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Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009
Chelsea rallies past West London rival Fulham
LONDON (AP) Chelsea extended its Premier League lead to five points by fighting back to beat Fulham 2-1 on Monday, while Tottenham returned to the Champions League places by easing to a 2-0 victory over West Ham.
Chelsea had Chris Smalling's own goal to thank for the victory after struggling against its West London rival.
Chelsea's grip on the league lead had been loosened by two consecutive draws, but the team returned to winning ways in front of former manager Jose Mourinho.
The Inter Milan boss, whose side will play Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League, witnessed a dire start from the home team with Zoltan Gera netting inside three minutes when he met Bobby Zamora's pass, after Chelsea captain John Terry had failed to clear.
"We went behind and the most important thing is the reaction in the second half, which was fantastic," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said. "With this performance we finished a difficult period for the team. This could be an important victory in the season because I'm very happy with the reaction of the team during a bad spell."
It took until the 73rd minute for Didier Drogba to equalize in the Cote d'Ivoire striker's last match before going to Angola for the African Cup of Nations.
And inside two minutes, Smalling inadvertently turned the ball into his own net after goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer blocked Daniel Sturridge's shot.
Chelsea has 45 points, while Manchester United has 40 before it hosts Wigan on Wednesday, when third-place Arsenal travels to Portsmouth.
At White Hart Lane, Luka Modric marked his return to Tottenham's starting lineup by scoring the opener against West Ham.
Modric, who has been restricted to two brief substitute appearances since breaking his right leg in August, scored in the 11th by sweeping Aaron Lennon's cross into the net.
Lennon also fed Jermain Defoe in the 81st and the former West Ham striker fired home after keeper Robert Green parried his initial shot.
The victory lifted Tottenham to fourth with 37 points, one behind Arsenal but two ahead of Aston Villa and Manchester City, which won 3-0 at Wolverhampton — its first away victory since Aug. 30.
Carlos Tevez scored twice, either side of second-half substitute Javier Garrido's free kick, as City made it two wins in a row under new manager Roberto Mancini.