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EPL wrap: Further despair for Chelsea

Sunday 03 Feb 2013 9:10a.m.

EPL wrap: Further despair for Chelsea

By Rob Harris

Chelsea's week went from bad to worse as Newcastle's French legion of new players inspired a second successive Premier League victory, and Manchester United established a provisional 10-point lead in the title race by beating Fulham.

Moussa Sissoko, one of four Newcastle signings from across the English Channel in the January transfer window, scored twice on his home debut to claim a 3-2 victory.

As Newcastle moved further clear of the relegation zone, Chelsea missed a chance to close the gap on second-placed Manchester City, which retains a six-point cushion going into the match against Liverpool.

And the pressure is being cranked up on Rafa Benitez, whose Chelsea side also drew against relegation-threatened Reading on Wednesday after being held by third-tier club Brentford in the FA Cup.

"What I know, what I can see is the team doing well, working hard and when we have this advantage, we have to manage in a better way," Benitez says.

Floodlight failure halted United's match at Fulham for 10 minutes before half time, and after the break Wayne Rooney provided the spark with a crisp finish to clinch a 1-0 win.

Arsenal won by the same score line to go a point behind Tottenham and Everton, who are fourth and fifth respectively.

Everton's pursuit of the fourth Champions League spot was held up by a 3-3 draw against Aston Villa, which missed a chance to climb out of the relegation zone.

Wigan also remains in the danger spots with Villa, although ahead of goal difference, after being held to a 2-2 draw by Southampton.

It was also a frustrating day for bottom-place Queens Park Rangers, which was held to a 0-0 draw by Norwich.

Reading, however, moved two points clear of the bottom three by beating Sunderland 2-1, while West Ham climbed to 10th with a 1-0 victory over Swansea.

In the late match, leader Manchester United was at Fulham.

Chelsea's faint hopes of catching United are even slimmer now after collecting just eight points from a possible 18 since the start of 2012.

Chelsea fell behind just before half time at St. James' Park when Jonas Gutierrez buried a header past Petr Cech after connecting with a cross from Davide Santon

There was a further blow before the break for Chelsea when striker Demba Ba, who left Newcastle last month, was forced off with blood pouring from his nose after being caught by Fabio Coloccini.

Chelsea, though, fought its way back into contention in the 55th minute when Frank Lampard scored his 10th goal of the season with a swerving long-range strike. Despite now netting double figures for Chelsea for the 10th straight season, the European champions are not intending to renew the 34-year-old midfielder's contract which expires at the end of the season.

Chelsea went in front in the 61st when Ba's replacement, Fernando Torres, set up fellow Spaniard Juan Mata to curl the ball past fellow Tim Krul.

But Sissoko made his mark just seven minutes later, with his first goal since joining from Toulouse coming after Cech parried an effort from former Bordeaux forward Yoan Gouffran.

And Sissoko was on target again in the 90th after exchanging passes with Santon.

"(Sissoko) has just got a strength of character about him," Newcastle manager Alan Pardew says. "And there's a power in his game that we were so desperately searching for all season."

At Craven Cottage, the only goal came in the 79th when Rooney latched onto Jonny Evans' long ball and went through the Fulham defence before curling the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

"They made it difficult for us - we had to go on and believe we would get the goal," says Rooney, who has now scored 10 league goals this season.

"We are in a good position (in the league) ... but we won't get carried away."

Arsenal is now close to rejoining United in the top four after Lukas Podolski's free kick in the 78th deflected off Stoke's Geoff Cameron.

"The target to be in the top four and to focus on the two cups we are still in is very important now as we have strengthened our belief and our confidence," Wenger says.

Arsenal would have climbed above Everton into fifth had it not been for Marouane Fellaini's late equalizer for the Merseyside team against Villa.

Despite Victor Anichebe cancelling out Christian Benteke's opener for Villa at Goodison Park, the visitors went 3-1 up after Gabriel Agbonlahor headed home before the break and Benteke netted again in the second half.

But Anichebe pulled one back in the 69th and headed in the leveller in stoppage time.

It left Villa with just three points from the past eight games.

"I can't fault the way the lads played and there are not many teams that come up here and beat them," Villa manager Paul Lambert says.

There was also a 90th-minute goal at Wigan, where Shaun Maloney secured a point against Southampton.

Wigan had led through Gary Caldwell's effort, but Rickie Lambert headed Southampton level and Morgan Schneiderlin looked to have clinched the win for the visitors before Maloney's late intervention.

Reading also left it late - but was rewarded with a much-needed win to stay ahead of Wigan just out of the drop zone.

Jimmy Kebe headed in his second goal in the 85th after Craig Gardner had cancelled out the first by equalizing from the penalty spot for Sunderland.

"Jimmy Kebe is becoming phenomenal in the air," Reading manager Brian McDermott says. "I was so pleased for him because he such a brave player both physically and mentally.

"He wants to get on the ball and I think the first goal was fabulous. He wins headers and is good in the air - that was a great finish today. "

At Loftus Road, Adel Taarabt had a penalty saved in the second half by Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn as last-placed QPR endured a fourth consecutive stalemate despite a string of new signings in the team.

At Upton Park, Andy Carroll headed in the second goal of an injury-plagued loan spell from Liverpool at West Ham to see off Swansea.

AP

 
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