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Chelsea Win at Everton, West Ham Beat Man Utd
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Chelsea closed to within two points of Manchester United on Sunday after the champions won 3-2 at Everton while the leaders lost 1-0 at West Ham United in Alan Curbishley's first game in charge of the Londoners.

A stunning 87th-minute goal by Didier Drogba earned Chelsea their win after they twice trailed, while a 74th-minute Nigel Reo-Coker strike handed Manchester United their first away defeat of the season.

A week ago United led the league by eight points but a midweek win over Newcastle United in their game in hand and Sunday's results have closed things up quickly approaching the halfway mark in the season.

After 18 matches United have 44 points with Chelsea up to 42. Liverpool are third on 31 points after winning 3-0 at Charlton Athletic on Saturday, with Arsenal fourth on 30 after they were held 2-2 at home by Portsmouth.

Tottenham Hotspur climbed to seventh on Sunday when they secured their first away win of the season, 2-1 at Manchester City who were previously unbeaten at home.


Everton took the lead at Goodison Park in the 38th minute with a Mikel Arteta penalty after Khalid Boulahrouz's clumsy challenge brought down Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe.

It was a deserved lead too after the home side made most of the running against the lacklustre champions who barely mustered a shot.

Chelsea equalised four minutes into the second half with a Michael Ballack free kick which crept in off a post and goalkeeper Tim Howard's back.

Chelsea then stepped up the pace and Boulahrouz hit a post but Everton survived the onslaught and retook the lead in the 64th minute with a Joseph Yobo header.

Chelsea levelled in the 81st minute with a fiercely struck swerving 25-metre shot by Frank Lampard, who also grabbed a late equaliser for a 1-1 draw in last season's corresponding fixture.

Drogba hit a post in the 85th minute but was on target two minutes later when his 35-metre looping shot somehow got through Howard's flailing arms.

"The players had incredible character, they believed until the last moment," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"When Everton scored the second goal the game (had been) completely in our hands and that's the goal that can kill a team if they are not mentally very strong."

West Ham got the Alan Curbishley era off to a flying start to end a turbulent week on a high.

After losing five of their previous six games to slip to third-last in the standings, the Londoners sacked manager Alan Pardew on Monday, appointing former Charlton Athletic boss -- and West Ham midfielder -- Curbishley two days later.

The move appeared to rejuvenate the team and they were always competitive on Sunday.

They had the best chance of the first half when Bobby Zamora broke free in the 32nd minute but shot straight at Edwin Van der Sar.

The league leaders upped their game after the break and West Ham keeper Robert Green had to make several good saves, the best to deny Cristiano Ronaldo after 56 minutes.

Substitute Teddy Sheringham got things moving for the goal, threading a pass through a defender's legs to Marlon Harewood. The striker then did well to reach the byline before squaring for his fast-arriving captain Reo-Coker to slide in.

(China Daily via Reuters December 18, 2006)

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