Chelsea revive title hopes

Liverpool, April 18:

Michael Essien revived Chelsea’s chances of catching Manchester United in the Premier League title race with the only goal in their 1-0 victory over Everton on Thursday.

Essien’s 41st minute strike at Goodison Park put the Blues within two points of the Red Devils, although United now have a game in hand.

Manchester United have 80 points from 34 games and Chelsea 78 from 35 with only three matches to go. That means that the Red Devils will win the title for the second season in a row by winning their next two games against Blackburn and Chelsea.

After his team was held 1-1 at home by lowly Wigan on Monday, Chelsea’s under fire manager Avram Grant recalled Ashley Cole, Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole, Paulo Ferreira and Shaun Wright-Phillips to the starting lineup, but Frank Lampard was again missing because of a family illness. Wright-Phillips had one shot blocked, saw another float wide and wasted another first half chance after he was put clear by Salomon Kalou.

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech pushed away a dipping free kick from Manuel Fernandes but Everton, badly needing a victory to move closer to fourth place Liverpool, failed to produce another shot at goal in the first half. Essien rescued Chelsea with a perfectly timed tackle on Andrew Johnson in front of the Chelsea goal before he gave his team the lead.

Only four minutes was left of the first half when Essien played in a ball to Shaun Wright-Phillips on the edge of the Everton area and ran into the box for the return.

He had a big stroke of luck when the return pass took a deflection off Everton defender Phil Jagielka and left him in the clear to slide the ball past goalkeeper Tim Howard.

With very little finesse or imagination from either side, the game had few moments of quality with both defenses in control. Everton’s only threats came from free kicks by Fernandes, one being blocked by Chelsea’s defensive wall and the other sailing just wide.

There was a scare for Chelsea when Essien fell to the turf with no one near him and, apparently dazed, needed reviving before he was able to continue.