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Liverpool leads by 3 points after Chelsea slips up

Liverpool moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League after the Reds demolished Newcastle 5-1 and title rival Chelsea was held 2-2 at Fulham.

sports Updated: Dec 28, 2008 23:29 IST

Liverpool moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday after the Reds demolished Newcastle 5-1 and title rival Chelsea was held 2-2 at Fulham.

Fulham's Clint Dempsey headed his second goal of the game with a minute remaining to stun Chelsea after the American midfielder's early strike was wiped out by Frank Lampard's double. Steven Gerrard scored twice and set up another at Newcastle to give Liverpool 45 points after 20 matches, with Chelsea on 42. Manchester United, which has played three games fewer, is next with 35 and hosts Middlesbrough on Monday.

The Blues were on the back foot after 10 minutes when John Mikel Obi failed to deal with a curling free kick from Simon Davies and Dempsey controlled the bouncing ball with his chest and flicked it past Petr Cech.

Chelsea's fightback began five minutes after the break when Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer collided with defender Aaron Hughes and the loose ball broke for Lampard to sidefoot home. Lampard then unleashed a swerving free kick from 25 meters (yards) through a gap in the Fulham wall to wrong-foot Schwarzer and put Chelsea on course for all three points.

But with the clock ticking down, Dempsey latched onto another delivery from Davies, this time a corner, to leave Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari with just 10 points from a possible 21. "We need to work hard again and start again," Scolari said. Earlier at St. James' Park, Liverpool's victory had provided further evidence that its 19-year wait for the league title may be drawing to a close.

The victory was all the sweeter for manager Rafa Benitez, coming two days after a comprehensive 3-0 win over Bolton and while star striker Fernando Torres continues to recover from a hamstring injury.

It was only Shay Given's agility in the Newcastle goal with a string of superb saves that thwarted the Reds until the 31st minute when Gerrard blasted the ball in off the inside of the upright. Yossi Benayoun had run onto Javier Mascherano's pass down the right flank and cut the ball back to an unmarked Gerrard in a prime central position.

Gerrard turned provider five minutes later, with Sami Hyypia unopposed as he leapt to head his captain's corner home. David Edgar was given space to pull one back with a powerful header, but the lifeline for injury-ravaged Newcastle didn't last long.

Liverpool took just five minutes to restore its two-goal cushion. Ryan Babel's backheel was initially blocked by Given, but the Dutch winger scrambled the ball over the line.

Gerrard added another in the 66th by latching onto Lucas Leiva's pass, skipping around Fabricio Coloccini and chipping over the onrushing Given.

The rout was completed in the 77th when Gerrard's replacement, David Ngog, was tripped by Edgar and Xabi Alonso, another substitute, converted from the penalty spot.

Newcastle's loss came as owner Mike Ashley announced that he was taking the club off the market after failing to attract a buyer. Ricky Sbragia's first match in permanent charge of Sunderland ended in a 3-0 defeat against an Everton side without a genuine striker.

Arteta scored the first two goals from free kicks, with the first curling straight past Marton Fulop in the 10th minute. The Spaniard struck the defensive wall in the 27th, but the rebound deflected into the net off Teemu Tainio.

Dan Gosling added the third goal in the closing stages of his home debut when the 18-year-old midfielder turned in a pass from Joleon Lescott.

Arsenal maintained its bid for one of four Champions League places when William Gallas, who was stripped of the captaincy for revealing strife in the squad, headed in Denilson's free kick in the 81st to edge Portsmouth 1-0.

Stoke had Ricardo Fuller sent off for slapping captain Andy Griffin as West Ham rallied to win 2-1. The pair became embroiled in a heated exchange after Griffin had been turned by West Ham forward Carlton Cole to cancel out Abdoulaye Faye's fourth-minute header. Galvanized by their goal and unexpected numerical advantage for almost 40 minutes, West Ham grabbed the winner in the 88th when Diego Tristan deflected Cole's shot into the net. Amr Zaki scored his 11th goal of the season from the penalty spot to give Wigan a 1-0 win at Bolton.

West Bromwich Albion, battling to avoid relegation, beat 10-man Tottenham 2-0 with late goals from Roman Bednar and Craig Beattie. Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto was dismissed in the 35th minute for stamping on Gianni Zuiverloom.