Didier Drogba scored twice in three first-half minutes to ensure English Premiership leaders Chelsea FC comfortably defeated visitors Middlesbrough FC 2-0 to move seven points clear on a night when their nearest rivals were held at home.
Ivorian striker Drogba struck in the 15th and 17th minutes as José Mourinho's side produced another impressive display. Having won 1-0 at Liverpool FC on Saturday the home team began full of confidence, and Drogba twice and Arjen Robben forced visiting goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer into early saves.
Drogba strikes twice
The home side made the breakthrough when Frank Lampard's incisive through-ball enabled Drogba to slide the ball beyond Schwarzer. Two minutes later, the same combination doubled Chelsea's advantage as the English international's free-kick was glanced in by the striker. Chelsea eased off after the goals but might still have extended their advantage before half-time, with Robben, Duff, Paulo Ferreira and Lampard all missing the target.
That pattern continued in the second half with Chelsea creating a number of chances. Joe Cole twice went close either side of Duff's thunderous effort that rebounded off the crossbar, but Chelsea had already done enough to secure three important points.
Second-placed Arsenal FC, like Chelsea, had won their three previous matches since Christmas. But Manchester City FC took a 31st-minute lead at Highbury thanks to a long-range Shaun Wright-Phillips goal, and Arsenal only salvaged a point when Fredrik Ljungberg equalised 15 minutes from time.
Manchester United FC are eleven points behind Chelsea as their seven-game winning home run in all competitions came to an end with a 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur FC - who were denied a last-minute goal when the officials failed to spot that United goalkeeper Roy Carroll had fumbled the ball over the line.
Fourth-placed Everton FC defeated Portsmouth FC 2-1 with a last-gasp Leon Osman strike. Alan Stubbs's 29th-minute goal for Everton had been cancelled out within 120 seconds by Yakubu Ayegbeni.
In another dramatic finish, Kevin Nolan scored three minutes into added time to give Bolton Wanderers FC a 2-1 victory at Birmingham City FC and end a run of ten games without a win. El Hadji Diouf had given Bolton a 17th-minute lead but Matthew Upson equalised on 66 minutes. On Wednesday, Fulham FC visit fellow strugglers Southampton FC to end the holiday fixture programme.
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