By Martyn Herman
Leicester City were give a Premier League reality check when the unlikely leaders lost 1-0 at Liverpool on Saturday after Manchester United slumped to a third consecutive league defeat to pile more pressure on manager Louis van Gaal.
Christian Benteke’s second-half goal sealed the points at Anfield as Leicester suffered their first league defeat since September when they lost to Arsenal who could replace them at the top if they beat Southampton later.
Third-placed Manchester City closed in on Leicester by crushing lowly Sunderland 4-1 and Tottenham Hotspur consolidated fourth place as Harry Kane scored twice in a 3-0 home victory over Norwich City.
Leicester, who failed to score for the first time this season and suffered only their second loss, have 38 points from 18 matches with Arsenal on 36, Manchester City on 35 and Tottenham 32.
All eyes were on Manchester United’s under-pressure manager Louis van Gaal in the first game of the hectic holiday period and Stoke comfortably won 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium to condemn United to another damaging defeat.
Goals from Stoke forwards Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic left United down in sixth place after they lost four consecutive matches in a single season for the first time since 1961.
Guus Hiddink’s second spell as Chelsea’s interim manager began with a 2-2 draw at home to Watford. Oscar wasted the chance to secure victory for the champions when he missed a late penalty at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea remained in 15th place.
Crystal Palace drew 0-0 with Bournemouth, moving above Manchester United into fifth spot.
At the bottom, Aston Villa drew 1-1 with West Ham United to leave manager Remi Garde still awaiting a first win since taking over from Tim Sherwood.
Managerless Swansea City won for the first time since October, beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 to climb out of the relegation zone above Norwich and Newcastle United.