Chelsea face another blow

Associated Press

London, April 13:

Chelsea’s fading title challenge suffered another blow after a 3-2 loss at Aston Villa left Arsenal seven points clear in the English Premier League. The loss gives Manchester United the chance to leapfrog into second place and opens up the race for the final Champions League spot. Portsmouth moved away from the relegation zone after beating 10-man Birmingham 3-1. Blackburn ended a three-match losing streak and its descent toward the relegation zone with a 4-3 win over Fulham. Arsenal leads the league with 78 points. Chelsea is second with 71 and Manchester United (65) third.

Liverpool’s hold on fourth place was hit by a 1-0 loss to Charlton. Liverpool has 49 points, ahead of Newcastle on goal difference. Hernan Crespo put Chelsea ahead after 11 minutes, collecting the rebound after Adrian Mutu headed onto the post. The match turned on a 37th-minute penalty awarded to Villa and converted by Darius Vassell to level the scores.

Thomas Hitzlsperger made it 2-1 for Villa in the 49th minute. Minutes later, Lee Hendrie volleyed a close-range shot for a 3-1 lead, but Crespo pulled back a consolation.