Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Blues overcome halftime deadlock


Eidur Gudjohnsen, left, of Chelsea, vies for the ball with Belozoglu Emre of Newcastle at Stamford Bridge in London on Saturday. Chelsea defeated Newcastle 3-0.


Chelsea bounced back from a slump to beat Newcastle 3-0 on Saturday and move nine points clear of its rivals in the title race.

Second-place Wigan's six-game winning streak came to an end with a 3-2 loss at home to Arsenal with Thierry Henry scoring two top quality goals to lift the Gunners to fourth.

Manchester United moved up to third with a 3-1 victory at Charlton with Ruud van Nistelrooy netting twice.

After three losses in four games in the League Cup, Champions League and Premier League, there were signs that Chelsea had hit major problems.

Against a Newcastle team missing top strikers Michael Owen and Alan Shearer because of injuries, the Blues also were held to 0-0 at halftime at Stamford Bridge.

But two goals in four minutes by Joe Cole and Hernan Crespo gave Chelsea a comfortable lead early in the second half and Damien Duff added a third in the final minute.

Second to Chelsea in the standings, Wigan had hopes of beating an Arsenal side which is struggling to find any consistency.

But early strikes by Robin van Persie and Henry put the Gunners in charge at the JJB Stadium before Paul Jewell's team hit back through Henri Camara.

Henry bent in a long-range free kick early in the second half, but Wigan replied again through Jimmy Bullard in a thrilling but error-strewn game.

"We made one or two mistakes and got punished, we were playing arguably one of the best teams in Europe," Jewell said. "We've come out with no points but we can take positives from it."

Alan Smith, set to be Manchester United's long-term replacement for midfield organizer Roy Keane who left the club on Friday, shot his team ahead at Charlton.

Although Darren Ambrose leveled for Alan Curbishley's team, Van Nistelrooy, who is captain in Keane's absence, scored twice in the last 20 minutes including a rare strike from outside the area.

Chelsea has 34 points from 13 games and Wigan has 25 from 12. United has 24 from 12 and Arsenal is fourth on goal difference from Bolton with 23. Bolton visits struggling Birmingham on Monday.

After a slow start to the domestic campaign, Champions League holder Liverpool moved up to eighth with games in hand after a 3-0 beating of Portsmouth.

Peter Crouch, who hasn't scored for the club since his move to Anfield in July, had a penalty saved although Boudewijn Zenden shot home the rebound and Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes added two more.

In Saturday's other games, Aston Villa climbed further away from relegation trouble with a 3-1 victory at Sunderland. Kevin Phillips and Gareth Barry put David O'Leary's team in charge and Czech Republic star Milan Baros scored his first Premier League goal since August.

Sunday's games are Middlesbrough-Fulham and Tottenham-West Ham.

League Championship leader Sheffield United needed a late equalizer from substitute Danny Webber to salvage a 2-2 draw with Millwall. Two points dropped at home means that second-place Reading cut the Blades' lead to one point by beating Hull 3-1.

Surprise performance of the day was Leeds' 4-3 victory at Southampton after being 3-0 down at halftime. The Saints led 3-0 with 20 minutes to go but surrendered all three points as Liam Miller, on loan to Leeds from Manchester United, netted the winner five minutes from the end.

Celtic beat city rival Rangers 3-0 to move 15 points clear of the defending champion and take a three-point lead atop the standings.

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