Premier League Roundup, Dec. 28

Chelsea extended its Premier League lead to five points by fighting

back to beat Fulham 2-1 on Monday, while Tottenham returned to the

Champions League places by easing to a 2-0 victory over West Ham.

Chelsea had Chris Smalling’s own goal to thank for the

victory after struggling against its west London rival.

Chelsea’s grip on the league lead had been loosened by two

consecutive draws, but the team returned to winning ways in front

of former manager Jose Mourinho.

The Inter Milan coach, whose side will play Chelsea in the

last 16 of the Champions League, witnessed a dire start from the

home team with Zoltan Gera netting inside three minutes when he met

Bobby Zamora’s pass, after Chelsea captain John Terry had failed to

clear.

“We went behind and the most important thing is the reaction

in the second half, which was fantastic,” Chelsea manager Carlo

Ancelotti said. “With this performance we finished a difficult

period for the team. This could be an important victory in the

season because I’m very happy with the reaction of the team during

a bad spell.”

It took until the 73rd minute for Didier Drogba to equalize

in the Ivory Coast striker’s last match before going to Angola for

the African Cup of Nations.

And inside two minutes, Smalling inadvertently turned the

ball into his own net after goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer blocked

Daniel Sturridge’s shot.

“It’s very disappointing to put in such a great performance

and have nothing to show for it,” Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said.

“It would have been nice to have gone away with at least a point –

we pushed Chelsea to the limit and we can consider ourselves very

unlucky.”

Chelsea has 45 points, while Manchester United has 40 before

it hosts Wigan on Wednesday, when third-place Arsenal travels to

Portsmouth.

At White Hart Lane, Luka Modric marked his return to

Tottenham’s starting lineup by scoring the opener against West Ham.

Modric, who has been restricted to two brief substitute

appearances since breaking his right leg in August, scored in the

11th by sweeping Aaron Lennon’s cross into the net.

Lennon also fed Jermain Defoe in 81st and the former West Ham

striker fired home after keeper Robert Green parried his initial

shot.

“We’ve got a fantastic squad, great players and I think we’re

good enough to compete up there,” Defoe said.

The victory lifted Tottenham to fourth with 37 points, one

behind Arsenal but two ahead of Aston Villa and Manchester City,

which won 3-0 at Wolverhampton – its first away victory since Aug.

30.

Carlos Tevez scored twice, either side of second-half

substitute Javier Garrido’s free kick, as City made it two wins out

of two under new manager Roberto Mancini.

Tevez’s first-half strike took a deflection off Christophe

Berra on its way past American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, but the

Argentina forward’s powerful strike in the closing minutes was

unstoppable.

“We have been working very hard on the tactics and I think we

are doing well,” City captain Kolo Toure said. “This is the second

clean sheet and we hope that we keep going on like that.”

Birmingham is now three points behind City and Villa after

beating Stoke 1-0 to climb above Liverpool into seventh.

Cameron Jerome bundled the ball over the line in the 50th to

help Birmingham extend its unbeaten run to 11 matches.

“With every week, every victory, every good performance, then

the expectations rise, and the players have met them head on,”

manager Alex McLeish said. “There’s a big danger the players will

become tired if I keep naming an unchanged side.”

At Goodison Park, Everton ended a seven-match winless streak

in the league by beating 10-man Burnley 2-0, with both goals coming

after Stephen Jordan was sent off for the visitors.

James Vaughan broke the deadlock in the 83rd, with his first

goal in two years coming seconds after he went on as a substitute.

Steven Pienaar added another in stoppage time.

Blackburn and Sunderland played out a 2-2 draw at Ewood Park

with all the goals coming in the second half.

Darren Bent’s opener for Sunderland was quickly canceled out

by Morten Gamst Pedersen.

The visitors regained the lead against the run of play in the

65th when Bent netted his 13th goal of the season.

But substitute El-Hadji Diouf salvaged a point for Blackburn

with a 77th-minute header.