London: Chelsea swept to a 1-0 victory over champions Manchester United on Sunday to go top of the Premier League and emphatically stake their claim to this season’s title.
Midfielder Frank Lampard secured the win by converting a 29th minute penalty after United skipper Roy Keane tripped Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are top on 35 points, one ahead of an Arsenal side who earlier had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Fulham at Highbury, with United stuck in third place on 31 points.
Liverpool rallied to beat Birmingham City 3-1 at Anfield, while an own goal by Chinese defender Sun Jihai sent Manchester City to a 1-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough.
But the match of the day was unquestionably at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea were deserving winners. Lampard, in outstanding form, was the linchpin of a dominant Chelsea midfield — precisely the department on which United had built the club’s enormous success in recent years.
Lampard was unlucky not to add to his tally with further efforts in each half, while Cole will rue a glorious chance which he ballooned over the bar.
United, beaten for the third time in the league this season, failed to manage a single shot on target despite plenty of pressure from Alex Ferguson’s men in the closing stages.
Over at Highbury, there was frustration for Arsenal as a barrage of shots from their much-vaunted strike force, led by Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires in both halves were all dealt with by Fulham keeper Edwin Van Der Sar.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, though pleased with his own team’s performance was clearly disappointed with Fulham’s defensive tactics.
“They refused to play. They just defended...and they refused to go forward when they won the ball,” he said. “We had chances to finish the game off. The keeper had a good game but, as well, our finishing was not as clinical as it used to be...the result is frustrating.”