Chelsea held by Spurs; Wigan stuns Reds
Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale, third left, rises above the Chelsea defense to head the ball onto the crossbar during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London on Saturday. (Reuters)
Published: Mar 24, 2012 20:22 Updated: Mar 25, 2012 00:55
LONDON: Chelsea's hopes of a top-four finish suffered a setback when they could only draw 0-0 with Tottenham Hotspur in a disappointing Premier League derby on Saturday that was great news for resurgent Arsenal who beat Aston Villa 3-0.
Fourth-placed Tottenham remain five points above Chelsea in the race for Champions League qualification with eight matches remaining although they could have earned a first win at Stamford Bridge since 1990 with better finishing.
The draw gave Spurs 55 points, three behind Arsenal who cemented third spot with a seventh straight league win thanks to goals from Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta.
Wigan Athletic gave their survival prospects a boost with a shock 2-1 victory at seventh-placed Liverpool who have now won only twice in 11 league games.
Bolton Wanderers earned an emotional 2-1 triumph over Blackburn Rovers in their first match since Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest at Tottenham last week.
Victory, secured with two goals from David Wheater, lifted Bolton out of the relegation zone, above Queens Park Rangers who had Djibril Cisse sent off in a 3-1 defeat at Sunderland.
Wolverhampton Wanderers remained bottom after a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City. Swansea City lost 2-0 at home to Everton.
Tottenham have lost three and drawn two of its last five league games and have seen big leads over Arsenal and Chelsea vanish.
Manager Harry Redknapp stayed upbeat even though his side hit the bar through Gareth Bale and wasted several excellent chances in warm sunshine at Stamford Bridge.
"It was a big point for us and it keeps them five points behind us," Redknapp told Sky Sports. "We had some great chances and their keeper (Petr Cech) made some great saves.
"I thought we edged it today. We haven't been playing badly and the confidence has never gone." Counterpart Roberto Di Matteo argued Chelsea could have been awarded a couple of penalties but also said his team lacked a real goal threat.
"There was a clear penalty shout for us when (Benoit Assou) Ekotto pulled down Ramires at the far post," he said.
"But we didn't create enough clear chances to get the goal we needed. It won't be easy (to get in the top four) but we'll try until the end." A soporific first half saw Spurs content to pass the ball at leisure and Chelsea struggling to inject any tempo despite needing the victory more than the visitors.
Rafael van der Vaart should have put Spurs ahead in stoppage time when Luka Modric's cross found him unmarked but he shot straight at Cech and when the ball broke to him again his follow-up attempt was blocked by Ashley Cole.
Things livened up after the break. Daniel Sturridge flashed a shot across goal and then Juan Mata's free kick curled against the post with Tottenham keeper Brad Friedel a spectator.
The expected Chelsea surge never materialized though and Tottenham dominated the final quarter.
Emmanuel Adebayor spurned a great chance for Spurs when he sprang Chelsea's offside trap to race on to a Modric lob but after rounding Cech his weak shot was cleared off the line by the back-tracking Gary Cahill.
Bale then thumped a header against the crossbar from a corner and Cech made a fine low save to keep out Bale's free kick in stoppage time.
Chelsea face Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals in midweek.
In Saturday's evening kickoff, Manchester City can return to the top of the table by avoiding defeat at Stoke City.
Manchester United, one point ahead of Manchester City, play at home to Fulham on Monday.
"The duty of a member of this chamber is not to pander to what is popular
but to uphold what is right..." -RR
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