Chelsea bounce back
After their defeat in the Carling Cup final, Chelsea bounced back with a 4-0 win at West Ham scoring 3 times in 5 first half minutes. Frank Lampard opened the scoring from the spot in the 17th minute and 3 minutes later Joe Cole scored with a low driven shot before Ballack latched onto a cross from Lampard to volley home the 3rd in the 22nd minute. Lampard's 34th minute dismissal for an incident with Boa Morte did not affect the result as Robert Green's save from Joe Cole in the 64th minute fell to Ashley Cole who converted from a tight angle. With only seconds away from losing at home to a 27th minute Senderos own goal, Nicklas Bendtner side-footed the ball past Carson to rescue a point for Arsenal. Manchester United closed in on the leaders winning 3-0 at Fulham. Owen Hargreaves bent his free-kick past Niemi in the 15th minute and Park Ji Sung headed in off the bar just before the break, with Simon Davies making life easy for United in the 2nd half with an own goal in the 72nd minute. Matt Derbyshire broke away in the last minute to score the only goal with a clinical finish for Blackburn at Newcastle, while James Harper scored a last gasp winner for Reading at Middlesbrough. Mikael Forssell grabbed a hat-trick as Birmingham trounced Carling Cup winners Tottenham 4-1 at St Andrews. The hosts took a 7th minute lead when McFadden drove the ball onto the head of Forssell to beat Robinson with a firm header and went further ahead when Sebastian Larsson curled in a free-kick in the 55th minute. Four minutes later Robinson saved Chimbonda from an own goal, but Forssell was on hand to convert the loose ball. Forssell slotted the ball past Robinson to complete his hat-trick 9 minutes from time, before Jermaine Jenas registered a consolation goal from close-range for Tottenham in stoppage time. Sunderland and Wigan drew 0-0 at Derby and Manchester City respectively. On Sunday both Merseyside teams won 3-1. Liverpool got a helping hand in the 11th minute at Bolton when Jussi Jääskeläinen fumbled a 25 yard Steven Gerrard off-target shot over the goal line. Kuyt's effort hit the post on the hour-mark, but a failed clearance from the rebound fell to Ryan Babel who swept the ball in. Fabio Aurelio chested the ball and struck a sweet volley in the 75th minute to put the match beyond Bolton who managed a goal 4 minutes later when substitute Tamir Cohen headed in from a corner lick. Everton got off to a perfect start at home to Portsmouth when Yakubu Ayegbini got his head to a free-kick to beat David James inside the first minute. Portsmouth equalised when Jermain Defoe got a slight touch to a goal-bound cross from Glen Johnson in the 37th minute, but Tim Cahill found himself unmarked to head Everton back into the lead in the 73rd minute and Yakubu sealed victory against his former club when he got on the end of a long ball and smashed it past James with 9 minutes remaining.
Liverpool on a run
On Wednesday evening a home hat-trick by Fernando Torres helped Liverpool move above Everton with a 4-0 triumph over West Ham. The Spaniard volleyed in a Kuyt cross in the 8th minute and headed in his 2nd just after an hour, completing his hat-trick with a cool finish in the 81st minute. Two minutes later Steven Gerrard drove the ball into the top corner to send the Hammers home red faced. On Saturday as Chelsea and Man United were being knocked out of the FA Cup, the Reds continued in the league where they left off with a 3-0 home win over Newcastle. An attempted clearance ricocheted off Jermaine Pennant and into the Newcastle net in the 43rd minute, and a telling pass from Gerrard just before the interval set Torres up for another typically cool finish. Torres returned the favour in the 51st minute allowing Gerrard to dink the ball over Harper for the third. Reading moved away from the drop zone scoring twice without reply at home to Man City. Stacy Long scored in the 62nd minute after some good work by Doyle and with 2 minutes left Dave Kitson ran into the box and rolled the ball in to seal victory for the Royals. Jimmy Bullard earned a point for Fulham at Blackburn with a confidently taken free-kick in the last minute after Morten Gamst Pedersen had run onto a cross to head the hosts into the lead in the 59th minute. On Sunday West Ham suffered another heavy defeat losing 4-0 away to Tottenham. Dimitar Berbatov scored with headers in the 8th and 11th minute, and after the 44th minute dismissal of Boa Morte for a second yellow card, goals from Gilberto and Darren Bent in the last 5 minutes condemned the Hammers to their 2nd 4-0 defeat in less than a week. Andrew Johnson made a slight connection to a cross in the 55th minute for the only goal of the match for Everton at Sunderland while Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw at Wigan. On Wednesday evening Frank Lampard scored 4 times as Chelsea demolished bottom club Derby 6-1 at Stamford Bridge. Lampard opened the scoring from the spot after being brought down in the 29th minute and Salomon Kalou slotted home a half-clearance by Derby keeper Roy Carroll 3 minutes before the break. Joe Cole's run and cross in the 57th minute presented Lampard with a simple tap-in, and it was Cole's turn to score in the 64th minute when Carroll's save from Anelka fell to him with the goal gaping. Two minutes later Lapmard found the target with a shot from outside the area, and celebrated his 4th goal in the 72nd minute after a one-two with Joe Cole. David Jones put the ball past Cudicini a minute later to deny Chelsea a clean sheet. FA Cup semi-finalists Portsmouth enjoyed a 4-2 home win against Birmingham. Jermain Defoe converted a 6th minute penalty and tucked the ball in from close-range 3 minutes later. Fabrice Muamba replied with a volley a minute later and Sebastian Larsson levelled matters with a superb free-kick 5 minutes before the break. Hermann Hreidarsson restored Pompey's lead 4 minutes into the 2nd half after Taylor had failed to deal with an in-swinging free-kick, and Kanu put the match to bed heading the ball in for the hosts right at the end. Gareth Barry's 74th minute penalty rescued a point for Aston Villa against Middlesbrough after Stewart Downing had given the visitor the lead with a low shot in the 23rd minute.
