The Telegraph
Sunday , December 5 , 2010
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arsenal climb to top

Arsenal climbed above Manchester United to the top of the Premier League on Saturday thanks to Sami Nasri’s spectacular double in a 2-1 win over Fulham.With United's match at Blackpool postponed because of a frozen pitch, previous leaders Chelsea and Arsenal — who were both two points adrift in joint second — knew wins could send them into first place.

Chelsea wasted their chance by only drawing 1-1 at home to Everton, the Blues’ fourth match without a victory, and Arsenal took advantage at Emirates Stadium.

Nasri opened the scoring in the 14th minute and then grabbed the winner with 15 minutes remaining for his 11th goal of the season in all competitions.

Nasri has come of age this season, his third at Emirates Stadium following a move from Marseille, and has been the club's most impressive player in the first half of the campaign.

His opening goal was a perfect demonstration of how confident he is feeling.

He dropped his shoulder to fool Fulham centre backs Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland before slamming a powerful shot past Mark Schwarzer, a goalkeeper Arsenal tried to sign last summer.

Arshavin, who assisted Nasri for the opener and was playing two days after being a key figure in helping Russia win the right to host the World Cup in 2018, had already had a shot saved by Schwarzer.

Arsenal are one point above United, who are a point clear of stuttering Chelsea. Didier Drogba had given Chelsea the lead with a penalty in the 42nd minute but Beckford secured a point with his 86th-minute header.

Chelsea have just one win in the last six league games and walked off the pitch to boos from the home crowd.

Everton almost took the lead in the opening few seconds when Louis Saha’s shot from 20 yards forced Petr Cech into a fine save at his near post.

Moments later Leighton Baines fired high over the bar with Chelsea still struggling to get to grips with the high-octane opening from the visitors.

Chelsea’s first real attack arrived in the 12th minute when Drogba put Nicolas Anelka ahead of the visiting defence, but the former France international's shot was blocked by Phil Jagielka.

The woodwork prevented Chelsea from taking the lead in the 27th minute when captain John Terry, back after a sciatic nerve injury, sent a shot against the bar.

Chelsea wasted another chance in the 37th minute when Salomon Kalou headed wide from a corner by Malouda. Chelsea eventually broke the deadlock from the penalty spot when Anelka pounced on a poor back pass from Neville and was brought down by goalkeeper Tim Howard. The Everton keeper was spared a red card by Probert, who opted for a yellow instead, but Howard could do nothing to stop Drogba’s fierce penalty from giving the Blues the lead.

Meanwhile, despite Blackpool’s attempts to protect the playing surface, which included the hiring of covers, a hot-air blower and ground staff working overnight on Thursday, match referee Peter Walton called the game off after travelling from Northamptonshire on Friday.

With the game scheduled to be broadcast live on Saturday, Blackpool had hoped that a predicted thaw on Friday would enable the game to escape the big freeze.

But Walton’s fear that the severely affected areas of the playing surface would not thaw sufficiently for the game to be completed ensured that the fixture joined the growing list of games postponed.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said: “The next few weeks will help to shape our season and hopefully we’ll be in the right position at the start of January. “The league has been wide open so far and it’s definitely possible that could still be the case at the turn of the year. It’s another indication that it’s a different league now and we’ve certainly seen a lot of surprising results.”

Ferguson is hopeful that Michael Owen will return from a hamstring injury in time for the Christmas fixtures. The prospects are not so bright for Owen Hargreaves, however, who continues to be sidelined with a hamstring problem.

“Michael Owen’s training now and he’s doing very well. He took part in the football side of it on Friday but I would say he’s two weeks away," said Ferguson.

“We need to make sure he does a good stint of football training before we bring him into the games.”

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