Chelsea lost ground in the Premier League title race on Sunday after being upset 2-1 by Arsenal, enabling defending champions Manchester United to close the gap to five points with a 1-0 victory over Manchester City.
Robin van Persie scored twice in four second-half minutes after Arsenal defender Johan Djourou had scored an earlier own-goal, as Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari lost his second home match of the season — something his two predecessors never experienced.
The Red Devils had Cristiano Ronaldo sent off, but Wayne Rooney’s goal clinched victory in the 150th Manchester derby.
Portsmouth lost a 2-0 lead for the second time in three days but, unlike the 2-2 UEFA Cup draw with AC Milan on Thursday, recovered to beat Blackburn 3-2.
Everton’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham was overshadowed by the loss of Ayegbeni Yakubu for the rest of the season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon, with strike partner Louis Saha also facing a lengthy layoff because of a hamstring strain.
Consecutive league losses for Arsenal had left Arsene Wenger defending his managerial reputation, but the London derby victory over Chelsea moved them up to fourth with 26 points, seven behind the Blues, who have now won just once in their past five games.
The Gunners were struggling to compete with bigger, more physical opponents when Van Persie lashed a 59th-minute equalizer into the top corner from what appeared to be a clear offside position.
“I want only tomorrow, or after tomorrow, for the referee to look at the television and say ‘sorry,’” Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “I don’t want three points, I only want this ‘sorry.’ My team after this lost concentration. The offside killed my team. I lost today because one goal is not a goal. One goal changed the game.”
If van Persie’s first goal involved luck, there was none surrounding his second three minutes later. Emmanuel Adebayor headed a Cesc Fabregas free-kick to Van Persie’s feet and the Netherlands striker turned to shoot through Frank Lampard’s legs and into the far corner.
With Emmanuel Eboue and Abou Diaby on the sidelines, the Gunners were unable for long stretches to compete physically. Emboldened by Chelsea’s defensive lapses, they suddenly looked more like the side that beat Manchester United on Nov. 8 rather than the one that has lost to Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City this month.
“It’s a massive win for us because we had just lost two games,” Wenger said. “To lose today would have put us 13 points adrift. It would have been too much.”
Chelsea have taken just one point at home against the other members of England’s so-called “Big Four” and they have to visit Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in the second half of the season.
In Manchester, Rooney ended a six-week goal drought as Manchester United took on their neighbors for the first time since Manchester City were bought by a wealthy group from the United Arab Emirates.
The England striker tapped in his 100th club goal in the 42nd minute after goalkeeper Joe Hart had spilled Michael Carrick’s shot from a tight angle.
“We needed to win the game because we are behind Liverpool and Chelsea, so it was a significant result for us,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “I love the type of goal Wayne scored. Andy Cole was a specialist at it.”
The Red Devils, who played the last 22 minutes with 10 men, clung on to their slender advantage despite facing a far more assertive City in the second half.