Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Charlton stuns a slumping Chelsea

PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United has 43 points, Arsenal has 42 and Chelsea 39 as the Gunners and Red Devils both won


Manchester United's John O'Shea, left, is tackled by Everton's Wayne Rooney during their match at Manchester United's Old Trafford ground in Manchester, England, Friday.


Chelsea slumped to a surprising 4-2 loss at Charlton on Friday to fall four points behind in the championship race.

On the day Manchester United beat Everton 3-2 and Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 victory over last place Wolves, Claudio Ranieri's expensively assembled team trailed the Addicks 4-1 just eight minutes into the second half and failed to win for the third time in four league games.

The results mean that Manchester United has 43 points from 18 games, Arsenal has 42 and Chelsea 39 going into another round of games today and tomorrow.

Fulham scored a 2-0 victory over Southampton to regain fourth place with Louis Saha, tipped as a transfer target for Manchester United, collected two more goals.

Friday's other results were Birmingham 2, Manchester City 1; Blackburn 2, Middlesbrough 2; Leeds 0, Aston Villa 0; Leicester 1, Newcastle 1; Liverpool 3, Bolton 1 and Portsmouth 2, Tottenham 0.

With another game to follow at Middlesbrough today, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson rested Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes on the bench at Old Trafford, but still had too much quality for Everton.

Recalled to the starting lineup, Nicky Butt scored his first goal for a year before Brazilian World Cup star Kleberson and David Bellion netted their first for the club since arriving in the summer. Gary Neville's own goal when he headed in a free kick from Thomas Gravesen have Everton an equalizer for 1-1 but a late second by Duncan Ferguson was little more than consolation for the Toffees.

Paolo Di Canio played a part in Charlton's first three goals at The Valley where Hermann Hreidarsson gave the Addicks the lead after only 49 seconds. England defender John Terry leveled in the 10th Matt Holland regained the lead before half time and, before Chelsea had chance to hit back again, Charlton raced into a 4-1 lead with goals in the 48th and 53rd minutes by Jonathan Johansson and Jason Euell.

Eidur Gudjohnsen cut the lead to 4-2 in the 73rd minute but Chelsea, with Roman Abramovich watching from the stands, was unable to add any more.

"At the beginning of the second half we switched off," Ranieri said. "At 4-1 it was very very difficult to draw the match. We left them too many chances to score a goal.

"At the same time last season, Sir Alex Ferguson said to his players `no more then five defeats in the league.' I said the same. We have only another two."

At Highbury, Patrick Vieira gave the Gunners a 13th minute lead when he connected with a Thierry Henry corner and his shot deflected off Jody Craddock and flew into the net for an own goal. Seven minutes later, Vieira dispossessed Craddock and provided the pass for Henry to fire the second from 12m.

Henry added the third with a minute to go when he took a pass from Edu, rounded for teammate Oleg Luzhny and fired into the far corner.

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"If a player is only a goalscorer, you start to worry if he isn't scoring. Thierry's different," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

"I never worry about Thierry because, even if he isn't scoring, he helps other players score. They were Thierry's first goals for five or six games. And he knew that for him, goals are like a bank balance. He knows where he stands."

The loss means Wolves is now six points adrift in last place.

At Loftus Road, Saha gave Fulham a 19th minute when countryman Steed Malbranque swapped passes with Lee Clark and the Frenchman collected the through ball to fire home left footed.

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