Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins said his team showed “great determination and mettle” as it beat Arsenal 2-0 yesterday to extend its lead to four points in English soccer’s Premier League.
Liverpool is in the relegation zone after a 2-1 home defeat to Blackpool, and Manchester City beat Newcastle 2-1 to go second.
Didier Drogba and defender Alex scored for defending champion Chelsea, which has 18 points after six wins from seven games. City moved up to second on 14 points and Manchester United has 13, with Arsenal, Tottenham and West Brom on 11.
“Arsenal play some wonderful football and they are one of the teams that scare me, they can take the ball off us and not give us it back,” Wilkins told reporters. “That worries me a touch but today we showed great determination and mettle. They had a couple of chances in the first minute so we were a little worried.”
Chelsea’s preparations for the game had been upset by the death of coach Carlo Ancelotti’s father. That made it an “extremely difficult” week, Wilkins said.
“We didn’t play the type of football we like to, but sometimes you have to fight and scrap and I think we have the quality to do so,” Wilkins added.
Arsenal almost went ahead in the opening minutes at Stamford Bridge, Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny both going close with headers. Andrey Arshavin also had scoring chances saved by Petr Cech.
Koscielny “should have at least hit the target,” said Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, who described his players as having had a “‘good collective team performance” in a second straight league defeat.
Drogba opened the scoring in the 39th minute, sweeping the ball in from Ashley Cole’s cross. It was his 13th goal against Arsenal in 11 starts.
“Didier’s record against Arsenal is phenomenal but he scores against all of them, not just the Arsenal,” Wilkins said. “But he did score a very good goal again. That type of backheel is what Didier is all about.”
Nicolas Anelka should have made it 2-0 on the hour after a defensive lapse but shot wide after taking the ball around goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
The Gunners responded, controlling most of the second half possession without finding a way through. Chamakh headed just wide after 80 minutes in one of the visitors’ best chances.
Five minutes from the end, Alex blasted a right-foot free kick past Fabianski from outside the penalty area. Then Michael Essien’s close-range effort was saved by the keeper.
At Anfield, Blackpool led 2-0 at halftime with a penalty kick by Charlie Adam and a goal by Luke Varney. Sotirios Kyrgiakos got one goal back for the hosts, who are 18th of 20 teams, with six points from seven games. Wolves and bottom club West Ham have five points. Three teams are demoted at the end of the season.
Reds striker Fernando Torres went off in the 10th minute with a suspected groin injury. Blackpool is ninth with 10 points.
At Manchester City, Carlos Tevez gave the home team an 18th-minute lead, converting a penalty kick after being fouled by Mike Williamson. Jonas Gutierrez made it 1-1 six minutes later with a powerful volley, and a low shot by substitute Adam Johnson gave the home side victory 15 minutes from the end.
Newcastle forward Hatem Ben Arfa was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg in the opening minutes after a tackle by Nigel de Jong. The Magpies are 15th place on seven points.
Two days ago, Manchester United drew 0-0 at Sunderland, Tottenham beat Aston Villa 2-1, Wigan defeated Wolves 2-0, and Everton got its first victory of the season, 2-0 at Birmingham. Stoke defeated Blackburn 1-0 and there were 1-1 draws between West Brom and Bolton, and West Ham and Fulham.