Van Persie at the double as Gunners stun Chelsea

Robin van Persie rocketed Arsenal back into the English Premier League title race with a quickfire double that stunned leaders Chelsea in a 2-1 away win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

In a keenly-contested London derby filled with end-to-end action, the Blues were 1-0 up thanks to Switzerland defender Johan Djourou's 30th-minute own goal.

But Netherlands striker Van Persie, making his 100th start for the Gunners, equalised with a controversial offside goal in the 59th minute and stunned the hosts with a second goal three minutes later.

Arsenal's title hopes would have been dealt a severe blow by a defeat that would have left them 13 points off the pace and having suffered three consecutive league defeats.

But the manner of their victory at what was the most difficult ground in England to win at will have surely sent notice to the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool that the Gunners are in no mood to give up the race.

Chelsea, who had not been beaten at home in the league for 86 games before their 1-0 defeat to Liverpool on October 26, have now lost two of their last four Premier League ties at Stamford Bridge.

The result means Arsenal are in fourth place, seven points behind the leaders ahead of second-placed Liverpool's match at home to West Ham on Monday.

Chelsea had the better of the opening exchanges and striker Salomon Kalou was played clean through on goalkeeper Manuel Almunia in the fourth minute but his run was ruled offside.

Almunia had to punch twice to clear a cross soon after and former Gunners striker Nicolas Anelka fired another early shot wide.

However, Arsenal swiftly replied and Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech did well to stop a low shot from Samir Nasri before Denilson blazed a shot over the crossbar in the 16th minute.

Chelsea full-back Jose Boswinga jinked through the Arsenal right flank but fired over the bar two minutes later.

Almunia had to be alert in the 21st minute when Deco played Kalou clean through with an excellent pass, charging out of his penalty area to clear the danger.

Frank Lampard then wasted a great chance, firing a free header from Boswinga's cross straight at Almunia.

However, the Blues did not have to wait long to open the scoring.

Almunia caught a Lampard corner and casually rolled the ball out, with Chelsea easily recovering possession. Boswinga crossed in low from the right and Djourou slid in, inadvertently sending the ball beyond Almunia.

Kalou could have doubled Chelsea's lead five minutes before the break. Anelka flicked on a header into the box but Almunia was quickly off his line to gather Kalou's shot.

Denilson then miscued a chance to equalise at the other end, firing his shot over the bar.

Lampard wasted a good chance to kill the game six minutes after the break when Arsenal failed to clear their lines, but he screwed his shot wide of the post.

But within minutes, Chelsea's hopes of sealing victory were crushed by Van Persie's rapid brace.

Chelsea were the only side in English professional football not to have conceded a second-half goal in a league game this season before the Dutchman hit the target with a controversial strike.

Emmanuel Adebayor won a header which Denilson chested down before playing Van Persie through.

The striker, half a yard offside, blasted his shot past Cech to level the match 59 minutes in.

And if that stunned the hosts, worse was to come three minutes later as the Dutchman fired in his second.

Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas played a free kick into the penalty box which Adebayor headed back across goal for Van Persie.

With his back to goal, Van Persie turned Lampard and blasted his shot in across Cech to shock Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari threw on forward Florent Malouda in place of John Obi Mikel with 20 minutes to go in a bid to force an equaliser.

The Frenchman fired a free kick over the bar in the 77th minute and Deco shot likewise four minutes later as the hosts urgently sought a leveller.

Scolari then brought on pacy winger Miroslav Stoch in place of Deco but the academy graduate could do nothing to alter the outcome as Arsenal successfully hung on to send a message to the rest of the Premier League that they are still in the title race.

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Yakubu out for the season

LONDON (SW) Everton forward Ayegbeni Yakubu is out for the reason of the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon during Sunday’s Premiership clash with Tottenhan Hotspur in London.

Yakubu went down during a challenge with Tottenham’s Ledley King and initially seemed okay to continue. Not much later though, the Nigerian had to come off for Louis Saha.

“He’s done his Achilles and that’s him out for the season,” said Everton manager David Moyes afterwards.

To make things worse, substitute Saha suffered a hamstring injury and had to be stretchered off as well. With James Vaughan set to undergo knee surgery, only Victor Anichebe is available up front in coming matches.

Sun 30 November, 2008
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NAC crushed by Sparta, Ajax and Feyenoord held

NAC Breda failed to catch up with leaders AZ Alkmaar, crashing to a painful 4-0 defeat Sparta Rotterdam. Ajax and Feyenoord dropped points as well.

