Tue, Dec 28, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton win

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL And Manchester United beat neighbor Bolton 2-0 to make sure that Chelsea didn't go further ahead in the Premiership standings


Arjen Robben, left, of Chelsea, is fouled by Aston Villa's Nolberto Solano during their match at Stamford Bridge, London on Sunday. The Blues won the match 1-0.


Damien Duff kept Chelsea five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a goal against Aston Villa on Sunday only for the three chasing teams to also win.

Second-place defending champion Arsenal scored a routine 2-0 victory over Fulham, Everton edged Manchester City 2-1 and Manchester United beat neighbor Bolton 2-0 to make sure that Chelsea didn't go further ahead.

Even Liverpool stayed just behind the chasing pack with a 5-0 victory at last place West Bromwich Albion.

Jose Mourinho' Blues did enough to beat defense-minded Villa at Stamford Bridge to post their 14th victory in 19 games and 12th winning shutout.

Duff scored the only goal of the game in the 30th minute when he cut inside a defender on the right and fired past Villa 'keeper Thomas Sorensen.

"We are enjoying it at the top," said Chelsea defender John Terry. "The lads are confident, the team spirit is fantastic and if we can keep that it will be a good year for us."

With English soccer ignoring the European midwinter break favored by most other big leagues, this was the first of four rounds of games between now and Jan. 3 and Mourinho reshaped his team in the second half to preserve the strength and fitness of some of his players.

"When you are fighting to be champions you need to fight with your sleeves up to get points," Mourinho said. "We did that so I am really happy with the players."

Thierry Henry gave the Gunners a 12th-minute lead with a low right foot into the far corner for his 20th goal of the season and Robert Pires added the second 19 minutes from the end when he turned home a low cross from Freddie Ljungberg to make sure of the three points for Arsene Wenger's men.

"What is important for us is to focus on ourselves and our quality and we don't have to worry about anybody else," Wenger said. "It is too far away from the end of the season to speculate on a slip by Chelsea.

At the halfway stage of the campaign, Chelsea has 46 points from 19 games and Arsenal has 41. Everton had 40 points and Manchester United 37 as they maintained the chase.

Australian forward Tim Cahill gave third-place Everton a 22nd-minute lead against Man City at Goodison Park only for Robbie Fowler to level three minutes before half time.

But Marcus Bent headed home a cross from Thomas Gravesen for the winner and City suffered a further blow when substitute Christian Negouai was sent off within two minutes of going on his Premier League debut for an over-the-ball challenge.

Ryan Giggs scored the first and set up the second for substitute Paul Scholes as fourth-place Manchester United downed Bolton at Old Trafford. It was Scholes' seventh goal in seven games as the Reds won at home for the seventh time in a row.

"Our performances have certainly been very good and the players in the past few weeks have been coming to the form that we expect of them," said United manager Alex Ferguson. "What we need is consistent results and today goes a long way towards that."

Two years after winning 6-0 on its last visit to the Hawthorns, Liverpool almost matched that performance with a 5-0 victory over West Brom to add to the woes of new Baggies manager Bryan Robson. Rafa Benitez side would have scored six again but Milan Baros also had a penalty saved by Russell Hoult.

John Arne Riise scored two of Liverpool's goals against a West Brom side that had Romanian international Cosmin Contra sent off six minutes before halftime for deliberate handball and has now lost its last five home games.

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