By Roger Brown
Chelsea FC moved eight points clear of Manchester United FC with a game in hand at the top of the Premiership as the Londoners won 3-1 at struggling Norwich City FC hours after Sir Alex Ferguson's team had been held 0-0 by ten-man Crystal Palace FC.
In an afternoon kick-off at Palace, Ruud van Nistelrooij and Ryan Giggs both had good chances to score for United but the visitors were thwarted by resolute defending from the relegation-threatened home side, who had Vassilios Lakis sent off in the second half.
That was the cue for Chelsea to increase their lead. Joe Cole's left-footed shot on 22 minutes was cancelled out when Leon McKenzie headed in a Darren Huckerby cross four minutes after the hour. But just seven minutes later Mateja Kezman struck from close range and Ricardo Carvalho applied his head to Frank Lampard's centre to remove all doubt eleven minutes from time.
Arsenal, in third place, are within two points of United after beaing Portsmouth FC 3-0 at Highbury thanks to a Thierry Henry hat-trick on 39, 53 and 85 minutes that take his season's league tally to 22.
Blow for Liverpool
Liverpool remain eight points adrift of fourth-placed local rivals Everton FC after losing 1-0 at Newcastle United FC following a 70th-minute Laurent Robert strike. Everton play Blackburn Rovers FC on Sunday, while Liverpool, like Arsenal, Chelsea and United, have a UEFA Champions League match in midweek, but unlike the English top three, the Anfield side lead their tie against Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Aston Villa FC dented sixth-placed Middlesbrough FC's hopes of a Champions League campaign and increased their own chances of European football with a 2-0 win, Martin Laursen and Luke Moore scoring second-half goals.
Boost for Southampton
Southampton FC closed the gap to fourth-bottom Palace to two points as Nigel Quashie's first goal for the club ensured a 1-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur FC. Fulham FC drew their London derby 0-0 with Charlton Athletic FC.
West Brom test
Bottom side West Bromwich Albion FC can move ahead of Norwich if they defeat Birmingham City FC on Sunday while the following evening Manchester City FC are at home to Bolton Wanderers FC.
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