Sparta opened the score through Arno Slot in the 22nd minute and Poepon added a second and third in the 29th and 42nd minutes. The final goal came from Strootman on 67 minutes.

As a result, NAC drop from second to third place with Ajax climbing a spot despite their draw with Utrecht.

Ajax conceded an opening goal from Keller in the 35th minute but Selejmani replied in the 61st to make it 1-1.

Feyenoord failed to climb to the top half of the table with a 1-1 draw at Vitesse. Roy Makaay did put the Rotterdam outfit in the lead on three minutes but Verhaegh levelled in the 77th.

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Ince´s woes continue as Blackburn slump again

Blackburn plunged further into the relegation mire as Paul Ince’s side lost 3-2 against Portsmouth on Sunday.

Rovers had drawn level through Matt Derbyshire and Tugay after goals from Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe had put the hosts 2-0 ahead at Fratton Park.

But Sean Davis claimed his first goal since March 2006 with 11 minutes remaining to leave Blackburn second bottom of the table after a woeful run of nine league matches without a win.

After the frustration of AC Milan’s late fightback from two goals down to earn a UEFA Cup draw at Fratton Park on Thursday, Portsmouth desperately needed a morale-boosting victory.

Tony Adams’ side had a chance to go ahead in the fourth minute when Glen Johnson, fed by Crouch, chipped a lovely ball into the box for Glen Little but the winger directed a poor left-footed shot straight at Paul Robinson.

That sparked Blackburn into life and four minutes later it was Pompey’s turn to have a narrow escape when Crouch almost scored an own-goal, glancing a Brett Emerton corner across his own goalmouth with the ball appearing to brush the far post before going out.

Rovers left-back Stephen Warnock sliced over from Morten Gamst Pedersen’s cross soon after, then Roque Santa Cruz drove wide after good work from South African forward Benni McCarthy.

Just before half-time Portsmouth striker Crouch headed over at the far post from Armand Traore’s fine cross.

But Crouch made amends four minutes into the second half. Johnson sent over a cross from the right and Crouch’s powerful header flashed in for his eighth goal of the season.

Adams’ men increased their lead four minutes when Defoe cleverly worked space on the edge of the area to bury a fine strike past Paul Robinson.

But Ince sent on Derbyshire for McCarthy and the substitute pulled one back in the 62th minute – just 30 seconds after coming on – with a header from Pedersen’s cross.

Suddenly Portsmouth looked nervous and it was no surprise when Tugay rifled home an equaliser from 25 yards, beating David James low inside his right post.

To their credit, Portsmouth managed to steady themselves and Johnson almost caught out Robinson with a long-range lob that landed on the roof of the net. Derbyshire had another Blackburn ‘goal’ disallowed when referee Mark Halsey harshly ruled James had been fouled.

But Sean Davis, on as a substitute two minutes earlier, gave Portsmouth boss Adams his first home win when he slotted home after Robinson had parried Papa Bouba Diop’s shot in the 79th minute.

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Pienaar torments Tottenham in Everton victory

South African midfielder Steven Pienaar ended his goal drought to give Everton a 1-0 win against Tottenham on Sunday.

Pienaar hadn’t scored for David Moyes’ side for over a year but he finally got back on target with a deflected effort early in the second half at White Hart Lane.

The 26-year-old’s goal was enough to give Moyes victory in his 300th game as Everton boss and handed Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp a first home defeat.

The match started badly for Everton when Nigeria forward Ayegbeni Yakubu, who was leading Everton’s attack on his own, fell awkwardly after a challenge with Ledley King and was forced off, with Louis Saha on as his replacement.

Spurs had their first effort on goal through Tom Huddlestone, who fizzed a drive across Tim Howard’s goal.

The hosts, full of confidence after seven wins from nine matches since Redknapp’s appointment, went close again when David Bentley headed over from Aaron Lennon’s cross.

Everton responded well though and Marouane Fellaini sent in a dangerous cross from the left that required Heurelho Gomes to parry and Jonathan Woodgate to clear.

Spurs came closer when Bentley curled in a free-kick and Phil Jagielka headed just past his own post.

Fellaini then tried his luck twice from outside the penalty area in the same move, with Gomes getting his hands on both attempts.

When Tim Cahill crossed just before the half-time whistle, Saha was given a free header but his finish was straight at Gomes.

