Second half goals from Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda gave Chelsea a 2-0 victory over title rivals Liverpool at Stamford Bridge to take over at the top of the English Premier League from Manchester United.
Chelsea went into Sunday’s crunch encounter knowing that victory would take them two points clear after eight matches as United were surprisingly held to a 2-2 draw by Sunderland 24 hours before. Anelka met a left-wing cross from strike partner Didier Drogba to beat Pepe Reina with a deft touch on the hour mark. Fellow French international Malouda wrapped up the three points in injury time as he connected with another assist from Ivory Coast star Drogba, who worked his way clear on the right to set up the killer goal. Moments later Yossi Benayoun spurned a glorious chance for Liverpool and Hilario saved brilliantly from Steven Gerrard as the Reds suffered a second straight defeat after losing 2-0 to Fiorentina in the Champions League in midweek. On the balance of chances, Carlo Ancelotti’s men deserved their victory, which put them back on track after a shock defeat to Wigan last weekend. Anelka and Michael Ballack had headed opportunities in a tight first half with Fernando Torres also heading straight to Chelsea stand-in keeper Hilario when meeting a similar opportunity.
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A mistake by Javier Mascherano led to Chelsea’s opener as he was robbed by Frank Lampard. He sent Drogba clear down the flank to send over an inviting cross which Anelka met first time to score his third league goal of the campaign. Gerrard saw an effort blocked by Chelsea captain John Terry and Torres shot wide from the rebound as Liverpool pressed for an equalizer before Malouda’s late strike signaled a third league defeat of the season for Rafa Benitez’s men, who stay fifth. In Sunday’s other match with a bearing on the title race, Arsenal continued their fine start to the season with a 6-2 home win over Blackburn at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger’s men were twice behind but turned on the style to record their fifth win from seven games to leave them six points adrift of Chelsea in fourth place, but with a game in hand. Goals by Steven Nzonzi and David Dunn threatened an upset for Blackburn, but the Gunners hit back through goalscoring defender Thomas Vermaelen, Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin to lead 3-2 at halftime. Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, making a successful return after injury, and Nicklas Bendtner scored in the second half to complete the rout. Captain Fabregas, who was involved with five of the six goals, was delighted with his team’s display to mark 13 years in charge of the north London club for Wenger. “I’m happy with all the team’s performance,” he told Sky Sports. “You can always do better. It’s just one more game in the race for the title.” Elsewhere, West Ham drew 2-2 at home to 10-man Fulham in a London derby, rescuing a point with a late goal by youngster Junior Stanislas. Gianfranco Zola’s team led through Carlton Cole’s first half goal and looked set for victory as Fulham’s South African midfielder Kagoshi Dikgacoi was sent off in his first start for the club. But Danny Murphy’s penalty drew Fulham level early in the second half before Zoltan Gera put the visitors ahead. Everton were held 1-1 at Goodison Park by Stoke.