Chelsea close in on title despite Man Utd win
An 3-0 win over Everton put Chelsea nine points ahead of Manchester United with just three games left, meaning a single point will guarantee the title.india Updated: Apr 18, 2006 11:03 IST
Chelsea moved within a point of retaining their Premiership title on Monday with an easy 3-0 win against Everton, although Manchester United managed to at least delay the party by beating Tottenham.
Frank Lampard's first-half shot, a header from Didier Drogba and a thunderous Michael Essien effort put Chelsea nine points ahead of United with just three games left, meaning a single point will guarantee the title.
Nonetheless, the champagne must stay on ice for almost a fortnight after two first-half strikes from England superstar Wayne Rooney gave United a 2-1 away win at Spurs in the day's early kick off.
Chelsea, who play an FA Cup semi-final this coming weekend, cannot seal the title before April 29 at the earliest -- when they host Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho admitted that his side were very nearly home and dry.
"It is not easy for us to lose the three matches, it is not easy for Man United to win the three matches," the Chelea boss said.
"But you never know, so we have to be sure that we have a minimum of one point."
Chelsea were clearly in party mood, Drogba celebrating his goal by running to the crowd and planting a kiss on the cheek of a female fan in a blue shirt.
Spurs could have helped hand the title to their fellow Londoners but missed a series of chances to equalise against Manchester United after Jermaine Jenas pulled a goal back early in the second half.
"We had to battle after that," United boss Sir Alex Ferguson admitted. But it was a great, open game."
It proved a grimmer result for Spurs, who are desperately trying to hang on to fourth place and the Champions League qualifying spot it brings.
Their defeat keeps them just four points ahead of Arsenal, who have a game in hand and host Spurs this coming Saturday.
"It's a big blow to us," Spurs boss Martin Jol said. "But we have to go to Arsenal now and get a result."
At the opposite end of the table there was yet more drama for Harry Rednapp's recently resurgent Portsmouth, who threw away a lead to lose 2-1 away to Charlton.
Argentinean striker Andres D'Alessandro's stunning 40th-minute run and shot gave Pompey a lead, but late goals by Bryan Hughes and Darren Bent gave Charlton a seemingly unlikely victory, Portsmouth missing a string of chances.
It was a cruel blow for Portsmouth who, after long looking sure of relegation had climbed three points clear of the relegation zone following a run of six unbeaten games, now ended.
Elsewhere in the Premiership, Middlesbrough won 2-0 at home to West Ham in a rehearsal for the teams' FA Cup semi-final clash this coming weekend. Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink's 41st-minute strike and a penalty in the 57th minute by Massimo Maccarone secured the points.
The long-suffering fans of poor Sunderland, adrift for months at the bottom of the Premiership and already relegated, saw their gloom deepened still further with a 4-1 home loss to northeast rivals Newcastle.
Defender Justin Hoyte, on loan from Arsenal, gave Sunderland a first-half lead. But within two minutes, Michael Copra's shot and a penalty by Alan Shearer saw Newcastle come back, Charles N'Zogbia and Albert Luque sealing the points.
Worryingly for the Newcastle fans, late in the game they saw Shearer limp off injured -- potentially a last-ever appearance for the England captain -- who retires at the end of the season.
Earlier Monday, Manchester United yet again had reason to be grateful to Rooney.
The 20-year-old, tipped to be one of the key players in this summer's World Cup, scrambled his first from point-blank range via Cristiano Ronaldo's low cross in a lightning eight-minute counter-attack.
Then, 10 minutes before half-time, Spurs's South Korean defender Lee Young-Pyo dawdled on the ball and was robbed by international team-mate Park Ji-Sung. Rooney grabbed the loose ball and shot fiercely past Paul Robinson.
Tottenham came out furiously after the break and their pressure paid off in the 53rd minute, Jenas poking the ball in from a yard out.
At the start of March, Chelsea led the Premiership by 18 points but saw this margin all-but evaporate as United went on an 11-game winning streak.
On Friday, Sir Alex Ferguson's men could have piled on the pressure further by beating Sunderland, cutting the deficit to just four points. But in the end they could only manage a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.
On Monday evening West Brom eked out a goalless draw against Bolton at The Hawthorns to leave Bryan Robson's strugglers second from bottom while Bolton moved up a place into eighth.
First Published: Apr 18, 2006 11:03 IST