Hull apply brakes to Chelsea title charge

HULL: Didier Drogba celebrated his return to Premier League duty with a first half equaliser at the KC Stadium to cancel out Stephen Mouyokolo’s earlier effort on a frustrating night for Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea.

Drogba struck his 20th goal of the season on 43 minutes to haul the Premier League leaders level after defender Mouyokolo headed Hull City into a surprise lead with his first ever goal for the top flight strugglers.

But despite Drogba coming to the rescue it wasn’t enough to help Chelsea secure the win they so badly needed to restore their four point advantage over Manchester United at the top. The London club now have a lead of just two points and United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be thankful to Hull for holding his great rivals to a draw to blow the title race wide open.

Ancelotti had the luxury of recalling Drogba for the first time since he departed for the Africa Cup of Nations over four weeks ago, while England internationals Joe Cole and Ashley Cole had to be content with a place on the bench. John Terry also maintained his place in the side despite the on-going pressure on him to resign as England captain following his off-field problems while Deco was recalled to the starting line-up.

Brown, meanwhile, made just one change to the side which was held to a disappointing draw with Wolves last weekend, recalling Craig Fagan on the right wing in place of Bernard Mendy. Hull manager resisted the temptation to hand a full debut to new loan signing Amr Zaki.

Hull had gone nine games without a victory and found themselves entrenched in the relegation zone. Considering Manchester City were the next visitors to the KC Stadium then the immediate future looked bleak. But Chelsea struggled to find their rhythm from the start and seemed to make Hull’s evening easier than expected.

Frank Lampard worried Boaz Myhill with a swerving drive inside nine minutes which the Hull goalkeeper could only palm straight to Nicolas Anelka but the French striker stubbed his shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

It wasn’t until the 24th minute that Chelsea threatened again when Branislav Ivanovic sent over an inch-perfect cross for Michael Ballack but all the German midfielder could do was power his diving header straight at Myhill from close range.

The longer the game went on the more Hull seemed to grow in confidence but it still came a surprise when they took the lead with their first real attack of the game. Terry was nowhere to be seen as Stephen Hunt swung over a corner and Mouyokolo rose the highest to head past the helpless Petr Cech.