Chelsea leave it late against Pompey as Everton falter

LONDON: Chelsea stretched their lead to eight points at the top of the Premiership table following a hard-fought 2-0 win over Portsmouth at Fratton Park yesterday. 

Pompey, just as they had done against champions Arsenal, made life tough for Chelsea until Arjen Robben's deflected shot 11 minutes from time sent the visitors on their way. 

Jose Mourinho's men were assured of the points when Joe Cole hit Chelsea's second goal at the death. 

Everton, who were in third before kick-off, suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Charlton where substitute striker Duncan Ferguson was sent-off in the closing minutes.  

Second-placed champions Arsenal will reduce Chelsea's lead to five points again if they win at Newcastle today. 

Elsewhere West Brom remained bottom of the table following a 1-1 draw at Manchester City where they were forced to play most of the game with 10 men after Thomas Gaardsoe was sent-off. 

Meanwhile, Birmingham continued their recent good form with a 3-2 win away to Fulham while Tottenham's run of five straight wins was ended with a 1-1 draw against drop candidates Crystal Palace. 

Middlesbrough bounced back from their Boxing Day defeat by Birmingham with a 2-0 win against drop candidates Norwich as Blackburn added to Bolton's woes with a 1-0 win at the Reebok. 

Chelsea could not break a resilient Portsmouth defence in a goalless first-half although home goalkeeper Shaka Hislop had to be at his best to keep out Didier Drogba's effort early in the second period. 

But it was not all one-way traffic with Pompey's Jamaica striker Ricardo Fuller, on as a second-half substitute, shooting narrowly wide with Chelsea keeper Peter Cech beaten. 

However Dutch ace Robben soon gave the visitors the opener when his strike was deflected in off the unfortunate Matthew Taylor in the 79th minute.  

Robben was then booked for his exuberant goal celebration before England midfielder Cole beat former West Ham team-mate Hislop with a long-range effort late on. 

Everton, who lost goalkeeper Nigel Martyn in the first half at Charlton, went behind to Talal El Karkouri's header eight minutes from time before Ferguson was dismissed for swinging an arm into the face of Hermann Hreidarsson who had the last laugh by scoring five minutes from time. 

At the City of Manchester Stadium, Danish defender Gaardsoe was red-carded by referee Andy D'Urso who ruled he was the last man when he pulled back striker Robbie Fowler as the former England international was set to break into the box in the 16th minute. 

West Brom, thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool on Sunday, saw their day go from bad to worse when France striker Nicolas Anelka put City 1-0 up with a 20-yard free-kick. 

But they salvaged a point through City defender Richard Dunne's own goal five minutes from time. – AFP 

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