Hernan Crespo scored within seconds of going on as a substitute on Monday to help Chelsea move 14 points clear atop England’s Premier League with a 3-1 victory at West Ham.
Liverpool’s 10-game winning streak ended with a 2-2 at Bolton to leave them in third place, 17 points behind Chelsea with two games in hand.
The Hammers were holding Chelsea at 1-1 at Upton Park when visiting manager Jose Mourinho sent on Crespo for winger Damien Duff. The switch worked immediately, with the Argentina striker pushing the ball past goalkeeper Roy Carroll with his first touch and rolling the ball into an empty net with his second.
Didier Drogba added a third goal with 10 minutes to go and Chelsea, with 58 points from 21 games, now have an even bigger lead as they chase back-to-back league titles. Midfielder Frank Lampard had put Chelsea ahead against his former club before Marlon Harewood made it 1-1.
”To score against my former club is something I have been looking forward to doing,” Lampard said. ”It was very special, but at the end of the day the three points is what we needed. We want to keep the gap at the top and, if anything, make it bigger. We want to win back-to-back titles and push on from there.”
Second-place Manchester United, who have 44 points from 20 games, are not in action until Tuesday, when they are at Arsenal.
Despite his team’s big lead in the standings, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was furious that Michael Essien went off early in the game after a challenge by West Ham’s Nigel Reo-Coker.
”We have to wait for news on Essien,” the Chelsea manager said. ”Essien is injured but he cannot walk. We have to wait for scans and X-rays. All I know is that he cannot walk and his ankle is swollen. I don’t want speak about Reo-Coker but I can imagine what would be said if it had been the other way around.”
In Monday’s other games, last-place Sunderland surrendered the lead at Fulham and lost 2-1, while next-to-last Birmingham beat fifth-place Wigan 2-0.
Everton moved further away from relegation trouble with a 3-1 victory over Charlton, while regional rivals Newcastle and Middlesbrough tied 2-2. Blackburn kicked off against Portsmouth later on Monday, while fourth-place Tottenham is at Manchester City on Wednesday.
Aston Villa won 2-1 at neighbours West Bromwich Albion to move further away from the relegation zone and push the Baggies into more trouble.
”We should have won the game by more,” said Villa manager David O’Leary. ”We have become consistent in November and December. We are showing that now.” — Sapa-AP