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Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010

Drogba strikes twice as Chelsea rolls past Arsenal

LONDON (AP) Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday to stay ahead of Manchester United in the race for the Premier League title.

Didier Drogba scored twice in the first 23 minutes to establish a dominance that Arsenal was unable to overturn despite an improved second-half performance.

Victory lifted the Blues to 58 points, two more than defending champion United and nine more than third-place Arsenal.

After losing 3-1 to United last weekend, Arsenal was desperate for victory at Stamford Bridge but now faces a tough challenge to close on the leading pair with just 13 games remaining.

Chelsea captain John Terry started the game two days after being stripped of the England captaincy and set up the first goal in the eighth minute.

But the defender could be a doubt for Wednesday's match at Everton after receiving treatment to his left thigh midway through the second half, only returning to the game with his leg heavily strapped.

Terry made the opening goal when he rose to meet a corner and headed the ball to the far post, where Drogba tapped it in from close range.

The second goal came from the sort of counterattack more usually seen from Arsenal or Manchester United.

Chelsea won possession on the edge of its own area and Frank Lampard carried the ball up the middle of the field against a retreating defense. The midfielder slipped a pass to Drogba on the right and the Cote d'Ivoire striker cut inside defender Thomas Vermaelen before smashing a shot past stranded goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Drogba now has 17 Premier League goals this season, putting him second in the scoring charts to United's Wayne Rooney on 21.

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas went close with a curling free kick from just outside the area but he too was shaken by a clash of heads with Branislav Ivanovic in injury time at the end of the match.

Arsenal hosts fourth-place Liverpool on Wednesday.

Also Sunday, former England striker Kevin Phillips scored twice in the last 10 minutes to give Birmingham a 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and preserve his side's five-month unbeaten streak at home.

Birmingham was leading through Kevin Doyle's 42nd-minute shot from a rebound until the 36-year-old Phillips, who had been on as a substitute for about 15 minutes, scored in the 80th with a first-time shot.

Phillips then controlled a cross from captain Stephen Carr on his chest and volleyed into the bottom corner for an 85th-minute winner.

"Kevin will never lose that ability he has got in the box," Birmingham manager Alex McLeish said. "He might lose his teeth, he might go bald, and his legs will go at some stage, but he will always have that magnificent technique and touch of a top player."

Birmingham's first win in three matches lifted it to 37 points in eighth place, 11 spots ahead of a Wolves side that has won away from home only twice in the league this season.

All of Birmingham's 10 Premier League wins this season have been by a margin of just one goal.

Liverpool beat Everton 1-0 on Saturday to take fourth place from Tottenham, which was held to a 0-0 draw by Aston Villa.

Manchester United beat last-place Portsmouth 5-0 at Old Trafford and now has the best goal difference in the league.

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