Pienaar delayed the start of the second half as he was mistakenly wearing Leon Osman’s shirt, but after a quick change he scored in the 51st minute.

The South African won a free-kick which Mikel Arteta took to Pienaar, whose shot took a wicked deflection off Corluka to wrongfoot Gomes.

The dreadlocked midfielder celebrated wildly and whipped his shirt off to celebrate in front of the travelling Everton fans.

Pienaar was in the mood for a second and Gomes had to save his swerving effort from outside the area as the Spurs defenders backed off.

Saha lasted until the 70th minute before he was carried off on a stretcher and replaced by Victor Anichebe.

Roman Pavlyuchenko almost levelled when he was found at the near post but Howard denied the Russia striker before Fraizer Campbell’s effort deflected just wide in stoppage time.

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Dominant Inter charge on with fifth straight win

Inter Milan opened up a six point lead at the top of the Serie A table after a hard fought 2-1 victory against Napoli at the San Siro on Sunday.

City rivals AC Milan can cut the gap back down to three points, though, if they win at Palermo in the day's late game.

As Roma continued their recovery with a narrow 1-0 home victory over Fiorentina, their third straight success in the league.

On paper Napoli looked to be a tough test for Inter but the champions seemed to be strolling away with the game midway through the first period as they opened up a 2-0 lead.

Napoli gifted their hosts a 16th-minute advantage with poor defending at a short corner which was played to Sulley Muntari who crossed for Colombian centre-back Ivan Cordoba to volley home on the turn.

Inter's second was pure class, though, as Julio Cruz's backheel presented Maicon with space to shoot inside the box. He scuffed his effort but it arrived at Muntari's feet on the edge of the six-yard box and the Ghana midfielder reacted quickly to flick it between his legs and past the helpless Gennaro Iezzo on 25 minutes.

Nine minutes before the break the visitors fashioned a brilliant goal of their own.

Ezequiel Lavezzi cut in from the right flank and played the ball into Uruguayan Marcelo Zalayeta who, with his back to goal, back-heeled the ball past a line of blue and black shirts.

Argentina forward Lavezzi had continued his run and found himself clean through before cleverly dinking the ball over Julio Cesar as the Brazilian goalkeeper dived at his feet.

The second half was a cagey affair with Napoli lacking the confidence to throw caution to the wind and Inter seemingly content to sit on their lead.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a shot well saved for the hosts and captain Javier Zanetti burst through a gap late on but was denied by Iezzo's body.

Napoli came closest when Lavezzi sent a dangerous cross from the right into the box but Cristian Maggio hadn't gambled and the ball travelled through to Julio Cesar.

It was a fifth straight league win for Inter, who responded well to the midweek Champions League defeat at home to Panathinaikos.

Napoli remain fourth as a host of teams failed to capitalise on their slip up.

One of those was Fiorentina who went down to a goal from Roma captain Francesco Totti just before the hour mark.

The capital-based club may be down in 14th place but are now only seven points behind Napoli and a Champions League qualification finish is looking a real possibility despite their early season troubles.

As well as Fiorentina missing out on moving into the top four, Lazio lost 2-0 at Atalanta, Genoa drew 1-1 at home to Bologna and 10-man Udinese fell 1-0 at home to rock bottom Chievo.

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Ronaldo sent off but United hold on to beat City

Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for the third time in his Manchester United career as Wayne Rooney's 100th goal in club football sealed a 1-0 victory for Sir Alex Ferguson's men against Manchester City at Eastlands on Sunday.

Rooney's goal — his first in seven games — settled the 150th meeting between the Manchester neighbours and cemented United in third spot in the Premier League.

But United were forced to play the final twenty-one minutes with ten men after Ronaldo was dismissed for handling the ball from Rooney's corner — his second booking in the space of nine minutes.

With five other players booked, United now face an FA fine for failing to control their players, but Ferguson will not be concerned by that having sealed a crucial victory.

City hadn't landed back in Manchester until early on Friday morning following their UEFA Cup tie against Schalke in Germany, and United went into this game with the advantage of having had an extra two days to prepare.

The extra freshness within the United ranks showed in the first half as the European champions dominated possession and created the best chances.

Not for the first time this season, though, Ferguson's team failed to capitalise on their early dominance and, just as happened at Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal earlier this campaign, United struggled to kill off their bitter rivals.

