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Essien keeps Chelsea in Premier League title hunt

SoccerNews in English Premier League 17 Apr 2008

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Chelsea manager Avram Grant produced a bewildering performance in his post-match press conference after his side had recorded an uninspiring 1-0 victory at Everton on Thursday to keep alive their outside chances of winning the Premier League title.

Michael Essien's second goal in as many games ensured the London club moved to within two points of leaders Manchester United with three games to play.

Yet Grant's behaviour in a press conference lasting five minutes 39 seconds after the game at Goodison Park left many who witnessed it to wonder whether the Israeli might be cracking under the strain of the title race.

Grant answered questions with a string of one word answers before telling journalists to “write whatever you want”.

“Are we back in the title race? I don't know,” was one of his longest answers.

“I don't know what to say,” he added. “You can write whatever you want. Sometimes I have nothing to say. I'm pleased.”

Later, Grant told radio journalists: “I'm still alive. You cannot kill me.”

Fortunately Grant's players did the talking for the Chelsea manager, whose long-term future at Stamford Bridge remains in doubt.

Speculation is growing that Grant, who only took over from Jose Mourinho in September and has guided them to the Champions League semi-finals, will be relieved of his duties in the summer.

Chelsea just about did enough to deserve victory with Essien providing the decisive moment four minutes before half time after capping off a fine move involving Shaun Wright-Phillips.

United remain favourites to claim a 10th Premier League title and will re-establish a five-point lead at the summit if they win their game in hand at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

Yet this was a crucial win for Chelsea, who entertain Sir Alex Ferguson's United at Stamford Bridge on April 26.

Having surprisingly been held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Wigan 72 hours earlier, the pressure was well and truly on Grant and his side. Yet they responded with a performance which keeps the title race bubbling for another week at least.

Chelsea did not have it all their own way.

Indeed it required a fine save by Petr Cech to deny Portugal's Manuel Fernandes from giving the hosts an early lead after Nicolas Anelka had conceded a free-kick on the edge of his own area after fouling Everton

captain Phil Neville.

For long periods the visitors looked as though they were still suffering a hangover from Wigan, a game which badly damaged their title hopes after conceding a stoppage time equaliser.

One of their best chances fell to Shaun Wright-Phillips, but the England international dithered long enough for Phil Jagielka to make a goal-saving challenge after Salomon Kalu's defence-splitting pass.

Then came the goal which breathed new life into Chelsea's season.

Essien started the move deep inside the Everton half and after a neat one-two with the industrious Wright-Phillips, the Ghana international buried the ball beyond Everton's United States keeper Tim Howard.

Having pushed neighbours Liverpool for most of the season in the race to finish fourth, Everton's season is finishing on a tame note.

David Moyes's side have won just once in the last five outings although they remain on course to host UEFA Cup action next season.

“We simply didn't create enough chances,” said Moyes, who believes Chelsea have left themselves too much to do in the race for the title.

“I still think it's Manchester United's title to throw away although Chelsea will make it difficult.

“Had Chelsea have got the points against Wigan it would still have been game on.”

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