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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chelsea dismisses City to stay on fringe of title race

LONDON (AP) Chelsea boosted its slim chances of retaining the Premier League title by beating Manchester City 2-0, while Liverpool closed in on fifth-place Tottenham with a 2-0 victory at Sunderland on Sunday.

News photo
Outside shot: Chelsea's John Terry (left) celebrates with teammate David Luiz after the Blues' 2-0 win over Manchester City on Sunday in London. AP PHOTO

Brazil international David Luiz and Ramires scored in the final 12 minutes to settle a hard-fought match at Stamford Bridge, lifting Chelsea a point above City into third place and nine points adrift of United with a game in hand.

"The longer the game went on, the better we got going forward," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said. "It was a big win for us. We have nine games to play and we have to do our best. Our form is good."

City, which was without injured top scorer Carlos Tevez, is now four points above Tottenham having played one match more. With the team's title hopes all but over, its focus could now be on staying in the top four.

"We played three days ago against Dynamo Kiev (in the Europa League), and in the last 20 minutes we were so tired," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "Until 70 minutes, it was normal that Chelsea had more possession but we conceded nothing before then."

A controversial penalty, scored by Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt in the 34th minute set Liverpool on its way to victory at the Stadium of Light. Video replays showed Jay Spearing was fouled outside the box by John Mensah but the assistant referee awarded a penalty.

"There was a bit of dispute over whether the foul occurred inside or outside the box," Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said. "From where we (the coaches) are, I couldn't honestly tell you but if we have got a fortuitous one, then we have got a fortuitous decision in that instance.

"Overall, it was a great effort from our players."

A wonderful solo effort from Uruguay striker Luis Suarez in the 77th minute clinched the three points for Liverpool before Mensah was given a straight red card for hauling down Suarez as he chased a long punt upfield by goalkeeper Jose Reina.

The Reds are four points behind Tottenham but have played a game more.

From a position of strength where the team looked to be ready to challenge for a European spot, Sunderland hasn't won since January and is only six points off the relegation zone.

"It was one of those horrible afternoons," Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said.

With Arsenal only drawing 2-2 at struggling West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Chelsea and City knew a victory would narrow the gap to the stuttering Gunners.

And from the outset, it was clear only Chelsea was really going to look for the win. City played with Edin Dzeko up front on his own — Tevez missed out owing to a groin problem — and the Bosnia international was given little support from midfield.

Yaya Toure had City's best chance and that came in the sixth minute, the Cote d'Ivoire midfielder stinging the palms of Petr Cech with a fierce shot.

Otherwise, it was all Chelsea, whose pressure only told in the final quarter of the match as City tired following its exertions against Kiev on Thursday.

Didier Drogba, who replaced the ineffective Fernando Torres in the 70th minute, set up Luiz for the opener, the defender meeting a curling free kick with a powerful header into the corner for his second goal for Chelsea.

Ramires, a growing influence as the match progressed, settled the match with a fancy piece of footwork as he danced through City's defense before finishing with aplomb past Joe Hart.

"Tactically, it was a good game for us," Ancelotti said. "And we had good fighting spirit. We have to maintain this."

Inter moves closer

ROME (AP) Inter Milan moved within two points of Serie A leader AC Milan by beating Lecce 1-0, while Roma captain Francesco Totti became only the sixth player to break the 200-goal barrier in the Italian League.

Giampaolo Pazzini scored in the 52nd minute at the San Siro, setting up the possibility for Inter to take the lead when Serie A resumes with the Milan derby in two weeks.

However, key Inter center back Lucio picked up a yellow card that will rule him out of the April 2 derby.

Milan lost 1-0 at Palermo on Saturday and drew 1-1 with last-place Bari the previous weekend in a match where Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off for punching a defender in the chest. The incident triggered a three-match ban that rules Ibrahimovic out of the derby.

"Milan is a great squad and the derby is a special game, but it's not decisive because there will still be several more matches," Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar said. "In any case, it's definitely going to be a big (match)."

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