Chelsea win, Gunners shot down

The leaders recovered from their defeat to Barcelona with an unconvincing 2-0 win over Portsmouth.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2006 13:13 IST

Leaders Chelsea recovered from their defeat to Barcelona with an unconvincing 2-0 win over Portsmouth as Blackburn stung Real Madrid's conquerors Arsenal 1-0 in the English Premiership on Saturday.

Chelsea eventually scored in the second half, England midfielder Frank Lampard and Netherlands winger Arjen Robben's goals against relegation-threatened Pompey at Stamford Bridge, extending the champions' lead on second-placed Manchester United to 15 points.

Arsenal became the first English team to win at Real Madrid in Tuesday's Champions League match, but they were brought back to earth with a bump at Ewood Park thanks to Norway midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen's first-half strike.

Rovers leapfrogged the Gunners into fifth place as Arsenal's hopes of earning a Champions League spot dimmed further.

Birmingham City remain in the relegation zone despite winning 1-0 at home against rock-bottom Sunderland.

Mid-table Charlton Athletic and Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw before England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, watching Charlton striker Darren Bent ahead of Wednesday's friendly at home to Uruguay.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho made four changes from the side that lost 2-1 to Spanish giants Barcelona in the Champions League at the Bridge on Wednesday.

Blues assistant manager Steve Clarke said: "It takes a lot out of the players but they showed great character and commitment as always to bounce back and get the three points we needed."

"We took a risk, going three at the back and four up front, but when you bring on players of their quality you expect them to have an impact in the game. Thankfully for us that's what happened," he told Sky Sports television.

The Blues had won just three of their previous five matches, and made hard work of Pompey on a poor pitch.

Chelsea full-back Asier Del Horno, sent off against Barcelona, was replaced by Ireland winger Damien Duff in an attacking tactical switch half an hour in.

Lampard had been having a quiet match until the 65th minute.

Didier Drogba broke down the left and crossed, Eidur Gudjohnsen's stepover allowed Lampard to place a cool finish past Kiely.

Gudjohnsen set up the second for Robben in the 78th minute, sliding the ball between the Pompey full-backs.

The defeat left Portsmouth eight points from safety in the relegation zone.

At Ewood Park, Arsenal launched wave after wave of attacks on Blackburn after Pedersen's 18th-minute strike.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger felt his side were desperately unlucky not to get at least a point.

"I am very sad because I don't think we deserved to lose this game," the Frenchman moaned.

"Overall we were always on top of the game but we couldn't score. They gave absolutely everything but lacked a little bit of mental sharpness.

"They kicked the ball long just behind our defenders. It's down to us to face every problem we have, handle it well and still win the game."

Wales striker Craig Bellamy's pacy run down the right set up the goal, with Arsenal's Switzerland centre-half Philippe Senderos looking woefully exposed.

However, Pedersen lasted a further two minutes before he was subsituted off injured.

The Gunners surged forward but gritty Blackburn refused to cave in and held out to sit three points off fourth place and a Champions League qualifying spot.

The defeat was Arsenal's fourth in six Premiership matches and left them with a fight on their hands to secure a top four finish.

Birmingham should have scored more at St Andrews against visitors Sunderland but had to make do with England striker Emile Heskey's header.

The former Liverpool forward, unmarked at the far post, nodded in winger Jermaine Pennant's inswinging free kick in the 39th minute.

The goal was Heskey's first in 14 games and only his fifth of the season.

The result leaves the Birmingham three points from safety but Sunderland are now 16 points adrift.

Birmingham boss Steve Bruce said: "It was important to get the three points. It puts us within striking distance of both West Brom and Middlesbrough.

"It became a little bit nervous today because we didn't take the opportunities presented to us."

At The Valley, Charlton and Villa played out a goalless draw which would not have impressed Eriksson.

The England boss was in the stands to watch the uncapped Bent, who tried hard and almost scored in an energetic display.

Charlton manager Alan Curbishley admitted the draw was a "frustration for everybody".

Villa manager David O'Leary said: "It was largely a not very exciting and scrappy game. Alan and I both tried to spark up the game with second-half substitutions but we both have a lack of numbers."

The result left both teams in mid-table.

First Published: Feb 26, 2006 13:13 IST