LONDON - The top four failed to muster a goal on Saturday as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United drew 0-0 while Arsenal went down 3-0 at Manchester City. Premier League leaders Chelsea could find no way through Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool had the same problem at home to Fulham and third-placed Manchester United were held 0-0 in a lively game at Aston Villa. Troubled Arsenal's season went from bad to worse as they slid to fifth. With captain William Gallas dropped for questioning the fighting spirit of his team mates, injury-hit Arsenal capitulated with Stephen Ireland, Robinho and Daniel Sturridge on target for City. Arsenal are 10 points behind Chelsea and Liverpool who are locked together on 33 points from 14 matches although Chelsea have a superior goal difference. United are eight points behind with a game in hand while Villa rose to fourth. Hull City twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Portsmouth, Bolton Wanderers won 3-1 at Middlesbrough while bottom club West Bromwich Albion lost 1-0 at Stoke City. Chelsea were frustrated by a gritty Newcastle performance. The leaders have now drawn three times at Stamford Bridge this season and also lost at home to Liverpool. "Who won today? Newcastle because they came here to draw. The players tried but it is not the day for us," Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari told the BBC. Shay Given was Newcastle's hero, making a superb save to deny Frank Lampard while Joe Cole had a goal disallowed. OFF COLOUR The dropped points could have proved costly for Scolari's team but Liverpool were also off colour at Anfield. Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina had to make good saves in the first half from Jimmy Bullard and Andrew Johnson. The home side dominated the second half but could find no way past Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer. Arsenal's season appears to be unravelling fast. With goalkeeper Manuel Almunia wearing the captain's armband in place of Gallas, who was left behind in London by manager Arsene Wenger for his controversial comments, Arsenal were a shadow of the side that recently beat Manchester United. City went ahead in first-half stoppage time when a mistake by Gael Clichy gifted Ireland a goal after the City midfielder had burst into the area. Robinho made it 2-0 early in the second half after a splendid pass from Shaun Wright-Phillips and Sturridge won and converted a late penalty to condemn Arsenal to a second consecutive defeat without scoring a goal. Wenger refused to discuss Gallas's absence. "I will not speak about William Gallas in a post-match interview. He is a player who did not play today so what can he do? Nothing," he said. Though there were no goals at Villa Park there was plenty of attractive football as Martin O'Neill's home team showed why they are challenging the so-called big four. Villa may have had a penalty in the second half when new England cap Gabriel Agbonlahor tumbled under a challenge from Nemanja Vidic while Ashley Young also went close. United could have taken the points though when Wayne Rooney blasted wastefully over the crossbar with only Villa keeper Brad Friedel to beat.
22 November 2008
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