Queens Park Rangers' Charlie Austin centre left, scores his side's second goal of the game during the English Premier League soccer match between QPR and West Bromwich Albion, at Loftus Road, in London, Saturday Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Adam Davy) UNITED KINGDOM OUT
Manchester United's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring a goal, during the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Manchester United, at Villa Park, in Birmingham, England, Saturday Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Nick Potts) UNITED KINGDOM OUT
Manchester City's David Silva, left, fights for the ball against Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
LONDON — David Silva scored twice as defending champion Manchester City continued to fight for its title, beating Crystal Palace 3-0 Saturday to draw level provisionally with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.
Playing without a recognized striker, City reeled off its sixth league win in succession and eighth in all competitions, one short of equaling the club record.
It was a performance that made clear Chelsea faces a mounting challenge to stay on top as the league heads into its traditionally intense program of Christmas and New Year fixtures.
Silva struck after 49 and 61 minutes to put City in command following a listless first half and Yaya Toure swept in a third goal with 10 minutes remaining on a day when neighbor and rival Manchester United's six-match winning streak came to a halt with a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini said: "It was a very good win ... I enjoyed the way the team worked the whole week — to work in a different way without strikers."
Villa, without a victory over United at Villa Park in 18 games since 1995, went ahead thanks to a spectacular first-half goal by Christian Benteke, but was pushed back in the second half when Radomel Falcao equalized with a header and played the final 25 minutes with 10 men after Gabriel Agbonlahor was sent off.
Both Chelsea and City have 39 points, but City has played one more game than Chelsea, which travels to Stoke City on Monday. Chelsea tops the league with a superior goal difference of 23 to City's 22 while United remains third with 32 points.
West Ham stayed fourth on 31, after a 2-0 win against bottom club Leicester. The Hammers are two points ahead of fifth-place Southampton which ended a run of five defeats with a 3-0 victory over Everton.
Tottenham Hotspur also enjoyed a home win, beating Burnley 2-1 to move up to sixth — ahead of north London rival Arsenal, which visits Liverpool on Sunday, when Newcastle hosts Sunderland in a north-eastern derby.
Southampton played with great purpose and urgency at St Mary's where a Romelu Lukaku own goal and efforts from Graziano Pelle — his 11th club goal of the season — and Maya Yoshida secured the points.
Tottenham's victory came with goals from Harry Kane — now with 14 goals for Spurs — and Erik Lamela's first league strike, either side of a reply from Ashley Barnes for Burnley.
The most dramatic individual and team performance saw Queens Park Rangers move out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Loftus Road.
QPR owed its triumph to the success of striker Charlie Austin, a bricklayer and part-time footballer five years ago, whose first Premier League hat trick enabled the hosts to recover after falling 2-0 down in the first half.
West Brom raced into a two-goal lead through Joleon Lescott and Silvestre Varela, but the 25-year-old Austin hit back with a penalty before adding the equalizer and then an 86th-minute winner.
"Charlie is a great story," said QPR manager Harry Redknapp. "He's struggled around non-league for years and suddenly gets a break ... He's been out on a building site in the freezing cold and knows what life's like. A lot of lads are given everything. He's worked for it and he's a great example."
Austin's treble took his tally to 11, making him the leading English scorer in the league, and helped QPR rise from 18th to 15th.
Burnley replaced QPR in the bottom three, slipping to 18th, while Hull City stayed 19th after a 1-0 home defeat against Swansea.
Ki Sung-yeung's early goal, thanks to an involuntary deflection off his wrist, proved to be decisive as the Tigers' run without a win was extended to 10 games.