Chelsea go five clear as Wolves downed

Chelsea opened up a five-point gap at the top of the English Premier League on Saturday as goals from Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou wrapped up a 2-0 victory over Wolves.

With Manchester City facing Arsenal on Sunday and Manchester United traveling to Stoke, the champions seized the chance to put pressure on the chasing pack by taking maximum points at Stamford Bridge.

Malouda’s goal came on 23 minutes, the French international providing the finish after neat interplay between Yuri Zhirkov and Nicolas Anelka.

Salomon Kalou bagged Chelsea’s second after a scintillating sequence of one-touch play opened up the Wolves defence on 81 minutes.

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti was pleased his team had been able to register a victory after a gruelling midweek Champions League trip to Moscow.

“It was a difficult week because we had to travel to Moscow so I think we were not 100%. It’s important to win when you are not 100 percent,” said Ancelotti, downplaying the significance of Chelsea’s lead at the top.

“We are in a good position, we started well and we have to continue, but nothing more. The difficult moment will arrive and we have to be ready.”

In other matches on Saturday, a dreadful blunder by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard gave Tottenham a share of the points in a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane which was enough to see Spurs move up to third in the table.

Everton had taken a 1-0 lead with an exquisitely flighted free-kick from Leighton Baines on 17 minutes.

Spurs levelled within three minutes when Howard fluffed a punched clearance, allowing Peter Crouch to guide the ball across the face of goal for striker Rafael Van der Vaart, who hammered home the equaliser.

Yet despite enjoying plenty of possession for the remainder of the game, Spurs were unable to penetrate a well-organised Everton line-up.

“They’re a good side. You don’t get an easy game with Everton, you never do,” Spurs boss Harry Redknapp said.

“We had the better of the chances but I’m happy with a point … to come back from 1-0 down again shows tremendous character.”

Elsewhere, newly promoted West Bromwich Albion advanced to fourth after coming from behind to defeat Fulham 2-1 at the Hawthorns.

Fulham had taken the lead on nine minutes when a Zoltan Gera shot was tipped on to the post by Scott Carson only to cannon back off the West Brom keeper and roll into the net.

Yet the Baggies were back on level terms soon afterwards, when Chris Brunt picked out Congolese striker Youssouf Mulumbu, who rifled past Mark Schwarzer to make it 1-1.

West Brom took the lead five minutes before half-time, Brunt and Jerome Thomas combining well to play in Marc-Antoine Fortune who made it 2-1.

Baggies manager Roberto Di Matteo played down his side’s flying start to the season. “I keep saying the same — we’ve only played nine games. It’s important where we stand at the end of the season not right now,” Di Matteo said.

At the Stadium of Light, Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne set an unwanted Premier League record when his own goal handed Sunderland a 1-0 victory.

It was the eighth own goal of Dunne’s career and proved decisive as Villa struggled in vain to find an equaliser after dominating the second half.

Villa manager Gerard Houllier bemoaned his side’s inability to convert any of a string of openings.

“A fair result would have been a draw,” Houllier said. “We had opportunities but in football you have to put the ball into the back of the net.”

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce admitted his team had been fortunate to score after struggling to find the net this season.

“We needed a bit of luck,” Bruce said. “We needed something. You always worry against a side with the quality of Aston Villa whether one goal is going to be enough. In the second half it proved to be.”

Wigan and Bolton Wanderers fought out a 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium, Hugo Rodallega scoring on 59 minutes for the Latics before Swedish international Johan Elmander levelled for the visitors seven minutes later.

Birmingham piled on the misery for minnows Blackpool with a 2-0 victory at St Andrews.

Birmingham went 1-0 up through a Liam Ridgewell goal shortly before half-time, following up to nod home after Serbian Nikola Zigic had headed on to the bar.

The Blues doubled their lead shortly after the restart after a mistake by Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam, who miscontrolled inside the area allowing Zigic to pounce and drill home on 57 minutes.

In the late game on Saturday, West Ham remained anchored firmly to the foot of the table after losing 2-1 to Newcastle United at Upton Park.

Carlton Cole shot the Hammers into the lead on 12 minutes but the Magpies equalised through Kevin Nolan on 23 minutes before Andy Carroll powered home the winner midway through the second half. – AFP

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Rob Woollard
Rob Woollard
Report on sport in the Americas for Agence France-Presse.

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