Chelsea are up to second in the Premier League table, above Liverpool on goal difference, after an early goal from Michael Essien proved enough to give them a 1-0 win over Manchester City on Sunday.
Chelsea are now just four points behind leaders Manchester United, after the champions were humbled 4-1 by Liverpool on Saturday, although Sir Alex Ferguson’s side do have a game in hand on their title rivals. Sunday’s result was Chelsea’s fourth straight league win under interim manager Guus Hiddink — and they remain unbeaten since the Dutch coach agreed to take charge until the summer. City have won just one match on their travels all season and they never looked likely to change that poor record against a dominant Chelsea side. Chelsea had the ball in the City net in the opening minute of the game, but Frank Lampard’s goal was ruled out for offside. However, the hosts soon took the lead when Essien struck with his second goal in two games in the 17th minute. City’s Stephen Ireland brought down Nicolas Anelka midway in his own half and Lampard made the most of the free-kick by passing the ball to Essien on the edge of the penalty area. The Ghanaian international, starting only his second game since damaging knee ligaments on international duty last September, hit a first time shot beyond goalkeeper Shay Given to put the Blues in front. The goal followed his midweek strike against Juventus in the Champions League.
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In truth, Chelsea had the chances to win by greater than a single-goal margin, the closest coming in the 62nd minute when substitute Juliano Belletti played a neat interchange of passes with Essien before watching his 20-yard shot rebound off Given’s left hand post. Meanwhile, Aston Villa’s Champions League hopes suffered another major setback as their poor recent form continued with a 2-1 home defeat against an improving Tottenham side, who now appear safe from relegation worries. The visitors went ahead in just the fifth minute when Aaron Lennon’s right-wing cross was only parried by goalkeeper Brad Freidel, and Jermaine Jenas was on hand to nod home from close range. Spurs doubled their advantage five minutes into the second half when Freidel only partially saved Robbie Keane’s shot — and Darren Bent followed up to bundle the ball over the goal line. Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill made a host of substitutions and one of the replacements, Norwegian striker John Carew, headed home with six minutes remaining to set up a tense finish. But Tottenham held on to move up to 11th in the table, six points away from the drop zone, while Villa fail to overtake Arsenal and lie fifth, behind the Gunners on goal difference.