Chelsea maintained their five-point gap at the top of the English Premier League on Saturday after coming from behind to defeat Blackburn Rovers, as Arsenal and Manchester United both won to keep pace with the reigning champions.
A Branislav Ivanovic header on 84 minutes clinched a dramatic 2-1 victory for Chelsea at Ewood Park after Nicolas Anelka had canceled out Benjani Mwaruwari’s opener for Rovers.
“We knew before this game it was going to be difficult,” Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “We took a fantastic result, a fantastic three points.”
It was a heart-breaking defeat for Rovers, who despite hovering only one place above the relegation zone, outplayed Chelsea for long periods.
“It’s a bit hard to take at the moment that we lost the game,” Rovers boss Sam Allardyce told Sky Sports.
“We have to take it on the chin, but for me it’s about lifting the players. If we continue with that level of performance, we should be all right and start picking three points up,” he said.
Arsenal also left it late to snatch a 1-0 win over West Ham United at the Emirates, finally breaking the Hammers’ resistance in the 88th minute with a goal from Alex Song that saw the Gunners stay in touch at the top.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised his side’s patience in breaking down a dogged West Ham, who remain rooted to the foot of the table.
“It was a battle, where on our side we needed to be patient, intelligent and sometimes a bit lucky,” Wenger said. “At the end of the day, our ‘keep going’ spirit got us through. We didn’t make mistakes at the back, we kept a clean sheet.”
In the late game at Old Trafford, Manchester United eased to a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur that was overshadowed by a bizarre incident toward the end of the match which resulted in United’s second goal.
With United leading through a first-half Nemanja Vidic header, the match remained finely balanced when Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes placed the ball inside the area to take what he believed was a free-kick, but as Gomes retreated in anticipation of kicking the ball, an alert Nani stepped up and toe-poked it into the Spurs net.
Despite furious protests from the Tottenham players, the goal was allowed to stand by referee Mark Clattenburg.
Manchester United and Arsenal now have 20 points from 10 matches, five behind Chelsea.
While United, Arsenal and Chelsea celebrated wins, fourth-placed Manchester City capped a miserable week by crashing to a shock 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
City — beaten 3-0 at home by Arsenal last Sunday — slumped to a second consecutive loss that put a big dent in their title aspirations.
City went ahead through an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty on 23 minutes, the Togolese making no mistake from the spot after Richard Stearman had brought down David Silva, but Wolves fought back bravely, hitting the post, before Serbian midfielder Nenad Milijas leveled for Mick McCarthy’s men on 30 minutes.
David Edwards then rifled in the second on 57 minutes and Wolves were able to keep their big-spending opponents at bay for a deserved win.
It was a dismal setback for City, who badly missed the presence of injured captain Carlos Tevez in attack.
The result is also certain to cast fresh scrutiny on City’s players, who were criticized by coach Roberto Mancini prior to the match for their drinking habits.