April 3 (Bloomberg) -- Chelsea defeated Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford to move back into first place in English soccer’s Premier League.
A controversial Didier Drogba goal in the 79th minute clinched the game as Chelsea moved two points clear of United. Joe Cole also scored for the Blues, who won at Old Trafford for the first time since 2005. Federico Macheda scored for United.
“We wanted to be on top of the league after this game,” Chelsea’s Florent Malouda told Sky Sports. “It was really a tough game and I think we played really well. It means a lot to us.”
Chelsea has 74 points and United 72, with five games remaining for each team.
“It was a very good performance,” Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti told Sky. “To win here is not easy. We did a good job.”
Third-place Arsenal are one point behind United in the league after beating Wolverhampton 1-0, while Manchester City moved up to fourth with a 6-1 rout of Burnley. Sunderland beat Tottenham 3-1, Stoke defeated Hull 2-0, Aston Villa won 1-0 at Bolton and Portsmouth and Blackburn were goalless.
Both Manchester United and Chelsea began today’s game without their top scorers. United’s Wayne Rooney, who leads the league with 26 goals, is sidelined by an ankle injury, while Drogba was left on the bench by Ancelotti.
Drogba came on for Nicolas Anelka midway through the second half and scored his 25th league goal within 10 minutes to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead. The Ivory Coast striker was in a clear offside position when he took a pass from Salomon Kalou and fired a shot past United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
“What I can’t understand is the linesman is right in front of it,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “There is no one near him and there is not a defender in sight and he gets it wrong.”
Chelsea took the lead in the 20th minute when Malouda fought off a challenge from Darren Fletcher and sent a cross which Cole back-heeled past van der Sar.
Referee Mike Dean denied United a penalty six minutes later after Yuri Zhirkov clipped the leg of Ji-Sung Park. Chelsea had a penalty claim rejected after Gary Neville barged into Anelka.
Chelsea almost doubled its lead in the opening minutes of the second half as defender Paolo Ferreira rolled a shot past the far post under pressure from Patrice Evra. United’s Dimitar Berbatov, replacing Rooney, then missed with two headers.
After Drogba made it 2-0, United pulled a goal back two minutes later after a Nani cross went into the goal off Federico Macheda, who came on 10 minutes earlier.
United lost one last chance in injury time as Berbatov volleyed a cross from Gary Neville right into the hands of Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Nicklas Bendtner’s header in stoppage time gave Arsenal the win over 10-man Wolves, which had captain Karl Henry sent off in the second half for a late challenge on Tomas Rosicky.
Darren Bent scored after just 34 seconds to start Sunderland on the way to a victory over his former club Tottenham. Bent also scored with a penalty, while missing two other spot kicks.
Manchester City went above Spurs into fourth, the final qualifying spot for the Champions League, with its win at Burnley. Emmanuel Adebayor had two goals for City, which scored three times in the first seven minutes.
Ricardo Fuller and Liam Lawrence score in Stoke’s win over Hull, while Ashley Young’s goal gave Aston Villa the win at Bolton. Last-place Portsmouth, playing with 10 men after Anthony Vanden Borre was shown a red card, avoided relegation from the Premier League with its home draw against Blackburn.
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