from the edge of the area in the 65th and Lampard nodding in a seventh in the 90th.

Sunderland managed two consolation goals through Bolo Zenden and Darren Bent. Steve Bruce's side has failed to win in its last eight league games.

At Old Trafford, Burnley threatened to thwart United again, having beaten the champions at the start of the season.

"It was a funny game," Ferguson said. "We had so many opportunities it was almost embarrassing we didn't score in the first half. "

Burnley held out until the 64th when Berbatov's shot flicked off Michael Duff and flew past goalkeeper Brian Jensen.

Rooney added his 16th goal of the season shortly afterward and the substitute Diouf netted his first United goal.

While United chases a fourth-straight title, last season's runners-up are just trying to land one of the four Champions League spots.

And Liverpool looked set to move up the standings when Sotirios Kyrgiakos scrambled in his first goal for the club in the 57th minute.

But Robert Huth grabbed a 90th-minute equalizer for Stoke, three days after Liverpool conceded in stoppage-time to Reading to force the FA Cup third-round replay into extra time, where the second-tier club produced a winner.

Dirk Kuyt could have won the Stoke match in the final seconds of injury time, but headed against the post to leave Liverpool in seventh.

"It feels like a defeat," Kuyt said. "We aren't playing the best football at the moment but I thought we fought really hard for this result, and to concede in the last minute and even miss a great chance in the last minute is unbelievable."

James McCarthy and Charles N'Zogbia scored second-half goals to give Wigan a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton.

Wolves goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann also saved a penalty from Hugo Rodallega. Both sides ended with 10 men as Wolves defender Richard Stearman and Wigan midfielder Hendry Thomas were sent off.

A week after the schedule was virtually wiped out by freezing conditions in England, only Portsmouth's home match against Birmingham fell victim to the weather as the thaw led to a waterlogged pitch.