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Tottenham Hotspur’s Mousa Dembele (left), competes for the ball with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane, London, on Dec 1. (AP)
Blues, City close in on Arsenal Tigers tame title-chasers Liverpool with record win

LONDON, Dec 1, (AFP): John Terry marked his 400th Premier League appearance with a second-half goal that helped Chelsea recover from the shock of falling behind after just 15 seconds to beat Southampton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. The win saw Jose Mourinho’s second-placed side move to within four points of Premier League leaders Arsenal. But it took a stirring second half comeback to clinch three points after Jay Rodriguez had given Mauricio Pochettino’s visiting side a stunningly quick lead. Gary Cahill headed Chelsea level ten minutes after the restart before Terry celebrated his landmark appearance with the Blues’ second goal seven minutes later. And Demba Ba rounded off the win in the 90th minute with a volleyed finish from Ramires’s cross. Having lost at Arsenal last time out, a second away defeat meant Southampton dropped to seventh place.

Rodriguez’s goal came as a blow to a Chelsea side attempting to shake off the effects of a midweek Champions League defeat at Basel. Liverpool’s defeat at Hull City and Manchester United’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur earlier on Sunday had handed Mourinho’s team a great opportunity to extend the gap on some of their main title rivals. But if they were to do that, they would have to improve on the dismal display in Switzerland. There was no attempt to disguise how disappointing that performance had been with Mourinho describing the display as “really bad” in his match programme notes. Chelsea captain Terry, meanwhile, conceded the only positive from the evening was that the Blues still qualified for the knockout stages of the competition.

Mourinho attempted to freshen up his side by handing Michael Essien his first Premier League start since returning during the close season from a season-long loan at Real Madrid. But the plan backfired with the Ghanaian’s first touch lifting the ball into no man’s land between keeper Petr Cech and centre-back Cahill, allowing Rodriguez to nip in on the inside of Branislav Ivanovic and place the ball beyond Cech. It was the last thing Chelsea needed and their response during the remainder of the first half was largely ineffectual, although they did shows signs of finding their feet towards the interval. Fernando Torres began to exert a greater influence on the game, crossing for Oscar whose header drew a fine save from Artur Boruc, the Southampton goalkeeper. Then Boruc produced an even better one-handed stop to repel a Torres header two minutes before half-time.

But it was the introduction of Ba in place of Essien that helped galvanise Chelsea’s attack. And with Southampton pressed back by the home side’s more convincing forward play, it took Mourinho’s men just ten minutes to conjure the equaliser when Cahill headed home after Southampton failed to clear a Juan Mata corner. Ivanovic rose to meet the original cross and his header was directed goalwards by Ba, whose effort struck the post and looped up inside the six-yard box, where Cahill twisted acrobatically to head home.
The momentum was with Chelsea and it was no surprise when Terry made it 2-1 by meeting Juan Mata’s left wing cross with an excellent header past Paulo Gazzaniga, who had replaced the injured Boruc. Chelsea, playing with an urgency and confidence missing from their first half performance, saw Ba seal victory with a volley from Ramires’s cross after the Brazil midfielder had shown impressive persistence to create the chance.

City 3, Swansea 0
In Manchester, A goal from the prolific Alvaro Negredo and two second-half efforts from Samir Nasri ensured Manchester City maintained the pressure on Premier League leaders Arsenal with a 3-0 win over Swansea at Eastlands on Sunday. The game was far from a formality, however, with Swansea enjoying the better of first half possession and chances after Negredo claimed his eighth goal in his last seven games for City, before Nasri’s double put the result beyond doubt. When Negredo struck after just eight minutes, a Swansea side depleted by injuries to key players Michu and Wilfried Bony must have feared that they were about to be on the receiving end of another mauling at the Etihad from a City side that had scored seven, five, six and four goals, respectively, in their last four home games.

The Spain international won a free-kick after being tripped by Jose Canas on the edge of the area and curled the ball around the wall and into the left-hand corner of the goal, a shot so devastating that Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel did not move. Tremmel had already been called upon, saving from Sergio Aguero after 30 seconds and was required to be even more alert when he dived smartly to his left to turn a crisp Negredo strike around the post.

