Defending champion Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to move ahead of its rival into third spot in English soccer’s Premier League.
Brazilians David Luiz and Ramires scored to lift the Blues to 54 points, one ahead of City. Sixth-place Liverpool defeated Sunderland 2-0 in yesterday’s other game.
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien said his team has not given up on the title, even though it trails first-place Manchester United by nine points. United has 63 points, while Arsenal has 58. Fifth-place Tottenham is on 49, with Liverpool on 45. Sunderland remains in ninth with 38 points.
“We take every game as it comes, we’ll work hard in every game and see what happens,” Essien told Sky Sports. “We’ll have to keep believing that we can do it. There’s a long way to go -- we have to fight for every point.”
Neither goalkeeper had many saves to make in a scoreless first half. Yaya Toure did test Chelsea’s Petr Cech with a low shot on six minutes, while Salomon Kalou hit an effort straight at City’s Joe Hart just before halftime.
Chelsea fullback Branislav Ivanovic had a close-range header in the 62nd minute which hit Vincent Kompany and was cleared, but there were still few clear chances.
Luiz made the breakthrough after 78 minutes, with the center-back heading the ball past Hart to get his second goal for the club.
City, without the injured Carlos Tevez, pressed in an attempt to tie the game, but Ramires killed off any chance of a comeback when he sliced through the defense to score in injury time. It was also his second goal for the Blues.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is still searching for his first goal since joining from Liverpool for 50 million pounds ($81 million) in January. The Spaniard, who was 27 yesterday, was substituted after 70 minutes.
“It was a very difficult game,” Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports. “We played a good game -- we had focus, spirit and a good attitude.”
At the Stadium of Light, Torres’s former team recorded its fourth away league win of the season with goals from Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez against Sunderland.
Sunderland was disrupted by two injuries within the opening 25 minutes, Sulley Muntari and Kieran Richardson replaced by Lee Cattermole and Steed Malbranque.
The home team trailed when John Mensah fouled Jay Spearing on the edge of the penalty area in the 34th minute and referee Kevin Friend awarded a spotkick after taking advice from his assistant. Sunderland’s players protested that the incident was outside the box.
Kuyt sent Simon Mignolet the wrong way to score his 10th goal of the season. Mignolet beat away a shot from Suarez three minutes later as Liverpool started to apply pressure.
Early in the second half Cattermole stopped an Andy Carroll header on the line and Mignolet made a diving save from a long- range Spearing effort on 74 minutes before the Reds got their second goal.
Suarez cut inside the penalty area before slotting the ball past Mignolet at the near post for his second goal in five matches since joining from Ajax in January.
“Suarez looks a good player and scored a fantastic goal for us,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish told the club’s website.
He was brought down by Mensah five minutes later, resulting in a straight red card for the Sunderland defender.
Two days ago, 10-man Manchester United defeated Bolton 1-0, Arsenal rallied to tie 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion, Tottenham was held to a 0-0 draw by West Ham, and last-place Wigan won 2-1 against Birmingham.
Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Aston Villa 1-0, Stoke defeated Newcastle 4-0, Blackburn and Blackpool tied 2-2, while Everton beat Fulham 2-1.