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Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010

Drogba haunts Arsenal once again

LONDON (AP) Chelsea went four points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday thanks to a 2-0 win over Arsenal, and Liverpool's shambolic season reached a new low with an embarrassing 2-1 home defeat to Blackpool.

News photo
Happy hunting: Chelsea's Didier Drogba (left) takes on Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. AP PHOTO

Didier Drogba proved to be Arsenal's nemesis once again, glancing in from close range in the 39th minute for his 13th goal in his last 11 matches against the Gunners, before Alex's unstoppable late free kick clinched victory.

"There will be one game when I won't score (against Arsenal)," Drogba quipped.

Chelsea leads the league on 18 points with its nearest rival Manchester City, which beat Newcastle 2-1 in Sunday's other game. Liverpool couldn't be much further from the title race after another humiliating result for the 18-time champions.

The Reds stayed in the relegation zone, with only six points, piling the pressure on manager Roy Hodgson. His team has not won in five matches, including a penalty-shootout defeat to fourth-tier Northampton in the League Cup and a dire goalless draw at Utrecht in the Europa League on Thursday.

"Their great result is our nightmare result. It is a very bad day and there is nothing I can say," Hodgson said. "At the moment things look bleak and really bad and it is difficult for me to put a bright face upon it.

"There are 31 games left but when you are in the relegation zone you are in a relegation battle."

Arsenal dominated possession for large spells but failed to find a cutting edge as Chelsea clinched a sixth victory in seven league matches, its only defeat coming at City last weekend.

"We had chance after chance and just never put the ball in the net," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

Drogba enjoys playing against Arsenal and the Cote d'Ivoire striker made the visitors pay for their early profligacy in front of goal by meeting Ashley Cole's cross from the left with a flicked finish that went in off the post.

Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny were guilty of wasting clear chances in the first half and striker Chamakh headed wide in the second half as Arsenal piled forward in search of the equalizer.

Alex, who hobbled off injured in stoppage time, settled the result with a powerful free kick that swerved past Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and into the top corner in the 85th.

Arsenal dropped a place to fourth and is two points behind Manchester United, which drew 0-0 with Sunderland on Saturday. United has 13 points and Arsenal 11 from seven games.

Liverpool's plight off the pitch is now looking just as bad on the field. The club's fans staged a pre-match protest march against American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr., who put the club up for sale in April and face a deadline to repay a debt which has grown to about £280 million ($441 million).

Liverpool began the day in its lowest position in the standings this season and saw star striker Fernando Torres withdrawn with a suspected groin strain after just 10 minutes.

It went from bad to worse when Blackpool took the lead through a penalty by Charlie Adam after Luke Varney was brought down by Glen Johnson in the 28th minute.

Varney put Blackpool 2-0 ahead in first-half stoppage time, running onto a flick by Gary Taylor-Fletcher and shooting past Jose Reina from just inside the area.

"This is a fantastic moment for Blackpool," manager Ian Holloway said. "The boys made me so proud and for that set of supporters to clap us off that is all I wanted."

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