Chelsea’s title hopes dented by Arsenal

December 1st, 2008 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

ChelseaLondon, Dec 1 (DPA) Leaders Chelsea suffered a blow to their hopes of winning the English Premier League title when they were beaten 2-1 at home by Arsenal.After champions Manchester United won 1-0 at neighbours Manchester City to move within five points of the top two sides, two goals from Robin van Persie helped Arsenal come from behind to beat their London rivals at Stamford Bridge here Sunday.

Chelsea remain top on goal difference from Liverpool, but Rafael Benitez’s side can move three points clear if they beat West Ham United at Anfield. Arsenal are two points behind United in fourth.

Chelsea looked on course to go three points clear themselves when Arsenal’s Johan Djourou turned the ball into his own net in the 31st minute.

But Arsenal came out strongly after the break and Van Persie, looking suspiciously offside, lashed the ball into the net to equalize just before the hour mark. And the Dutch striker latched onto a loose ball in the area to slip the ball past Petr Cech just two minutes later and put Arsenal in front.

Chelsea went in search of an equaliser themselves but Arsenal held strong to reignite their own title hopes.

United themselves survived the second-half sending-off of Cristiano Ronaldo to win at Manchester City, thanks to Wayne Rooney’s 42nd-minute goal.

Rooney gave the champions the lead late in the first half with his 100th career goal, but the game’s biggest flashpoint came with Ronaldo’s sending off 22 minutes from time.

The United players were incensed when referee Howard Webb showed Ronaldo a second yellow card for an inexplicable hand-ball from a corner, a decision that Ferguson said he thought was harsh.

“I have seen it again and I think he was trying to protect his face,” he said.

United dominated in the first half with Dimitar Berbatov and left-back Patrice Evra looking particularly threatening, but it was not until two minutes before half-time that the breakthrough finally arrived.

As the home side squandered several chances to clear the ball, Rooney was able to tap the ball in from close range after City goalkeeper Joe Hart could only parry Michael Carrick’s firm left-foot shot.

City’s best chance of the match came midway through the first half as Stephen Ireland’s scuffed shot from the edge of the penalty box found its way through a crowd of players to strike the post.

Thanks to a superb save from Edwin van der Sar in injury time, City were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage and Rooney almost made it 2-0 only for Hart, who had gone up for a City corner, to dash back and tip the ball past the post.

Everton moved up to seventh with a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur, while Portsmouth edged out Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at Fratton Park to go eighth.

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