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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chelsea flaunts title worthiness in seven-goal romp

LONDON (AP) Salomon Kalou scored three goals and Frank Lampard two as Chelsea beat Stoke 7-0 to stay a point ahead of Manchester United in the Premier League title race on Sunday, while Burnley was relegated after one season in the top flight.

The pressure was back on Chelsea after United beat Tottenham 3-1 on Saturday. But two strikes by Kalou and Lampard's penalty put Carlo Ancelotti's team 3-0 up by halftime. Both scorers plus Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda added more goals in the second half.

Chelsea has 80 points and United 79 going into their last two games of the season, and Ancelotti's team now has a much better goal difference should they wind up level. Chelsea visits Liverpool and hosts Wigan, while United goes to Sunderland and welcomes Stoke.

Despite the 7-0 win, Ancelotti doesn't believe the title will be decided on goal difference.

"We will not be even with Man United (on points). One team will be first," the Italian said.

Aston Villa and Liverpool both won to improve their chances of clinching a Champions League spot for next season.

James Milner fired home a disputed penalty as Villa beat neighbor Birmingham City 1-0. while Steven Gerrard scored two of Liverpool's goals in a 4-0 win at next-to-last Burnley.

Villa's penalty was awarded in the 83rd minute when Roger Johnson brought down striker Gabriel Agbonlahor. Several Birmingham players argued with referee Martin Atkinson that Johnson had played the ball first but the official gave the spot kick, which Milner drove home.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, who confronted Atkinson after the game about the penalty decision, was convinced it was not a foul.

"It was a great tackle, simple," McLeish said. "It was a bad mistake by the ref. He was not up with the play. It was a great touch by Roger Johnson. He's made a name for himself in the Premier League with tackles like that."

Villa manager Martin O'Neill, whose team guaranteed at least a place in next season's Europa League, was just as sure it was a foul.

"There's no dispute about it, it's a penalty kick," he said. "I've seen it back since and it's a definite penalty."

The victory lifted Villa into fifth, level on points with fourth-place Tottenham and above Manchester City but having played a game more than both. Tottenham lost 3-1 at Manchester United on Saturday and City drew 0-0 at Arsenal.

Maxi Rodriguez and Ryan Babel hit the target after Gerrard's two strikes early in the second half to keep Liverpool in the hunt for fourth.

Rangers win league

GLASGOW , Scotland (AP) Rangers captured their second straight Scottish Premier League title after Kyle Lafferty scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at Hibernian on Sunday.

Lafferty netted after 17 minutes at Easter Road to earn Walter Smith's men a victory that puts them out of reach of second-place Celtic, despite its 2-0 win at Dundee United earlier Sunday.

"It seems to have been one of the hardest (titles) but maybe I've felt like that after every one of them," said Smith, who has won nine championships with Rangers in two spells with the club.

Rangers now have 83 points to Celtic's 72, with only three games remaining. It is Rangers' 53rd league title triumph — Celtic have 42 while the next best are Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian with four.

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