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Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011

Slumping Chelsea held after Villa scores late goal

LONDON (AP) Chelsea's poor Premier League form continued Sunday when it conceded an injury-time equalizer to draw 3-3 with struggling Aston Villa.

News photo
Grounded: Chelsea's John Terry attempts to tackle Aston Villa's Ashley Young on Sunday in London. AP PHOTO

The Blues had trailed 2-1 at Stamford Bridge until Didier Drogba and John Terry scored in the last six minutes of regular time to put the defending champions ahead.

Those goals looked to have clinched Chelsea's second win in eight matches but Villa defender Ciaran Clark was left unmarked to head Marc Albrighton's cross past goalkeeper Petr Cech.

The point left Chelsea outside the top four, with Tottenham having moved into the final Champions League place with a 1-0 win over Fulham on Saturday.

Villa moved up to 15th place with the first point it earned this season after conceding the first goal. Newcastle moved up two places to 10th after Shola Ameobi scored for a 1-0 win at Wigan in Sunday's other game.

Chelsea has now dropped 25 points already this season, just three fewer than it dropped in the whole of 2009-10.

"We've been in such a bad run of form, we needed something," Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel said. "And it's great to get it at Stamford Bridge.

"We've got over what I thought was a poor penalty decision against us at the start and we've fought back and hopefully this will kick-start our season and we can get back up the table."

The Blues ended a six-match run without a win by beating Bolton 1-0 in midweek and led Sunday through Frank Lampard's 23rd-minute penalty, awarded for a foul by James Collins on Florent Malouda.

But Ashley Young equalized with another penalty four minutes before halftime after Michael Essien had barged over Nigel Reo-Coker.

Emile Heskey then beat Jeffrey Bruma to a header to put Villa ahead two minutes into the second period and man-of-the-match Friedel made two stellar saves to preserve the lead. Friedel somehow pushed Lampard's close-range volley over the bar and then charged down an effort by Malouda.

But Friedel could do little in the 84th when Drogba collected a loose ball in the area and worked space for an angled shot that beat three defenders and the American goalkeeper. Friedel did stop Drogba's 89th-minute header after Albrighton had given the ball away to Essien, but was beaten by Terry's low shot from the rebound.

The Chelsea players swarmed around under-pressure manager Carlo Ancelotti to celebrate but Albrighton atoned for his error with the curling cross that Clark headed in at the far post.

"We showed today we've got a lot of fight in us and we're going to have a lot of fight in us for the rest of the season," Friedel said.

Barca keeps winning

BARCELONA , Spain (AP) First-place Barcelona extended its league winning streak to 11 games, with Pedro Rodriguez scoring twice in the second half of a 2-1 victory over Levante.

Barcelona is four wins shy of the Spanish record set by Real Madrid in 1960-61. It is unbeaten in 24 consecutive games in all competitions.

Daniel Alves set up both goals to energize a Barcelona attack missing Lionel Messi, who watched from the stands after returning from a holiday break at home in Argentina.

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