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Wins keep Chelsea, Liverpool in the hunt

CHELSEA narrowed Manchester United's lead in the Premier League to four points on Tuesday with a 1-0 victory at Portsmouth while Liverpool also stayed in pursuit with a 2-0 defeat of Sunderland.

Chelsea was unimpressive in torrential rain at Fratton Park and the home side had two glorious opportunities to go ahead before Didier Drogba's fine finish settled the match.

Chelsea has 58 points from 28 games and is ahead of Liverpool on goal difference after David Ngog and Yossi Benayoun struck to give Rafa Benitez's side victory at home to Sunderland.

United has two games in hand and was away at struggling Newcastle United late yesterday. It will be seeking to stretch its winning run in the league to 11.

Fifth-placed Arsenal ended its recent goal famine when Nicklas Bendtner scored twice in a 3-1 victory at bottom club West Bromwich Albion which put it just three points behind Aston Villa in the race for a top-four spot.

Arsenal had drawn its previous four league matches 0-0.

Chelsea appears to have rediscovered the art of winning when playing below its best, as it often did in securing back to back titles under Jose Mourinho.

It lived dangerously in the second half and twice Portsmouth went close to taking the lead.

David Nugent was clear on goal but saw his shot well saved by Petr Cech and then a Portsmouth counter-attack led by Peter Crouch ended with Niko Kranjcar shooting narrowly wide.

Drogba struck with a low shot from Jose Bosingwa's cross 12 minutes from time to give Chelsea its fourth consecutive victory by the odd goal since Guus Hiddink replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager.

Before the game Portsmouth confirmed that Paul Hart would remain as manager until the end of the season, having taken over from sacked Tony Adams on a caretaker basis in February.

Liverpool went ahead seven minutes after the break against Sunderland when Steven Gerrard headed the ball across goal for Ngog to tap in his first Premier League goal.

The home side doubled its lead when keeper Marton Fulop made a meal of saving an overhead kick from Ngog and Benayoun, who scored the winner in the Champions League victory at Real Madrid last week, tucked in the rebound.

"I'm happy with the goal, but the most important thing is the points," Benayoun said.

"After we lost against Middlesbrough, it was important to come back to winning ways.

"We were very disappointed. We expected to beat Middlesbrough - but we did a job tonight."

Sunderland had spurned a great chance in the first five minutes, when Kenwyne Jones bamboozled defender Martin Skrtel, then outpaced Jamie Carragher but shot straight at Jose Reina.


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