Tue, Dec 14, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Gunners and Blues thrill in epic battle

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Thierry Henry stunned Chelsea twice and gave the Arsenal two leads to defend. But the Gunners failed each time, conceding set-piece goals

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Chelsea's keeper Petr Cech denies Arsenal another goal during their Premier League match in London on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho called it a game "for the world."

Highly touted matches often fall flat, but Chelsea's 2-2 draw at Arsenal on Sunday met the hype with great goals, a touch of controversy, and only a few yellow cards.

Nearing the midway point of the season, it didn't seal the outcome of the English Premier League, but it showed league-leading Chelsea -- trying for its first league title since 1955 -- will be difficult to catch, even for defending champion Arsenal.

Asked if the best two teams in England had just met, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger replied: "At the moment yes, but this is December. There is a long way to go. Everton and Man United aren't far behind."

Mourinho said: "This was a game -- not just for England, but for the world. Everybody who loves football was looking at this game."

The best striker in England, Thierry Henry surprised Chelsea twice and gave the Gunners two leads to defend. But they failed each time, conceding set-piece goals.

The draw kept Chelsea five points ahead of Arsenal. But the Gunners slipped into third place, thanks to Everton beating Liverpool 1-0 on Saturday in the Merseyside Derby.

Chelsea leads the standings on 40 points with Everton (36) and Arsenal (35) chasing.

In Sunday's other game, Birmingham City defeated Aston Villa 2-1 to claim the second city derby, taking the match on first-half goals by Clinton Morrison and David Dunn. Gareth Barry scored late for Villa.

The victory at Villa Park moved City temporarily out of relegation danger, improving to 17 points. West Brom (10) holds down last place, topped by Southampton (13), Blackburn and Crystal Palace (14). Villa remained in sixth place with 25 points.

First-half goals from Chris Sutton and Stilian Petrov gave Celtic a 2-0 victory over Dunfermline and first place in the Premier League.

The victory improved Celtic to 44 points in 18 games with Rangers on 43. Third-place Hibernian has 30 with Motherwell on 29.

Sutton scored in the 16th and Petrov made it 2-0 in the 31st.

Dunfermline stayed in eighth place with 16 points.

Celtic manager Martin O'Neill said he was speaking to the agents of some of his top players like John Hartson, Bobo Balde, Jackie McNamara, Robert Douglas, Joos Valgaeren and Neil Lennon. The six have contracts nearing their end.

"I am meeting John's [Hartson] agent in the early part of this week and I hope to start discussions with some other people," O'Neill said. "I have a rough idea of what I want to do and I hope that's the same for the players and the agents."

A bomb threat forced the evacuation of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium with two minutes left and Real Madrid and Real Sociedad drawn 1-1 in a Spanish league game on Sunday.

After talking to an official on the sideline, referee Lizondo Cortes halted the game in the 88th minute and pointed the teams toward the tunnel, as the stadium's loudspeakers appealed for an orderly evacuation by 70,000 fans.

The stadium was evacuated at 8:45pm local time, 15 minutes before a bomb at the stadium was set to explode, according to a threat phoned to the Basque newspaper Gara.

It took about 10 minutes to clear the entire stadium.

Two hours later, no bomb had been found, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior told AP.

Spanish soccer authorities met today to discuss a possible replay.

Real Madrid had started the match in attacking form, with Ronaldo chesting a pass by Michel Salgado and acrobatically netting a shoulder-high ball in the 42nd minute.

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