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Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Rose (center), competes with Fulham’s Steve Sidwell during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane, London
Sunderland deny Chelsea top spot Mou run ended

LONDON, April 19, (AFP): Jose Mourinho suffered his first ever Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge as Sunderland delivered a major blow to Chelsea’s title hopes with a controversial 2-1 victory on Saturday. Fabio Borini, on loan from leaders Liverpool, converted a contentious 82nd-minute penalty to secure the win for the league’s bottom club. It sparked furious home protests that ended with assistant coach Rui Faria being dragged away from referee Mike Dean by Mourinho and other members of the home side’s back-room staff. Chelsea were incensed at the decision to award the spot-kick after Sunderland substitute Jozy Altidore had gone down under Cesar Azpilicueta’s sliding challenge. The incident was just one of a number of flashpoints in a highly charged game that could have seen players from both sides sent off, while Chelsea midfielder Ramires could face retrospective action for elbowing Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson.

Ultimately though, Borini’s spot-kick proved the difference, after Connor Wickham’s 18th-minute strike had cancelled out Samuel Eto’o’s 12th-minute opening goal, ending Mourinho’s 77-game unbeaten home league run. The result left Chelsea two points behind Liverpool having played a game more, while bottom club Sunderland boosted their survival hopes by moving to within three points of safety. There was no sign Mourinho was resting key players before Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Atletico Madrid and initially it looked as though the Blues would easily overcome a Sunderland side desperate for points. It took them just 12 minutes to unpick the visitors’ defence, when Eto’o’s twisting run took him past John O’Shea before a last-ditch tackle by Santiago Vergini denied the forward a shot on goal.

From the resulting corner, Eto’o connected with a close-range volley that appeared to set Chelsea on their way to three points. Sunderland had offered little during the opening stages but, just as they had in their 2-2 draw at Manchester City in mid-week, Gus Poyet’s side recovered after falling behind and within six minutes they were level. Rather than float the ball into the area from a left-wing corner, Larsson picked out Marcos Alonso, who was unmarked 30 yards from goal. The left-back drilled in a powerful low shot that Mark Schwarzer — deputising for the ill Petr Cech — failed to hold and Wickham reacted first to slot the rebound home from close range.

It was the first goal Chelsea had conceded in 10 home games — a run dating back to the 3-1 victory over Manchester United in mid-January — and ensured Schwarzer’s day would be remembered for the wrong reasons. The equaliser knocked the home side out of their stride, but they stepped up the pressure in a frantic spell ahead of the interval. Vito Mannone saved at the second attempt from Branislav Ivanovic’s header after initially pushing the ball against the bar. And the Sunderland goalkeeper was again called into action when he produced a fine double save to deny Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah. Chelsea’s frustration then intensified when they were denied two penalty appeals in quick succession, first when Alonso handled the ball and then when Ramires was barged by Larsson as he looked set to head into an empty goal.

The Blues midfielder then took matters into his own hands by elbowing the Sunderland man off the ball and was fortunate the incident was missed by Dean. The first half ended with both teams nursing a sense of grievance. And that contributed to a feisty second period that grew more frantic the longer the stalemate endured. Eto’o passed up a good chance to restore Chelsea’s lead two minutes after the restart when he placed his shot wide after a powerful run by Willian. But while Sunderland struggled to create chances of their own, their defence stood firm in the face of growing home pressure. Mourinho introduced both Demba Ba and Fernando Torres in an effort to boost his side’s firepower, but both missed chances before Borini was handed the chance to seal an unexpected win.

Spurs 3, Fulham 1
In London, Tottenham Hotspur strengthened their push for a European place and kept Fulham trapped in the Premier League relegation zone with a 3-1 home victory on Saturday. Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell cancelled out Paulinho’s 35th-minute opener for Tottenham, but second-half goals from Harry Kane and Younes Kaboul gave Tim Sherwood’s side all three points. Sidwell had an opportunity to get his team back into the game with 13 minutes remaining, but after Christian Eriksen had been penalised for handball, he saw his penalty parried by Hugo Lloris. Champions League qualification remains unlikely for Spurs, who are four points below fourth-place Arsenal, having played a game more, but they are now six points above Manchester United in the battle for a Europa League berth.

Felix Magath’s Fulham would have climbed out of the bottom three with victory, but instead they find themselves two points from safety, having played a game more than fourth-bottom Norwich City. Fulham had won their previous two games and despite Magath making five changes to his starting XI, their momentum did not seem to be affected as they took the game to their hosts at a sunny White Hart Lane. Snapping into challenges and pressing high up the pitch, they procured a clear sight of goal in the third minute, only for Hugo Rodallega to badly slice his shot after springing the Spurs offside trap. Spurs threatened through Kaboul, who headed over after Fulham failed to clear a corner, but the visitors were quickly back on the attack, with Lloris rushing out to block Rodallega’s attempted lob.

The home side stepped things up around the half-hour mark, however, and after visiting goalkeeper David Stockdale had palmed an Aaron Lennon volley onto the post, Spurs went ahead. Eriksen whipped a wicked free-kick into the Fulham box from the Tottenham right and with Stockdale rooted to the spot, Paulinho had the simple task of volleying home from barely two yards out. Fulham refused to be cowed, though, and within two minutes they were level. Spurs defender Zeki Fryers could only prod an attempted clearance into the path of Sidwell and the Fulham midfielder displayed great coolness to dink a shot past the advancing Lloris. It was an impressive response from the visitors, but Spurs restored their lead just three minutes into the second half.

Aaron Lennon made the goal, cutting inside Ashkan Dejagah on the Spurs right and floating in a fine left-foot cross that Kane glanced past Stockdale to register his third goal in three games. In reply, Rodallega forced Lloris into a finger-tip save with a bullet header, but in the 62nd minute, Spurs extended their lead. Another undefendable Eriksen free-kick was the source. This time the Dane’s delivery came from the left, and the cross was every bit as devilish. Kaboul, the grateful recipient on this occasion, scored with his knee. After Alexander Kacaniklic failed to win a penalty following a tangle with Danny Rose, referee Lee Probert did point to the spot when Eriksen used his upper arm to nudge the ball away from Rodallega. Sidwell could not capitalise, however, as Lloris dived to his right to push away the former Chelsea man’s spot-kick.

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