Diouf dents Chelseas title challenge

BLACKBURN: El-Hadji Diouf delivered a significant blow to Chelsea's title challenge as the Blackburn striker scored his first goal this year to salvage a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side had been coasting towards another three points when Didier Drogba put them ahead after just five minutes with his 28th goal of the season. But the Blues missed several chances to extend their lead and paid the price midway through the second half when Diouf rose above the flat-footed Paulo Ferreira to head home his third goal of the season.

It could and should have been so different for Chelsea, yet this major setback leaves them in third place in the table, four points behind leaders Manchester United, with a game in hand to come at Portsmouth on Wednesday. Blackburn boasted a good home record going into this contest, having won their last four and lost just once in their last 14 outings in front of their own fans.

With survival all but secured, Blackburn had their sights set on heading towards a potential top 10 finish which would be an admirable achievement in their financial circumstances. Three of Chelsea's five league defeats this season had also come in the north west of England, while Ancelotti's men had won only two of their last seven games on the road.

So the omens pointed towards a potential upset, despite the fact Rovers boss Sam Allardyce was forced to hand a league debut in defence to teenager Phil Jones due to injuries to Ryan Nelsen and Gael Givet. Chelsea were without Michael Ballack after Ancelotti dropped the German international from his squad.

Earlier, Manchester United returned to the top league as South Korea midfielder Park Ji-Sung sealed a 2-1 victory over bitter rivals Liverpool. United are now two points clear of second placed Arsenal and four ahead of third placed Chelsea, who have played a game less than the champions.

At Craven Cottage, Manchester City beat Fulham 2-1 to move above Liverpool into fifth place. Fulham looked tired after their stunning Europa League victory against Juventus on Thursday and City raced into a two-goal lead before half-time. Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz scored in the seventh minute after Craig Bellamy hit a post, then Carlos Tevez jinked past Chris Smalling in the 36th minute to score his seventh goal in eight appearances. Danny Murphy got one back for Fulham with a 75th minute penalty after Gareth Barry was penalised for handball.