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Chelsea leaves chasing pack seeing blue

Mourinho savages Cole despite 18th win in 20 league matches

Chelsea leaves chasing pack seeing blue

English Premiership champion Chelsea finished the year with an 11-point lead at the top of the table after a 2-0 win against second-bottom Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge here Saturday.

The victory, Chelsea's 18th in 20 league matches so far this term, was secured by first-half goals from Hernan Crespo and Arjen Robben.

The result left the Blues well clear of second-placed Manchester United, which beat Bolton Wanderers 4-1, while European champion Liverpool stayed third with a 10th successive league victory after a 1-0 home success against West Brom.

"A hundred and one points from the Premiership in 2005, that's an unbelievable record," said Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

But before speaking of the side's success, a fuming Mourinho savaged England midfielder Joe Cole, telling him one more bout of showboating for the crowd will bring the ax crashing down.

"I just told him. One more match like this, he's off," Mourinho raged after the Birmingham win.

"That was not a joke. I am serious. One more match for himself and the public and not for the team and he is off."

Cole has featured in 22 of the Blues' 27 matches this season and wants to make himself an England regular in time for the 2006 World Cup, which starts in June.

The controversial Portuguese boss said he had left Cole to stew on his harsh words for a while as he cannot play in Chelsea's London derby on Monday.

"He is on holiday now. I gave him four days because he cannot play against West Ham."

Mourinho is banking that his outburst will not backfire.

"He came a long way to arrive at this position and I don't think he is ready to go back," he added.

Chelsea beat Birmingham thanks to two first-half goals from Netherlands winger Arjen Robben and Argentina striker Hernan Crespo, extending the Blues' 100 percent league home record this season to 11 matches.

However, Cole and Crespo conspired to muck up a chance to make it 3-0 before the interval and put the result beyond doubt, leaving Mourinho furious.

"I said to the players at halftime 'you cannot make these kinds of mistakes,'" he seethed.

"Imagine in the second half, they score one goal and you stay until the end of the game under pressure.

"You cannot forgive in relation to the opponent. You have the chances, you have to kill."

In other Premier League action, Newcastle not only lost striker Michael Owen, but goalkeeper Shay Given sustained a suspected broken thumb in a match Tottenham won 2-0 at White Hart Lane, Finland's Teemu Tainio and Egypt's Mido the scorers.

Meanwhile, Arsenal's bid to climb the table stalled in a goalless draw away to Aston Villa.

But there was better news for Charlton, which won only its second match in nine league games courtesy of a 2-0 win over London rivals West Ham, the visitors at The Valley suffering their second straight league defeat after goals from Shaun Bartlett and Darren Bent.

Bottom-of-the-table Sunderland squandered several chances before losing 1-0 at home to Everton, Australia's Tim Cahill scoring in the final minute, while Portsmouth remained in the drop zone despite a 1-0 victory at home to Fulham.

Blackburn derailed high-flyers Wigan with a 3-0 win.

Schwarzer comes up big

Mark Schwarzer answered his critics in perfect fashion to earn Middlesbrough a valuable Premier League point in a disappointing goalless stalemate with Manchester City here at the Riverside.

The Boro goalkeeper was booed by his own supporters prior to kickoff, following a far from convincing performance in the struggling club's 2-0 Boxing Day defeat against Blackburn.

However, manager Steve McClaren was indebted Saturday to the Australia international, who capped a fine display with a remarkable save to prevent Joey Barton from sealing an undeserved late win for the visitors.

Schwarzer clinched a UEFA Cup place for Boro at City's expense seven months ago thanks to a dramatic penalty save from Robbie Fowler with virtually the final kick of last season.

And after his latest display, Manchester City manager Stuart Pearce said of the World Cup-bound keeper: "Schwarzer did really well. I'm surprised Joey got so much on the header, but give the keeper credit.

"Last season he cost us a place in Europe. He's a good professional and one of the better performers in the Premiership."

Schwarzer produced the contest's defining moment 15 minutes from time, diving low to his left to keep out a powerful header from England World Cup hopeful Barton.

In a contest of few clear-cut openings, the Australian's opposite number David James was called on only once, when the England international blocked a close-range effort from Nigeria forward Yakubu shortly before halftime.

Middlesbrough is without a win in six Premier League games, a worrying run from which it has taken only three points to leave the side in danger of becoming embroiled in a relegation battle.

At Old Trafford, a Bruno N'Gotty own goal put United ahead.

Ferguson's side was pegged back when veteran midfielder Gary Speed headed an equalizer, but it restored its lead when Louis Saha capitalized on Tal Ben Haim's error to guide the ball around Jussi Jaaskelainen a minute before the break.

United then made it 3-1 in the 68th minute when Wayne Rooney several times regained possession in the Bolton penalty-area before finding Ronaldo, who finished from close range. Ronaldo then added his second in the last minute.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who was celebrating his 64th birthday, told Sky Sports: "It was an excellent performance. On my 50th birthday here we lost 4-1 to Queens Park Rangers so that was a bit of a tonic today. They (Bolton) are a very difficult team to play against."

The Scot also hailed the performance of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored twice. "He's had a difficult time but he's young and coming out of that. I thought in the forward play we were really excellent."

Liverpool dominated West Brom at Anfield but Baggies goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak repelled the Reds in the first-half. But in the second period England striker Peter Crouch made it seven goals in eight games when he headed in Australia international Harry Kewell's cross.

Updated : 2021-04-19 17:11 GMT+08:00