The visitors could have gone ahead as early as the eighth minute when City keeper Joe Hart fumbled a Rooney shot, but Darren Fletcher failed to convert the loose ball from six yards.

Moments later, Ronaldo went close to opening the scoring when he rose above the City defence to head Rooney's corner inches over the crossbar.

City, who won both derby clashes against United last season, simply could not get into the game and 32 million pounds star signing Robinho was nowhere to be seen as United tightened their grip.

But while the chances continued to be created, United just could not put them away and Dimitar Berbatov's glancing header from Rafael's cross brought a stunning save from Hart.

City finally created a scoring chance on 32 minutes when Javier Garrido's free-kick was met with a weak punch by Edwin van der Sar. The ball dropped to Stephen Ireland on the edge of the penalty area, but the Irish midfielder's shot struck the outside of the post.

Just as the game appeared to be drifting towards a 0-0 half-time scoreline, however, United finally profited from their good work when Rooney pounced to open the scoring.

The home side were unable to clear the danger inside their own penalty area and Michael Carrick's left-foot shot was only blocked by Hart. Hovering yards from the goalline, Rooney was never going to miss.

Although United continued to hold control in the second-half, City at least threatened their opponents' goal on a more regular basis and Benjani Mwaruwari was unlucky not to equalise when he hit the sidenetting from a tight angle on 56 minutes.

Spanish full-back Garrido then sent a free-kick narrowly wide of the United post ten minutes later as Mark Hughes's team attempted to claw themselves back into the game.

United looked lively on the counter-attack, though, and Rooney and Berbatov should have made it 2-0 when they broke forward only to see Richard Dunne clear the danger.

But United were forced into a defensive end to the game following Ronaldo's dismissal for his second yellow card. The Portuguese forward protested, but it was a deliberate handball and referee Howard Webb had no option but to send him off.

City almost scrambled an equaliser in stoppage time when Dunne's shot was cleared off the line by Patrice Evra, although Rooney's long-range chip, well-stopped by Hart, could have put the seal on United's win.

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Tottenham target City midfielder

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is considering making a January bid for Manchester City midfielder Elano.

Elano joined City from Shakhtar Donetsk last year and impressed in his first season at the club.

The 27-year-old has struggled to get into the team at Eastlands this season and has admitted that he could leave the club.

He said: “When I am playing I know what the manager wants and when I come off there is nothing from him.

“It’s his right, he is the manager.

“I respect him and I will keep working, arriving on time and doing my duties at the club, but my sadness is not playing.

“I can’t hide that from the fans or the president – who wants to make this a big club.

“I think I have the capabilities to be playing.

“City have a big project, they have something which not many clubs have at the moment – money.

“I want to help by playing. I respect everyone here. I have many friends here and get on with the team 100 per cent.

“I respect the manager a lot but I cannot be happy if I don’t play.”

[Source: News of the World]

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Everton to move for Podolski

Everton boss David Moyes will make a January move for Bayern Munich striker Lukas Podolski, according to News of the World.

Podolski has handed in a transfer request at the German Bundesliga side and would be keen on a move to the Premier League.

Tottenham and Manchester City have also been linked with Podolski in recent weeks.

Bayern Munich President Franz Beckenbauer has told interested clubs that they will have to splash out £13million in order to have a chance of signing Podolski.

“Everything in life has its price,” Beckenbauer told Bild.

“Two and a half years ago, we paid €10m (£8.4m). Now, the fee is €15m (£13m).

“You cannot keep a professional if he is unhappy, on the bench and not playing.

“Poldi does not quite fit into our way of playing. He is a top-class striker when he has space in front of him as he has the pace to run clear.

“But the teams we play against are usually very defensive, so we need players who can get into the penalty area – Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni in particular.”

[Source: News of the World]

Sun 30 November, 2008
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Pique confident of Barcelona success

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique believes the club ‘will do great things’ if they manage to keep up their good form.

Barcelona are six points clear of Real Madrid on the La Liga table, following their win over Sevilla on Saturday.

“We are doing things well, playing at a high tempo and putting the opposition under pressure. If we can keep it up, we will do great things,” Pique told the club’s official website.

“The changing room was bubbling, we’re all delighted with the result.”

He continued: “We now have two days off to rest and start preparing for Valencia and then Real Madrid at home.

“I think changing the routine is a good thing. Coming here this morning, then training and resting in the hotel was the right choice.”

[Source: FCBarcelona.com]

Sun 30 November, 2008
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