Premier League round-up
Manchester United sit six points clear at the Premier League summit following a comfortable win at Middlesbrough, Chelsea are now level on points with Liverpool after beating Fulham, while elsewhere it was matters at the other end of the table that dominated as not one of the basement dwellers improved significantly their respective positions. Bolton were the only club in the bottom eight to register a point as they drew at Wigan in a game that created a plethora of chances but not a solitary goal at The JJB. Blackburn were below par on their travels across the North West as they went down to a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City, while Portsmouth's backline was equally porous at home to Arsenal as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat. West Brom again showed fight on their trip to the capital to face Tottenham but again it was a case of lacking sufficient firepower, as Jermaine Jenas' goal separated the two sides. Stoke may look safe on paper but a home defeat to West Ham will have Tony Pulis looking anxiously over his shoulder at those sides below his own in the table. At the business end of the table, Chelsea geared up for a midweek UEFA Champions League semi-final clash with Barcelona in some style, as they had too much for neighbours Fulham in claiming a 3-1 win. Middlesbrough hosted Man United at the Riverside more in hope than expectation and there was precious little of the former left in the stands once Ryan Giggs broke the deadlock on 25 minutes. A memorable week that has seen the Welshman crowned PFA Player of the Year and make his 800th appearance in a United shirt was crowned by an unerringly accurate strike from the edge of Middlesbrough's box, which arrowed past Boro keeper Brad Jones. With the home side insipid in attack there looked to be precious chance of Gareth Southgate's side changing the course of the title race and just six minutes after the half-time break, the game was put to bed as Park Ji-sung doubled United's advantage. Wayne Rooney, again foraging down the left flank impressively, was the architect as his brilliant angled ball was given the finish it deserved by Park, who timed his run to perfection before firing home. Fulham were caught cold in the West London derby at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea registered within the opening minute through Nicolas Anelka. The Frenchman started the move with a burst towards goal before the ball was swept left to Florent Malouda. His cross found Didier Drogba and from the cutest of lay-offs, Anelka was given the relatively simple task of finishing off a finely constructed move. It was just his second goal in 17 Premier League appearances. It was a lead that lasted just three minutes though as Erik Nevland, afforded a rare start by Roy Hodgson, followed up his goal off the bench last week with another. Danny Murphy's clipped pass found the Norwegian striker in acres of space but while his strike across Petr Cech was true, Chelsea's goalkeeper will nonetheless feel it should have been comfortably repelled. As if stirred by the neighbours' impertinence, Chelsea were back in the lead on ten minutes as the in-form Malouda finished smartly from the middle of the box after Anelka and Drogba - with an excellent cutback - combined to create another neat goal. With the Anelka-Drogba partnership in full working order, Chelsea made it three on 53 minutes when the former's clever slide rule pass was converted with no fuss by his Ivorian strike-partner. Manuel Almunia has made the headlines this week with news of his possible availability for England and so it seems likely a wry smile may have passed his lips upon viewing Arsenal's first goal at Portsmouth. Current England No1 David James has been in excellent form of late for an improving Pompey but he gifted Nicklas Bendtner an opener on the South Coast. Andrey Arshavin's delivery from the left invited Bendtner to attack the ball and while his effort had power it was straight at James, who somehow contrived to let the ball pass him. Arsenal's second infuriated Portsmouth midfielder Sean Davis, along with a vocal Fratton Park faithful, as he was adjudged to have fouled a marauding Arshavin in the penalty box. Referee Lee Mason waved away Pompey protests as Bendtner kept his nerve amid the furore to confidently slot home from 12 yards. Pompey boss Paul Hart made changes at the break as he looked to quell the tide but they proved to be in vain, as Carlos Vela further underlined his credentials as a deadly finisher with a fine angled strike that flew past James. It got no better for Portsmouth thereafter, as Noe Paramot's clumsy tackle on Arshavin 12 minutes from time led to his dismissal. Blackburn dominated the early sparring at Eastlands but fell behind just shy of the half hour mark to a Manchester City side finding real form at the season's close. Rovers boss Sam Allardyce will be less than enamoured with his side's defending though, as Felipe Caicedo was given far too much time and space to prod home after Blackburn failed to clear a corner. Allardyce's woes were exacerbated not longer after as in the 34th minute Robinho found a wonderfully composed curling finish, amid a scrabble in Blackburn's box. The Brazilian, for all his critics, has now scored in each of his last three games to take his tally for the season to 15. The game was put to bed before half-time when in-form Elano coolly dispatched from the penalty spot, after Gael Givet was adjudged to have handled Stephen Ireland's effort. Blackburn were handed a lifeline on 66 minutes when Morten Gamst Pedersen was hauled down in the box by Nedum Onuoha. Shay Given saved El-Hadji Diouf's spot-kick but Keith Andrews was on hand to convert the rebound for his fourth of the season. At the Britannia Stadium, a feisty affair between Stoke City and West Ham that lacked little in terms of commitment was punctuated with a moment of class on 33 minutes. Hammers striker Diego Tristan will have scored few better goals as he swept a majestic free-kick past Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen from 25 yards. An entertaining game at White Hart Lane had its deadlock broken just before half-time when Tottenham midfielder Jenas beat West Brom goalkeeper Scott Carson with a brilliant, controlled daisy cutter from the edge of the box. Jermain Defoe thought he had doubled Spurs' lead off the substitutes' bench in the second period, only for a linesman's flag to correctly make a tight off-side call. Few goalless draws will conjure as many chances as Wigan's stalemate with Bolton at the JJB. Wanderers front man Kevin Davies thought he had netted on the stroke of half-time only to have his close range effort ruled out, while in the second period both sets of strikers were guilty of some miserable finishing.
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