Chelsea denied by Van Persie but go four points clear


LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea went four points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday but felt it should have been six after Manchester United captain Robin Van Persie scored a dramatic late goal to deny them victory in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

“We are not happy with a point,” said Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho after a strong second half performance in which Didier Drogba, playing from the start because Diego Costa was unfit, headed the visitors in front in the 53rd minute.

With Thibaut Courtois keeping out Van Persie's best efforts, Chelsea seemed likely to hold out but just before the final whistle Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a second yellow card.

From the free kick Courtois saved from Marouane Fellaini but could not stop Van Persie's fierce follow-up.

The draw extended Chelsea's lead to four points over second-placed Southampton and six over champions Manchester City.

It was only the second time this season Mourinho's side have failed to take all three points, both games being in Manchester, where they also drew 1-1 with City.

Seven wins and two draws from nine games nevertheless leaves them in an enviable position.

United, meanwhile, having briefly reached fourth place, find themselves back in eighth after a second successive draw.

The consolation for them is having equalised right at the end again, just as they did in a 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion last Monday.

A year ago Mourinho had been criticised for Chelsea's negative approach at Old Trafford when he played without a recognised striker and achieved a goalless draw.

CHELSEA CONFIDENCE

Without Diego Costa and Loic Remy, there might have been a temptation to adopt the same tactics but starting with Drogba just in front of Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard reflected the London side's confidence after their impressive start to the season. "My team played a fantastic game," Mourinho said. "It was not the result we came for, but acceptable."

United's manager Louis van Gaal was pleased with the way his team kept going, saying: "We showed again that we believe until the end in making a goal."

They face a tough assignment next, in the Manchester derby away to City next Sunday.

Elsewhere, Newcastle United moved out of the relegation places with a 2-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur but winless Burnley stayed there after losing 3-1 at home to Everton.

Sammy Ameobi scored within eight seconds of coming on as a halftime substitute in Newcastle's first away win of the season.

It was another boost for manager Alan Pardew, whose job was reportedly under threat after failing to win any of his first seven league games of the season.

Since then they have beaten Leicester City and Tottenham to ease the pressure, moving out of the bottom three and leaving their north east rivals Sunderland there instead.

PEGGED BACK

Emmanuel Adebayor gave Tottenham the lead after 18 minutes with a header from Ryan Mason's cross as the home side controlled the first half.

Spurs, who paid tribute to their former manager Bill Nicholson before the game on the 10th anniversary of his death with a minute's applause, created several chances but were unable to add to their lead.

They were pegged back right at the start of the second period when Ameobi equalised with his first touch after replacing Gabriel Obertan at the interval.

Ayoze Perez, a 21-year-old from Tenerife, then scored on his full debut for Newcastle, glancing a header into the top corner from a precise left-wing cross by Remy Cabella, the other half-time substitute.

Cameroonian veteran Samuel Eto'o scored twice as Everton's second successive win took them into the top half of the table.

In only the third minute he headed powerfully home from a cross from Leighton Baines.

Everton's Belgian international Romelu Lukaku was guilty of a loose pass that allowed Danny Ings through to go round Tim Howard and score his first Premier League goal.

Lukaku soon made amends, however, restoring the visitors' lead in the 28th minute. His first shot after taking a pass from Steven Naismith was blocked, but he was able to scoop the rebound past Tom Heaton.

Five minutes from the end Eto's scored his second, curling a fine shot into the top corner of the net from 20 metres, and in added time he was denied a hat-trick when his effort from an acute angle hit the inside of the far post.

Everton's manager Roberto Martinez was particularly delighted with Lukaku and Eto'o.

"What Samuel Eto'o brings is incredible experience but with that is also a great hunger," he told the BBC.

(Editing by Martyn Herman/Rex Gowar)

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