Chelsea regain second spot

London, March 15:

Michael Essien confirmed his return could have a major influence on Chelsea’s triple bid for honours by striking the winning goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City to keep Guus Hiddink’s side in second place in the Premier League.

Essien has now scored in each of his two starts after coming back into the Blues side following

the serious knee injury that kept him out since last August. And after helping Chelsea ease their way past Juventus and into the last eight of the Champions League last week, the Ghanaian’s winner against City moved his side to within four points of leaders Manchester United.

Chelsea had the ball in the net after just 90 seconds when Frank Lampard helped Deco’s deflected shot past Given only to be ruled offside. Then minutes later Ricardo Carvalho should have done a lot better when he rose unchallenged to meet Lampard’s left-wing corner and wastefully headed wide.

The opening barrage was certain to bring some reward, however, and that came in the 18th minute when Essien connected first time with Lampard’s drilled free-kick, looping the ball over Given’s head.

On Saturday, Arsenal moved back into fourth place with a 4-0 win over Blackburn. The Gunners climbed above Aston Villa thanks to Andrey Arshavin. Arshavin deflected in Theo Walcott’s second minute cross and struck again in the 62nd minute. Emmanuel Eboue scored in the 87th and the Ivorian also drove home a penalty in the final seconds.

Everton beat Stoke 3-1 and Newcastle remain in trouble after drawing 1-1 at Hull while Middlesbrough striker Marlon King rescued a 1-1 draw against relegation rivals Portsmouth. Fulham defeated Bolton 3-1 to record a first away league win this season and Wigan snatched

a 2-1 victory at Sunderland.

Spanish La Liga

Madrid: Real Madrid bounced back from their Champions League heartbreak by crushing Athletic Bilbao 5-2 on Saturday to cut Barcelona’s lead at the top in Spain to just three points.

Real saw their Champions League dreams go up in smoke on Tuesday as Liverpool overran them in a humiliating 4-0 win and they let out their frustration at San Mames. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored twice (47th, 60th) to turn the game in Real’s favour after Bilbao had come from two goals down to level. Arjen Robben put Real ahead before Gabriel Heinze added another heading in a 34th minute free-kick. Heinze scored an own goal minutes later and Fernando Llorente levelled despite Bilbao being reduced to 10 men with Francisco Yeste harshly sent off for pushing Iker Casillas.

Earlier, a superb individual goal from Pablo Hernandez saved 10-man Valencia from defeat against Recreativo Huelva although the 1-1 draw does little to aid their Champions League push. Valencia are now five points behind fourth-placed Villarreal who have played one game less. Valencia fell behind to a Javier Camunas goal in the 54th minute and then had Carlos Marchena sent off for two bookable offences. However, Hernandez netted an 82nd minute equaliser to salvage a point.