Chelsea on top by five points

Damien Duff kept Chelsea five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a goal against Aston Villa.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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Damien Duff kept Chelsea five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a goal against Aston Villa, only for the three chasing teams to also win. Second-place defending champion Arsenal scored a routine 2-0 victory over Fulham yesterday, Everton edged Manchester City 2-1 and Manchester United beat neighbour Bolton 2-0 to make sure that Chelsea didn't go further ahead. Jose Mourinho' Blues did enough to beat defence-minded Villa at Stamford Bridge to post their 14th victory in 19 games and 12th winning shutout. Lone goal Duff scored the only goal of the game in the 30th minute when he cut inside a defender on the right and fired past Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen. "We are enjoying it at the top," said Chelsea defender John Terry. "The lads are confident, the team spirit is fantastic and if we can keep that it will be a good year for us." With English soccer ignoring the European midwinter break favoured by most other big leagues, this was the first of four rounds of games between now and January 3 and Mourinho reshaped his team in the second half to preserve the strength and fitness of some of his players. "When you are fighting to be champions you need to fight with your sleeves up to get points," Mourinho said. "We did that so I am really happy with the players." Henry gives lead Thierry Henry gave the Gunners a 12th-minute lead with a low right foot into the far corner for his 20th goal of the season and Robert Pires added the second 19 minutes from end when he turned home a low cross from Freddie Ljungberg to ensure three points for Arsene Wenger's men. "What is important for us is to focus on ourselves and our quality and we don't have to worry about anybody else," Wenger said. "It is too far away from the end of the season to speculate on a slip by Chelsea. "It's a long way to go. I didn't even ask about the Chelsea result when I came in at the end of the game. It is not important. I do not worry about the results of the other teams. We worry about the way we play." At the halfway stage of the campaign, Chelsea has 46 points from 19 games and Arsenal has 41. Everton had 40 points and United 37 as they maintained the chase. Everton loses lead Australian forward Tim Cahill gave third-place Everton a 22nd-minute lead against Man City at Goodison Park only for Robbie Fowler to level three minutes before half time. But Marcus Bent headed home a cross from Thomas Gravesen for the winner and City suffered a further blow when substitute Christian Negouai was sent off within two minutes of going on his Premier League debut for an over-the-ball challenge. Ryan Giggs scored the first and set up the second for substitute Paul Scholes as fourth-place Manchester United downed Bolton at Old Trafford. It was Scholes' seventh goal in seven games as the Reds won at home for the seventh time in a row. "Our performances have certainly been very good and the players in the past few weeks have been coming to the form that we expect of them," said United manager Alex Ferguson. "What we need is consistent results and today goes a long way towards that." Tottenham on winning streak Tottenham made it five successive league wins with a 2-0 victory at lowly Norwich thanks to second-half strikes by Robbie Keane and Michael Brown. But erratic Newcastle twice threw away the lead at struggling Blackburn and came away from Ewood Park with just a point from a 2-2 tie. Kieron Dyer's sixth-minute strike and Laurent Robert's 35-yard free kick put the Magpies ahead at Graeme Souness' former club only for Rovers to hit back through Paul Dickov and Andy Todd. Fifth-place Middlesbrough slipped further out of contention after losing 2-0 at rejuvenated Birmingham, with Clinton Morrison and Emile Heskey scoring for Steve Bruce's men at St. Andrews. A 69th-minute goal by defender Linvoy Primus earned Portsmouth a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace and next-to-last Southampton held seventh-place Charlton to a 0-0 tie to capture a valuable point. Yesterday's other Premier League game was last-place West Bromwich Albion against sixth-place Liverpool. While the top four in the Premier League all won, the leading trio in the League Championship all lost. Ipswich stayed top despite going down 3-1 at Millwall, second-place Wigan tumbled 2-1 at home to Derby and Sunderland lost 3-2 at home to Leeds United. Reading jumped into third place by beating Watford 3-0. (AP)