Chelsea head for another record season

Approaching the midpoint of the English Premier League season, Chelsea already are way ahead of last year’s record pace.

With their 3-2 win over Fulham on Monday, Chelsea won their 16th game in 18 matches and stayed nine points atop the league. A victory over Manchester City on Wednesday would maintain that advantage, which is nearly twice the five-point lead Chelsea had last season at this point before they went on to earn a record 95 points and finish 12 points atop the league.

Monday’s victory gave some hope to the pursuers—albeit faint—that Chelsea can be caught. The Blues took a 2-0 lead within 24 minutes, but allowed a pair of goals before winning the match on Hernan Crespo’s eye-catching volley in the 74th minute.

“They have a good manager who can motivate players and good players who can come out in the second half and fight.
They did that,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said of Fulham.

Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham also won to keep pace. While Chelsea have 49 points, United are closest with 40, followed by Liverpool and Tottenham with 34 each.

Wednesday gives the pursuers hope of closing on the lead. With Chelsea facing eight-placed Man City, United will face 19th-placed Birmingham, Liverpool are at Merseyside rival and 16th-placed Everton and Spurs visit 17th-placed West Bromwich Albion.

On Monday, defender William Gallas and midfielder Frank Lampard had put Chelsea ahead 2-0, but American international Brian McBride drew Fulham within one in the 29th and Heidar Helguson equalised 11 minutes into the second half.

At Old Trafford, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand had Man United ahead by half-time before Ruud van Nistelrooy added another in the 63rd to lead the Reds to a 3-0 victory over West Brom and their seventh win in eight league games.

Liverpool ruined former striker Michael Owen’s first trip back to Anfield by defeating Newcastle 2-0. Steven Gerrard scored his 12th goal of the season in the 14th minute on an assist from Peter Crouch.

In the 44th minute, 2,01m striker Crouch’s header was touched on to the post by Shay Given—but rebounded in off the Newcastle goalkeeper’s head.

At White Hart Lane, Ireland striker Robbie Keane converted a penalty in the 58th after he was held back by Birmingham defender Matthew Upson in Tottenham’s 2-0 win. Substitute striker Jermain Defoe netted in injury time.

Arsenal ended a three-game losing run by beating Charlton 1-0 at The Valley and stayed 20 points behind Chelsea in seventh place.

Arsenal forward Jose Antonio Reyes scored in the 58th to consign Charlton to an eighth loss from their past nine league games.

“That was a crucial win,” Henry said. “I have been here for a long time and we are used to being first or second—we are not used to being in this position. You have to dig in and try to perform even when you are not having amazing days.”—Sapa-AP

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