Chelsea cheer as Rovers hold Man United

Blackburn Rovers handed Chelsea a shock lifeline in the English Premier League title race by holding leaders Manchester United to a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

The champions were heading for defeat but Argentina striker Carlos Tevez rescued a precious point with just two minutes to go.

The result leaves United three points clear of the Blues ahead of their crunch clash at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge on April 26.

Liverpool prepared for the Champions League semifinals by winning 2-0 at Fulham, while Arsenal restored some pride, beating visitors Reading by the same scoreline.

Elsewhere in the fight to avoid relegation to the Championship, Bolton Wanderers hauled themselves out of the drop zone with a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough and Wigan drew 1-1 with Tottenham. West Ham beat visitors Derby 2-1.

United’s lead at the top of the Premier League was cut to two points by Chelsea after the Blues won 1-0 away to Everton on Thursday.

It seemed Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz had scored the winner with his 21st-minute effort at Ewood Park, before Tevez equalised.

Liverpool, with one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg at home to Chelsea, rested eight players at relegation-threatened Fulham but nonetheless claimed a 2-0 win.

Winger Jermaine Pennant scored in the 17th minute at Craven Cottage and England striker Peter Crouch completed the victory in the 70th.

Fourth-placed Liverpool need two more points to be certain of earning a Champions League qualifying place via the league, while Fulham are five points from safety with three games remaining.

The Cottagers’ relegation-fight rivals, Bolton, gave their chances of avoiding the drop a big boost with an impressive 1-0 win at Middlesbrough.

Gavin McCann, once capped for England, finished off a simple tap-in in the 61st minute at the Riverside Stadium.

Bolton are one point and two places above the drop zone.

Third-placed Arsenal at least gave their fans something to cheer with a 2-0 win over the Royals.

At Emirates Stadium, Emmanuel Adebayor scored in the 30th minute with an assured finish, before Gilberto fired in a deflected shot eight minutes later.

”We are all disappointed for the season, how it finished. I think we did pretty well all season but at the end it was disappointing,” Gunners midfielder Francesc Fabregas told Sky Sports television.

”We needed a performance like this to try to finish as best we can.

”We don’t want to always say ‘next year, next year’. I think it is a mistake. We want to do it now.”

Reading drop to one point and one place above the relegation zone, with the team below them, Birmingham City, having a game in hand.

Wigan Athletic were held to a 1-1 draw by visitors Tottenham Hotspur at the JJB Stadium, though the hosts could have done with a victory to quash their relegation fears.

Tottenham’s Bulgaria striker Dimitar Berbatov, who could leave White Hart Lane once the season ends, scored in the sixth minute.

Emile Heskey scored a shock injury-time equaliser to earn Wigan a 1-1 draw at Chelsea on Monday and it was the former England striker who equalised against Spurs, six minutes after Berbatov’s opener.

The League Cup holders were unlucky not to get a first-half penalty when Latics captain Mario Melchiot pulled down Berbatov in the box.

West Ham beat rock-bottom visitors Derby County 2-1 at Upton Park.

The hosts’ Bobby Zamora had not scored since April 21 last year but he headed in a 20th-minute opener. Defender Tyrone Mears equalised in the 65th minute but Carlton Cole scored from two yards out 12 minutes later.

”The season has been one of frustration for everyone. It has been a catalogue of disasters,” said West Ham boss Alan Curbishley.

Derby manager Paul Jewell said: ”This season has been horrendous and there is no getting away from it. The only consistent thing about us is our inconsistency.”

In Sunday’s fixtures, Birmingham travel to city rivals Aston Villa, Newcastle host Sunderland in the north-east derby, while FA Cup finalists Portsmouth visit Manchester City in their quest for a Uefa Cup spot. — Sapa-AFP

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Robin Millard
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