Mon, Jan 02, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Chelsea eases past Birmingham City

AP , LONDON

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, right, has his shirt pulled by Bolton Wanderers defender Abdoulaye Faye near the goal during the first half at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on Saturday. Second-place Manchester United outplayed Bolton 4-1.

PHOTO: AFP

Hernan Crespo and Arjen Robben scored first-half goals on Saturday to lift Chelsea to a 2-0 win over 19th-place Birmingham City and keep it 11 points clear in the English Premier League title race.

Second-place Manchester United outplayed Bolton 4-1 with two strikes by Cristiano Ronaldo, and third-place Liverpool made it 10 straight wins by edging relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion 1-0 through Peter Crouch's goal.

With Tottenham beating Newcastle 2-0, all top four clubs won. There was more woe for Newcastle as England striker Michael Owen limped off with a broken bone in his foot. The Magpies say he will be out of action for eight to 10 weeks.

Arsenal was held 0-0 at Aston Villa and, in the other games on the final day of 2005, Charlton downed West Ham 2-0, Everton won 1-0 at last-place Sunderland, Portsmouth edged Fulham 1-0, Blackburn won 2-0 at Wigan, and Middlesbrough tied 0-0 with Manchester City.

Starting in place of Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge, Crespo scored in the 25th minute after Birmingham goalkeeper Maik Taylor had blocked a shot from Arjen Robben.

In the 43rd, Crespo's shot hit the crossbar and Robben made it 2-0 after receiving the ball on the left from Eidur Gudjohnsen.

"We score two goals and we should have scored more," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. "We had 101 points in the championship during 2005. I think that's unbelieveable. It's a lot of victories and we started this season better than last."

After dropping two points against Birmingham City, Manchester United couldn't afford to slip up against Bolton at Old Trafford. Although Bolton's veteran midfielder Gary Speed equalized after an early own goal by defender Bruno N'Gotty, Man United took control with Louis Saha's strike and two more by Ronaldo to help manager Alex Ferguson celebrate his 64th birthday.

"The team is growing up together which is a good sign and the young players are maturing so, hopefully, we will have a good 2006," said Ferguson, whose team was knocked out of the Champions League in December.

Liverpool made it five shutout victories in a row over West Brom with Crouch taking his tally to seven goals in seven games with the only goal in the 52nd. Liverpool's winning streak is its best since former manager Bob Paisley's 1982 team won 11.

"Crouch is now scoring one goal per game, which is fantastic," manager Rafa Benitez said. "But, most importantly, he is creating chances for other rest of the team."

At White Hart Lane, Tottenham midfielder Teemu Tainio scored his first goal in English soccer two minutes before halftime after Egypt striker Ahmed Mido had flicked the ball to him. Mido added the second in the 66th.

At Villa Park, Czech Republic striker Milan Baros missed a great chance to put Villa ahead in the 53rd when he shot over the bar with just Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to beat. A minute later, Arsenal's Fredrik Ljungberg hit the bar with a 20m left-foot strike.

At The Valley, Darren Bent set up the first Charlton goal for South Africa striker Shaun Bartlett and headed the second. The victory meant Charlton manager Alan Curbishley ended 2005 on a high after eight losses in nine games.

Australia midfielder Tim Cahill scored Everton's late winner at Sunderland to help the Toffees' struggle to avoid relegation and lift it up to 16th. The result left Sunderland last with six points from 19 games.

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