Chelsea extend lead after Manchester stalemate

Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the English Premier League with a 1-0 victory over local rivals Fulham on Wednesday, as the Manchester derby failed to live up to expectations.

A Michael Essien goal after half an hour saw Chelsea bounce back from Sunday’s defeat to Liverpool to open a four-point lead after Manchester United were held 0-0 by Manchester City in a dour stalemate.

Chelsea’s delight at victory was tempered, however, by a red card for goals corer Essien deep in injury time for a second bookable offence.

Meanwhile, a disappointing Manchester derby saw City and United cancel each other out in a cagey encounter at Eastlands where goal-scoring opportunities were thin on the ground.

United manager Alex Ferguson was dismayed that his team were unable to break down their neighbours.

“Some of our football was very good — we were very confident, had good composure on the ball,” said Ferguson. “But we needed to make chances, we needed to win the match. And in that sense we had only two chances from open play so that’s a bit of a disappointment for us.

“It’s a decent result but we don’t count draws as a target. Our target was to win the game and we had enough possession to do that.”

Arsenal recovered from the shock of their home defeat to Newcastle on Sunday by easing past struggling Wolves 2-0 at Molineux.

The Gunners took the lead with one of the fastest goals of the season, Marouane Chamakh netting his seventh goal of the campaign in less than a minute to set the Gunners on the way to victory.

Chamakh added a second in injury time to leave Arsenal in third place, five points adrift of leaders Chelsea, and one behind Manchester United in second.

However, the hero for the Gunners was maligned keeper Lukasz Fabianski, who pulled off a series of stunning saves to help preserve the visitors’ lead.

“He was very, very good today, overall he was spot on,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said of Fabianski.

Crashing down to earth
Liverpool’s revival suffered a blip as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Wigan. The Reds looked to be on course for a fourth consecutive league victory after Fernando Torres slotted his fourth goal in as many games after seven minutes at the DW Stadium.

But Wigan came back into the match and netted a deserved equaliser early in the second half when Hugo Rodallega steered in a low shot from 10 yards.

After their superb away victory over Arsenal, Newcastle were brought crashing down to earth in a 2-1 home defeat by Blackburn.

Morten Gamst Pedersen fired Rovers ahead after only three minutes before Newcastle got back on level terms through in-form striker Andy Carroll, who enhanced his claims for a place in England manager Fabio Capello’s next squad with a well-taken equaliser two minutes after half-time.

Second-half substitute Jason Roberts then slotted the winner eight minutes from time as Rovers’ former Newcastle boss, Sam Allardyce, made it a happy return to St James Park.

An 89th-minute goal from Aston Villa defender James Collins clinched all three points for Gerard Houllier’s team in a 3-2 win over Blackpool in a helter-skelter tussle at Villa Park.

Stewart Downing put Villa 1-0 up after 28 minutes, curling into the top corner after good work from Ashley Young.

Blackpool struck back right on half-time when Marlon Harewood pounced on a Matt Phillips backheel to tuck away the equaliser.

Aston Villa had the ball in the net early in the second half only for Nathan Delfouneso’s header to be disallowed. But Delfouneso made no mistake shortly afterwards, picking up Young’s through ball to make it 2-1.

An 87th-minute equaliser from DJ Campbell looked to have secured a point for the Tangerines before Collins’s late winner downed the visitors.

At Upton Park, West Ham and West Bromwich Albion shared the points in a 2-2 draw. West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie put the Baggies 1-0 up from the penalty spot on 38 minutes after Luis Boa Morte was adjudged to have held Steven Reid.

But Scott Parker levelled for the Hammers five minutes later and early in the second half Frederic Piquionne scored from the spot to put the Londoners ahead. West Ham’s hopes of a precious three points were dashed by Pablo Ibanez, however, who scored on 71 minutes to earn the visitors a draw, a result which left the Hammers rooted to the bottom of the table.

At Goodison, Everton needed a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time from Jermaine Beckford to secure a 1-1 draw against Bolton, who had taken the lead after 79 minutes through Ivan Klasnic. — Sapa-AFP

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

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