John Terry scored the only goal of the game to give Chelsea a five-point buffer atop the English Premier League, dealing defending champion Manchester United their third loss of the season on Sunday.
Chelsea captain Terry headed in Frank Lampard’s free-kick in the 76th minute amid claims of a foul on Didider Drogba. The win was Chelsea’s tenth in a row at home.
United’s makeshift team will feel at a loss as they played well with Darren Fletcher putting in a strong performance in the center of the park.
Wayne Rooney had a couple of long range efforts but the champions could not find the netting. Petr Cech made a flying save from one of Rooney’s curling drives.
United played without the red-hot Dimitar Berbatov and also the two first choice center backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The performance demonstrated their quality and depth with Jonny Evans and Wes Brown keeping things under control in the heart of the defense when facing the strike partnership of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.
There were a couple of flash points in the game in which Chelsea came away without being penalized. Anderson sent a nice through ball to Rooney only for the latter to be harshly ruled offside and Terry escaped punishment for some serious shirt pulling.
Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick also had strikes to keep Cech occupied in the game.
Fletcher was first to get the first real breakthrough with a driving shot blocked by Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho.
For United the game plan was working but Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti felt the need for a change as he brought on Joe Cole for the ineffective Deco just after the hour mark.
United had reason to argue when a freekick was given to Chelsea for a tackle in which Fletcher seemed to get the ball, but sent Ashley Cole flying. The resulting set piece yielded Terry’s header into the net.
Liverpool 2, Birmingham 2
Rafa Benitez and his struggling team again failed to win in front of their home crowd. Fifteenth-place Birmingham took a 2–1 lead in the first half but Steven Gerrard converted a controversial penalty for the draw on Monday.
David Ngog, who had given Liverpool the early lead, went down far too easily under a challenge from Lee Carsley. He managed to dupe the referee into awarding a penalty.
The end result is a very good one for newly promoted Birmingham, although they feel cheated with the penalty call after Ngog’s dive. Birmingham manager Alex McLeish told Sky Sports, “If you said before the game, you’d take a point, I’d bite your hand off.”
“I don’t think there’s any debate on it. It was a clear dive,” said McLeish. “Ngog dived, terrific dive. There was no contact. It wasn’t even close to being a penalty.”
Liverpool remains in seventh place, but now 11 points behind Chelsea.
Wolverhampton 1, Arsenal 4
Arsenal crushed Wolverhampton on Saturday and moved into second place.
Wolverhampton were unfortunate in that the first goal was conceded as Ronald Zubar turned a Cesc Fabregas free-kick into his own net and then Eduardo’s goal-ward chip took a deflection to spin up and over into the net for the second.
Andrey Arshavin struck twice to finish the job only for Wolverhampton to get a late consolation headed goal from Jody Craddock.
Manchester City 3, Burnley 3
Man City was held to a draw in a six-goal thriller with Burnley who banked their first away point of the season on Saturday.
Burnley took a two-goal lead with a penalty from Graham Alexander and then Steven Fletcher got the second with an easy tap-in.
City then came back to take the lead with goals from Shaun Wright-Phillips, Kolo Toure, and Craig Bellamy.
Substitute Kevin McDonald got equalizer and the point for Burnley with three minutes to go in regulation time.