Premier League – Chelsea keep heat on United
Chelsea kept the pressure on leaders Manchester United at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Manchester City at Eastlands.
Richard Dunne’s sixth-minute own-goal gave Chelsea the lead, with Salomon Kalou‘s well-crafted strike just after the break ensuring there would be no repeat of the Champions League implosion against Fenerbahce a few days earlier.
The win means Chelsea move above Arsenal into second place, just two points behind United, although Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have a chance to restore their five-point advantage when they take on Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Although City will take heart from the fact they were the better side between the two Chelsea goals, their recent slump shows no sign of arresting – and all thoughts of Europe are now surely banished.
The home side suffered a nightmare start to the match when they fell behind inside seven minutes as skipper Dunne intercepted Nicolas Anelka low cross at the near post, but only succeeded in sliding the ball past a helpless Joe Hart.
Chelsea almost made it two just five minutes later as Michael Essien fed Anelka through the middle, but Gelson Fernandes showed great pace and determination to track back and make a crucial, well-timed block.
City began to improve as they went in search of an equaliser, Benjani heading over from 12 yards after Martin Petrov and Gelson had decent long-range efforts, although Nedum Onuoha then had to block as Anelka again burst into the penalty area from Frank Lampard‘s pass.
Juliano Belletti did superbly just before the half-hour, sliding in with Stephen Ireland to put the ball out for a corner after a decent City move had put Benjani in down the right, with Carlo Cudicini then forced to tip a Petrov piledriver over.
City started the second half as they finished the first; with purpose and drive as they went in search of an equaliser – but their desire to press forward left gaps at the back and Chelsea exploited ruthlessly to move two in front.
Kalou played a neat one-two with Essien on the edge of the box to carve through the City defence before rounding Hart and rolling the ball into an empty net, the sort of decisive move that City could only dream about.
City’s young keeper Hart showed why he is rated so highly with three fantastic saves as Chelsea looked to kill the game with a quick-fire third, first thwarting Anelka in a one-on-one before showing great agility to tip the France striker’s close-range header onto the bar before pawing the rebound off the line.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side, who then lost Onuoha to what looked like a serious knee injury following a seemingly inoccuous challenge with Essien.
And they never looked like getting back into the match in the final stages, with Chelsea cruising over the finish line after a match in which they barely needed to get out of second gear.
Alex Sharratt / Eurosport