Drogba double takes Chelsea back to summitBy DPA, IANS
Sunday, February 7, 2010
LONDON - Didier Drogba struck twice as Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday to return to the top of the English Premier League table, on 58 points - two clear of Manchester United.
Arsenal are nine points adrift, and their title challenge is surely over; indeed, were they to lose to Liverpool on Wednesday they would be only two points above fourth.
As so often this season, Arsenal dominated possession, but lacked the penetration to impose themselves upon a top side, and ended up being exposed on the break.
Chelsea took the lead after seven minutes as John Terry, who opted to play even though his private life has been splashed across the tabloid pages for the last week, flicked Florent Malouda’s corner towards the back post, where an unmarked Drogba slammed it over the line from close range.
Drogba said that it was good for Terry to play. “It’s a difficult week for us, for all the club. We try to stay together and focus on the games. We offered him as much support as we can.”
He added that their victory was important in their title chase. “We played well and we are happy with those two goals.”
Arsenal had more of the play from then on, and it took a fine block from Petr Cech to keep out an Andrey Arshavin volley.
But as against United last week, when they lost 3-1, Arsenal were undone on the break, Drogba running on to Frank Lampard’s pass, cutting inside Gael Clichy and crashing a finish past Manuel Almunia for his 12th goal in his last ten games against Arsenal.
It was a similar story in the second half. Samir Nasri hesitated as space opened before him just before the hour, then Cech made an excellent save to keep out a Cesc Fabregas free-kick.
Arsenal couldn’t find the breakthrough that might have allowed them to put Chelsea under pressure.
Chelsea won comfortably in the end, less because they dominated midfield than because in Drogba they had a striker at the peak of his form.
He was denied a hat-trick only by the crossbar, his free-kick pinging against the woodwork with seven minutes remaining.
Substitute Kevin Phillips scored twice in six minutes as Birmingham City came from behind to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 in the day’s early game.
The defeat leaves Wolves, who had taken the lead through Kevin Doyle, mired in the relegation zone, while Birmingham lie eighth in the Premier League table.
Birmingham, with an unchanged team for their 12th straight game, dominated the first half, and Scott Dann clipped the outside of the post.
It was Wolves, though, who got the breakthrough, as Doyle was left to stab into an empty net on 42 minutes after Matthew Jarvis’s cross had deflected off Roger Johnson and onto the post.
Wolves had seemed to be holding out relatively comfortably, but when Craig Gardner headed Keith Fahey’s cross back across goal after 79 minutes, Phillips was there to sweep in.
Six minutes later, he chested down a Stephen Carr cross and pivoted to slam a finish into the bottom corner.
Birmingham coach Alex McLeish said that Doyle was always a dangerous player. “Kevin will never lose that ability he has got in the box.
“He might lose his teeth, he might go bald, and his legs will go at some stage, but he will always have that magnificent technique and touch of a top player.”