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Drogba double keeps Chelsea on course

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 25 (Reuters) Champions Chelsea opened out a 14-point Premier League lead on Saturday when two Didier Drogba goals gave them a comfortable, though controversial, 2-0 home win over Manchester City.

Chelsea dominated the game and Drogba scored after 30 and 33 minutes but City were fuming about the Frenchman's second goal, which was scored with the aid of a handball. City defender Sylvain Distin earned a halftime red card for complaining about it.

Chelsea, beaten by Fulham last week, move to 78 points, 14 ahead of Liverpool who overcame an 18th-minute red card for captain Steven Gerrard to beat Everton 3-1 at Anfield.

Manchester United, third on 63 but with three games in hand on Liverpool, are at home to Birmingham City tomorrow.

Tottenham Hotspur, at home to West Bromwich Albion on Monday, are fourth on 52 but only on goal difference from Blackburn Rovers, who moved to fifth with a 1-0 win at bottom club Sunderland thanks to a 15th-minute Steven Reid goal.

Arsenal, whose game at Portsmouth was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, drop to sixth.

In the day's other games a last-minute goal by Nigel Reo-Coker gave West Ham United a 2-1 win at Wigan Athletic while Aston Villa drew 0-0 at home with Fulham.

LOST MOMENTUM Chelsea were deserved victors over a City side whose season lost its momentum when they were beaten by West Ham in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Monday.

They went ahead with a superbly-taken goal by Drogba after half an hour when he neatly sidestepped David Sommeil and thumped the ball home.

It was a high-quality strike but the big Frenchman's second three minutes later left the City players fuming as he used his arm to control the ball before scoring from close range.

A week ago Drogba had a goal disallowed after Fulham players complained to the referee about a handball in the build-up but this time the protests earned only a couple of yellow cards.

One of them was for Distin, who was shown his second as he left the pitch trying to speak to the referee and seemingly refusing to hand the ball to the official.

Chelsea should have had more goals in the second half but missed a series of chances, the worst by substitute Hernan Crespo 10 minutes from time.

SUPERB PERFORMANCE Liverpool produced a superb performance against an Everton team who arrived at Anfield in great form and must have had high hopes for a first win there since 1999 when Gerrard was sent off after a foul, following a booking for dissent 35 seconds earlier.

But the visitors never looked comfortable and a Phil Neville own goal and a Luis Garcia lob either side of halftime put Liverpool in control.

Everton pulled one back with a Tim Cahill header after 61 minutes but they were also reduced to 10 men when Dutch midfielder Andy van der Meyde was dismissed for elbowing Alonso and Harry Kewell settled it when he crashed in a 25-metre shot six minutes from time.

The goal made it 18 in four games for Liverpool and delighted manager Raphael Benitez. ''To play with 10 men for most of the game at this intensity is difficult but the players worked so hard and deserved this win,'' he told Sky Sports TV.

Everton manager David Moyes said: ''We had a mad five minutes either side of halftime. Really we should have been controlling the game but found ourselves 2-0 down. It wasn't a good day.'' Reuters SHR VP0010

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