Chelsea, United cruise as Arsenal stumble

LONDON, Nov 21, 2009 (AFP) - Chelsea strengthened their position at the top of the Premier League by cruising to a 4-0 win over struggling Wolves on Saturday.

Manchester United remained five points adrift of the leaders after beating Everton 3-0 at Old Trafford but Arsenal stumbled significantly ahead of their meeting with Chelsea on Sunday, November 29.

The Gunners failed to score for the first time this season as they went down to a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland, with England striker Darren Bent notching the winner in the 71st minute.

Chelsea's win was their 12th on the trot at Stamford Bridge, a new club record.

Chelsea's Joe Cole (C) kicks the ball during their English Premier League football match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on November 21, 2009. AFP PHOTO

Florent Malouda opened the scoring with a 25-yard drive and a Michael Essien double ended the contest before half-time.

Joe Cole's first goal of the season, 11 minutes into the second half, rounded off a satisfying afternoon for Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti.

"It was an easy game because we played very well," said the Italian, who was without Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack.

"It shows we have a very good squad."

After losing to Chelsea on their last outing, Manchester United returned to winning ways with the help of a stunning opener from Darren Fletcher, who lashed a bouncing ball into the top corner of the net ten minutes before half-time.

Second-half strikes from Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia completed what manager Sir Alex Ferguson described as a "controlled performance".

Ferguson underlined the importance of staying in touch with Chelsea.

"If we get to the new year within a point or level at the top of the league we have a big chance in the second half of the season," the Scot said.

Arsenal's failure to score underlined the significance of the injury which will keep top scorer Robin van Persie out for up to six weeks.

"We can only blame ourselves because we didn't score," admitted Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal boss. "That's worrying because going forward we lacked sharpness and the desire to get behind defenders."

Liverpool and Manchester City's hopes of challenging for the title were left looking remote after they settled for a 2-2 draw at Anfield.

Liverpool, who have won only once in 10 matches in all competitions, are now 12 points adrift of Chelsea while City trail the leaders by 11 points after drawing their last six league matches.

Martin Skrtel volleyed Liverpool into the lead five minutes into the second half. Emmanuel Adebayor headed City back on level terms and Stephen Ireland gave the visitors the lead only for substitute Yossi Benayoun to equalise barely a minute later.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez remainded upbeat.

"The positive thing is we showed great character when we went behind," the Spaniard said.

"I think we won six games in a row not so long ago and we have to think positive. When we have all our players coming back I am confident we will start winning games in a row."

Aston Villa climbed into the top four at the expense of Tottenham -- who entertain Wigan on Sunday -- after coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at Burnley.

Scotland international Steven Caldwell's ninth-minute strike had put Burnley on track for another win at Turf Moor but Emile Heskey salvaged a point for Villa with four minutes left.

Birmingham's recent improvement continued with a 1-0 win over Fulham that extends their unbeaten run to four matches. Midfielder Lee Bowyer beat Fulham's offside trap to score the winner after 16 minutes.

The relegation battle between Hull and West Ham ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Headers from Guillermo Franco and Jack Collison put the Hammers 2-0 up after only 11 minutes but Hull were ahead by the interval after an own goal by Carlton Cole, a superb strike by Kamil Zayatte and a Jimmy Bullard penalty.

The home side were reduced to ten men early in the second half when Bernard Mendy was sent off for a professional foul on Scott Parker and Manuel Da Costa equalised as the visitors finished strongly.

Source: AFP

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