Chelsea send title race to last day

A 2-0 win over Newcastle keeps the Blues right in hunt.

    Florent Malouda, left, blasts home his side's second [AFP]

    Michael Ballack and Florent Malouda scored a goal each to lead Chelsea over Newcastle 2-0 and send the English Premier League title race down to the final day of the season.

    Ballack put Chelsea ahead with a glancing header in the 61st minute.

    Malouda had been clipped by Abdoulaye Faye to the right of the penalty area
    and Didier Drogba hooked in the free kick to the unmarked Ballack.

    Substitute Frank Lampard slid a pass past Steven Taylor in the 82nd and Malouda poked home his fourth goal of the season in all competitions.

    The Blues survived a scare in the 28th with captain John Terry's goal-line clearance denying Michael Owen.

    "We were a bit slow at times with our touches on the ball in the first half,'' Terry said.

    "We had a bit of a rollicking at halftime, but we needed to pick it up to put the pressure on Manchester United.

    "I think we did a good, professional job today ... the boys did the business going forward.''

    The destination of the title will be determined Sunday in the final round of matches.

    Last day drama

    Manchester United and Chelsea are even with 84 points each, but defending champion United leads on goal difference.

    United plays at Wigan while Chelsea hosts Bolton.

    "Wigan are on a great run at the minute and came to the Bridge to put in a good performance, and since then they have picked up,'' Terry said referring to last month's 1-1 draw.

    "They'll do the Premiership justice and will go out there wanting to beat Manchester United.

    "We've worked our socks off all year, so it'll be disappointing if they don't. We saw many teams yesterday putting out full-strength teams and really going for it with nothing to play for. Wigan are safe now, but hopefully they will go for it.''

    Chelsea hadn't won in the league at St. James' Park since December 2001 or scored in its last two trips.

    Avram Grant made five changes from the team that beat Liverpool on Wednesday to reach the Champions League final on May 21, with Lampard benched after converting a penalty at Stamford Bridge.

    Poor start

    Still, the Blues started lethargically as Newcastle created space to make an early impression.

    Before 10 minutes had elapsed, Geremi sent a shot over the net, Owen volleyed high and Obafemi Martins beat three defenders but shot meekly.

    Grant deployed Nicolas Anelka, who has not scored in 16 games, and Drogba up front for the first time since the League Cup final loss to Tottenham, but Newcastle came close to breaching the visitors' defense in the 28th.

    Martins burst forward and the ball fell to Mark Viduka, whose shot was parried by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

    Owen regained possession and the England striker had the goal at his mercy but sent his shot low and watched as Terry cleared the ball off the line.

    Terry was booked in the 34th for halting Owen's advance, and Chelsea was doing little with its rare breaks forward.

    Michael Essien released Ballack in the 35th, but the Germany midfielder skewed wide from an acute angle.

    Anelka curled his shot clear of Steve Harper with a rare sight of goal.

    Newcastle was looking to protect its seven-game unbeaten streak, carving out two chances in succession with 20 minutes remaining.

    Martins' shot was deflected wide and Owen couldn't connect to Joey Barton's deep pass.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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