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November 10, 2009

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Terry header settles showdown

CAPTAIN John Terry headed Chelsea five points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday when his 76th-minute goal secured a 1-0 home victory over champion Manchester United.

The eagerly awaited showdown had been meandering towards a goalless draw until Terry was left unmarked to glance in a Frank Lampard freekick - with striker Nicolas Anelka claiming he got the final touch.

The victory took Chelsea to 30 points, five clear of Arsenal and United, which also lost to Liverpool last month.

United was without first-choice center-halves Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic but stand-ins Wes Brown and Jonny Evans were barely tested in a game high on errors and short on goalmouth action. Chelsea's defence was similarly comfortable, despite the willing running of United striker Wayne Rooney.

Peter Cech stretched to keep out a Rooney curler after 68 minutes as United applied some pressure but it remained tight. The absence of Ferdinand and Vidic proved key, however, eight minutes later when United's defence got hopelessly confused defending a straightforward Lampard freekick from the left.

Terry reached it first but Anelka and Didier Drogba were also in the vicinity - unlike any United defenders.

The champion upped the tempo after that but, with forward Dimitar Berbatov also absent through injury, too much fell on Rooney's shoulders and the Chelsea defence was able to crowd him out.

"I want it (the goal) because I've never scored against Manchester United home or away, but Nicolas was brilliant today so he can have it," Terry told Sky Sports.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti added: "We did what we had to do. We beat a very good opponent, the best opponent, and we're five points clear but we know this is a very long (season). We have to maintain this gap."

United manager Alex Ferguson was left complaining about the freekick that led to the goal and claimed his defenders were impeded defending it. "That goal shouldn't have been allowed," he said. "The referee's position to make the decision was absolutely ridiculous, he can't see anything.

"It was a bad decision..."


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