Hull 3, Liverpool 1
In Kingston Upon Hull, Liverpool’s Premier League title credentials were dealt a blow as they were beaten 3-1 by a spirited Hull City at the KC Stadium on Sunday Jake Livermore, the midfielder on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, gave Hull a 20th minute lead with his first Premier League goal before Steven Gerrard equalised with a free-kick seven minutes later. David Meyler put Hull 2-1 ahead midway through the second half before Martin Skrtel headed Tom Huddlestone’s chip into his own net with three minutes left to seal a first victory over Liverpool for the East Yorkshire club. It was Hull’s first ever victory against Liverpool in all competitions.
Defeat dropped Liverpool from second place to third on goal difference and left them seven points behind leaders Arsenal. The visitors badly missed striker Daniel Sturridge, ruled out for up to eight weeks after suffering ligament damage to his left ankle in training on Friday.

Sturridge is Liverpool’s top scorer this season, with 11 goals and the highest scorer in the Premier League in 2013, with 19 goals in total. Hull were promoted from the Championship last season and made a promising start to life back in the Premier League with seven points from their opening five fixtures but they’d lost four of their last five games heading into this home clash against Liverpool. Steve Bruce’s aim might have been for his Hull side to stifle their opponents but City gave as good as they got in the early stages and grabbed the lead, albeit with a slice of luck. Victor Moses lost possession in his own half and Livermore pounced on the loose ball. He then exchanged passes with fellow midfielder David Meyler and his shot from 20 yards hit Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel and looped into the net over Simon Mignolet.

Seven minutes later, Liverpool were level courtesy of captain Gerrard. Curtis Davies’s challenge on Jordan Henderson on the edge of the box gave Liverpool their first chance of note and Gerrard smashed his 20-yard free-kick low into the corner. Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling failed to take a chance to impress as he made his first appearance since mid-October and only his second start of the season. The England winger was largely ineffective and was replaced in the 66th minute.

United 2, Spurs 2
In London, Wayne Rooney scored a brace as Manchester United twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Tottenham Hotspur in an entertaining Premier League encounter on Sunday. Spurs led twice, through a Kyle Walker free-kick and then a stunning strike from Sandro, but Rooney hit back on each occasion to extend United’s unbeaten record to 12 games in all competitions. David Moyes’s side were thankful to leave White Hart Lane with a point, but having also drawn 2-2 at Cardiff City last weekend, this was another missed opportunity to gain ground on the top four. Following the euphoria of the 5-0 mid-week thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, it was a reality check for the champions, who remain in eighth place, nine points behind leaders Arsenal.

It is now 13 games since Spurs last beat United at home, but they were unrecognisable from the team thrashed 6-0 at Manchester City last weekend and continue to trail United by only a point. United welcomed back captain Nemanja Vidic following concussion, but Robin van Persie was once again unavailable due to a groin injury, so Shinji Kagawa reprised his role in support of lone striker Rooney. Spurs made six changes to the team that won 2-0 at Tromso in the Europa League on Thursday, with manager Andre Villas-Boas electing to deploy Sandro, Paulinho and Mousa Dembele in a three-man midfield. Eager to atone for last weekend’s drubbing, Spurs began in purposeful fashion, with Aaron Lennon seeing a low shot saved by David de Gea, and in the 18th minute they went ahead. An ill-advised challenge on Paulinho by Jonny Evans presented Spurs with a free-kick just outside the box, slightly to the left of centre, and Walker drilled a low shot beneath the jumping defensive wall and past De Gea.

    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Arsenal    13    10    1    2    27    10    31
Chelsea    13    8    3    2    24    11    27
City    13    8    1    4    37    12    25
Liverpool    13    7    3    3    25    16    24
Everton    13    6    6    1    21    13    24
Newcastle    13    7    2    4    19    18    23
Southampton    13    6    4    3    16    10    22
United    13    6    4    3    22    17    22
Tottenham    13    6    3    4    11    14    21
Hull City    13    5    2    6    12    16    17
Aston Villa    13    4    4    5    13    14    16
West Bromwich    13    3    6    4    15    16    15
Swansea    13    4    3    6    17    19    15
Norwich    13    4    2    7    11    23    14
West Ham    13    3    4    6    12    14    13
Stoke    13    3    4    6    12    18    13
Cardiff    13    3    4    6    11    20    13
Fulham    13    3    1    9    11    24    10
Sunderland    13    2    2    9    8    24    8
Palace    13    2    1    10    7    22    7

Note: Standings read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against & points.


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