Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Blues rise to top of league standings

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Chelsea battled to a 1-0 victory over Everton to move the high-payed group of strikers past Arsenal, which has struggled during recent games

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Chelsea's Damien Duff, left, moves in as teammate Frank Lampard, right, challenges Everton's Thomas Gravesen during their match at Stamford Bridge in London on Saturday. The Blues won the match 1-0 and moved to the top of the Premier League standings.

PHOTO: AFP

Chelsea is the new Premier League leader in England.

The Blues took a hard-fought 1-0 victory Saturday over Everton on Arjen Robben's 72nd minute goal. The victory coupled with Arsenal's 1-1 draw at Crystal Place moved the Blues two points ahead of the Gunners atop the Premier League.

Chelsea improved to 29 points with defending champions Arsenal on 27 followed by Everton (23) and Bolton (21) with Middlesbrough and Aston Villa on 18.

Under new manager Jose Mourinho, Chelsea has given up only four goals in all matches this season -- and only one at home at Stamford Bridge.

"I think it was a special win against a special opponent," Mourinho said. "They [Everton] are definitely the tallest and strongest I have seen in England. Very physical with a great attitude.

Everton was tough defensively until Robben broke through, racing into the area on a lofted pass from Eidur Gudjohnsen and then flicking the ball over 'keeper Nigel Martyn.

The Toffies entered the match as the only Premier League team without an away loss.

Chelsea had a half dozen other chances to score, but failed to convert.

"In this kind of match you can't miss so many chances," Mourinho said. "But to be fair, they had one in the first half and a set play in the second half."

The next date to watch? It's Dec. 12, when Arsenal meets Chelsea at Highbury.

Arsenal, unbeaten in 49 straight league games just two weeks ago, has won only once in its last six games in all competitions.

Arsenal has led the league from the start, dropping to second in Saturday's 12th league game of the season. Counting last season, it's the first time in almost 11 months that the Gunners have not topped the standings.

The Gunners took a brief lead in the 63rd on Thierry Henry's goal, but failed to hold it with Aki Riihilahti scoring two minutes later. Arsenal's Robin van Persie had two good chances in the final 20 minutes, stopped each time by `keeper Gabor Kiraly.

In a battle between teams in the middle of the standings, Aston Villa defeated Portsmouth 3-0 on goals by Peter Whittingham, Juan Pablo Angel and Nolberto Solano.

The three first-half goals swamped Portsmouth, which looked nothing like the side that upset Manchester United 2-0 a week ago.

Despite dominating much of the play at Anfield, Liverpool slipped to a 1-0 loss against Birmingham City on Darren Anderton's 77th-minute goal.

In a battle of teams at the bottom, Paul Dickov's goal in the 86th gave Rovers a 1-1 draw and kept Norwich from recording its first Premier League win of the season. Blackburn played a man short after Jay Bothroyd was sent off in the 44th for violent conduct. Mathias Svensson gave Norwich a 1-0 lead in the 56th, with Dickov equalizing.

Southampton rallied for a 2-2 draw against West Brom on an 87th-minute goal by Anders Svensson. Southampton stayed among the bottom three with only eight points. West Brom has nine, one point above the relegation zone.

Charlton took a 3-0 lead against Tottenham on two early goals by Shaun Bartlett, and then held on for victory. Bartlett was sent off in the 68th for a handball, with Robbie Keane scoring on a subsequent penalty. Jermain Defoe scored again in the 79th.

The match came just a day after Spurs' coach Jacques Santini turned in his surprise resignation, citing "personal and private reasons." Tottenham had only three victories in 11 Premier League games under the former France national team coach.

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