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Anelka strike wins it for Blues

CHELSEA marked the start of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink's spell in charge with a 1-0 victory at Aston Villa in the English Premier League yesterday.

Nicolas Anelka's first-half goal secured the points for the visitors, who moved above Villa into third place in the standings, seven points behind leader Manchester United, which has 59 points.

Liverpool, at home to Manchester City today, is second on 54 points.

Villa, which had not been beaten in the league since November, was largely outplayed in the first half although Ashley Young was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a free kick.

Chelsea was content to sit deeper after the break and although Villa had more chances it could find no way past Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.

Later in the day, Andrei Arshavin was to make his debut for Arsenal against Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.

The 27-year-old attacking midfielder, who was named in the starting lineup, joined the Gunners from Zenit St. Petersburg on February 3.

The Russian league's season ended in November and the last time Arshavin played in a competitive match was against Real Madrid in the Champions League on December 10.

On the night his signing with Arsenal was announced, Arshavin told reporters that he wasn't fit. Five days later, he was an unused substitute in the 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur.

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund needed a late strike by substitute Mohamed Zidan to salvage a 1-1 draw against local rival Schalke on Friday.

Schalke, which had taken the lead with a well-struck Kevin Kuranyi volley and looked better throughout, remain in ninth place in the Bundesliga table, a point behind Dortmund.

Kuranyi, whose strained ties with his club have given rise to speculation he may move in the offseason, struck in the 20th minute when he spectacularly volleyed a Halil Altintop cross in mid-air past stunned keeper Roman Weidenfeller.

The former Germany international could have bagged a second on the hour but his shot from just inside the box flew wide.

Dortmund, which only lost three times this season, finally broke past the Bundesliga's tightest defense in the 81st when Zidan, a second-half substitute, combined well with Tamas Hajnal and Nelson Valdez to level.

Leader Hertha Berlin was visiting VfL Wolfsburg yesterday, while Hoffenheim, a point behind, was at VfB Stuttgart, which has not lost in the league since November.


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