By the brace of Drogba
Chelsea outgun Arsenal, trail leaders Man United by just five points.sports Updated: Mar 24, 2008 22:58 IST
DIDIER DROGBA kept alive Chelsea’s Premier League title challenge as his double strike clinched a 2-1 win against Arsenal on Sunday.
Avram Grant’s side were in danger of being cast adrift in the title race when Bacary Sagna headed Arsenal into a second-half lead at Stamford Bridge.
But Drogba equalised with a superb strike before snatching the winner nine minutes from full-time to move the Blues above Arsenal and into second place.
It was a much-needed victory for Grant, who finally savoured the taste of success in a genuinely big match. But while Chelsea were celebrating a result that left them five points behind Manchester United, it was Sir Alex Ferguson’s leaders who were the real winners.
With Arsenal now six points adrift of United, the reigning champions are in pole position to retain their title. United still have to host Arsenal and visit the Bridge in April and Ferguson will have been rubbing his hands in glee at Arsenal’s demise.
Drogba’s brace condemned the Gunners to their second league defeat this season and Arsene Wenger’s team, who have gone five matches without a win, look to have lost their nerve with the finishing post in sight.
United’s crushing win over Liverpool earlier Sunday left neither side with any margin for error. Wenger’s side were the last visiting team to leave the Bridge celebrating three points in the league. But the Blues had gone an English record 77 matches unbeaten since that defeat.
Chelsea had made the more promising start. Michael Ballack brought Manuel Almunia into action for the first time with a free-kick.Arsenal were tentative in the early stages. Robin van Persie found his range midway through the half but Carlo Cudicini was equal to the Dutch striker’s low shot on the turn.
Drogba had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock moments later when he beat the offside trap and raced onto John Terry’s pass. A cool first touch would have allowed the striker to pull the trigger, instead he deflected the ball tamely off his knee to Almunia.
A surprisingly tepid first half briefly turned nasty when Wenger sprang to his feet to berate Ballack.
Valencia stun Real
Madrid: FC BARCELONA closed to within four points of Real Madrid in the Spanish league, picking up a 4-1 win over Valladolid while the defending champions lost to Valencia 3-2.
Bojan Krkic scored two second-half goals and set up the other two for Barcelona on Sunday.
Madrid, which had been trying to maintain its seven-point lead at the top of the standings, lost at home when Javier Arizmendi scored in the 89th minute.
Arizmendi outran Fabio Cannavaro to a long ball and then got around the Madrid defender before sliding his shot past Iker Casillas inside the far post.
“The truth is lately we’re paying for our errors, which aren’t many, but we’re directly paying with goals,” Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said.
Madrid still leads the league with 62 points, followed by Barcelona with 58. Villarreal, which beat last-place Levante 2-1 on Guillermo Franco’s 83rd-minute goal, is third with 56 points.