Arsenal drop from top
Cristiano Ronaldo was the difference between bottom side Derby and Manchester United who went top when he converted a Rooney cross with a half volley in the 76th minute at Pride Park, while Chelsea closed the gap at the top with the same result at Sunderland courtesy of a 10th minute John Terry header. Liverpool came from behind to beat Reading 2-1 at Anfield. Marek Matejovsky gave the visitors the lead in the in the 5th minute with a stupendous shot that flew in off the post, but Javier Mascherano let fly in the 19th minute to level the match, and Fernando Torres picked his spot with a header 3 minutes into the 2nd half to give the Reds another win. West Ham also needed to come from behind in their 2-1 home victory against Blackburn who took the lead in the19th minute when Santa Cruz flung himself to head the ball in. The home side were on equal terms in the 39th minute when Dean Ashton got behind the defence and found the back of the net, and with just 10 minutes remaining, 18 year old Freddy Sears making his debut for West Ham nodded in after Brad Friedel had parried his initial shot. Portsmouth beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Fratton Park in a match that saw both teams reduced to 10 men. Jermain Defoe collected a long ball and lobbed Carson for the first in the 11th minute and Pompey doubled their advantage in the 38th minute when Villa keeper Scot Carson rushed out of his box but saw his attempted clearance ricochet in off Nigel Reo-Coker for an own goal. Muntari received his marching orders for a second yellow in the 81st minute, and Olof Mellberg suffered a similar fate for the visitors with a minute to go. In the evening match Arsenal failed to regain top spot when they could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Middlesbrough. After having an Adebayor goal disallowed, Arsenal fell behind when Tuncay bust through against the run of play and delivered a cross which ex-Gunner Jeremie Aliadiere steered into the top corner. Kolo Toure's header found the net with 4 minutes remaining, and 2 minutes later Boro substitute Mido received a straight red for a dangerously high kick which saw Clichy stretchered off with a cut. On Sunday Brian McBride nodded in the only goal of the match in the 67th minute to give Fulham a vital win at home to Everton, while despite playing 85 minutes of the match with 10 men after Jason Koumas had been sent off for a dangerous tackle on Gary Cahill, Wigan achieved the same result against Bolton when Melchiot's long throw in the 33rd minute reached Emile Heskey who beat Jääskeläinen with a low volley to give the home side the win. Manchester City finally won at home with 2 goals in the 2nd half after Robbie Keane had smashed the ball across the keeper and into the top corner to give Tottenham a 32nd minute lead. Stephen Ireland turned Elano's weak header in just before the hour-mark and Nedum Onuoha scored the winner with a thumping header in the 72nd minute. On Monday James McFadden got the better of his marker in the 33rd minute and knocked the ball past Steve Harper in the Newcastle goal, but after Maik Taylor had saved from Obafemi Martins in the 55th minute, Michael Owen toe-poked the rebound in to earn the visitors a point. On Wednesday evening Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice in the first 20 minutes at Old Trafford to take Manchester United 3 points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over struggling Bolton. A corner-kick in the 8th minute was only cleared as far as Ronaldo who found the net from 12 yards out. Ronaldo doubled the score with a dipping free kick in the 19th minute to settle the match. Tottenham and Chelsea shared 8 goals in a 4-4 thriller at White Hart Lane. Didier Drogba gave the visitors a 3rd minute lead, but Jonathan Woodgate equalised with a header in the 12th minute. Chelsea regained the lead 8 minutes later when Michael Essien toe-poked the ball over Robinson in the Tottenham goal and Joe Cole ran into the box to knock the ball past Robinson for the 3rd in the 52nd minute, but Dimitar Berbatov pulled a goal back with a looping header just after the hour-mark and Tom Huddlestone swept the ball into the far corner to restore parity in the 72nd minute. Joe Cole put Chelsea in front again getting past Chimbonda and firing into the roof of the net in the 80th minute, but with 2 minutes left Robbie Keane curled in a beauty past the diving Cudicini who denied Berbatov the winner with a brilliant save moments before time.
United extend lead
In the early kick-off on Saturday at White Hart Lane Tottenham left it late to win 2-0 against Portsmouth. Substitute Darren Bent broke the deadlock with a header in the 80th minute and got round the defence 2 minutes later to cut the ball back fro fellow substitute Jamie O'Hara to register the second. Andre Bikey scored both goals for reading as they beat Birmingham 2-1 at home. Bikey scored with a glancing header from a free-kick in the 31st minute and added another in similar fashion in the 79th minute after Mauro Zarate had put the visitors on level terms bundling in a pass from Mikael Forssell in the 64th minute. Kevin Keegan celebrated his first win since returning as Newcastle boss condemning Fulham to a 2-0 defeat. Mark Viduka was allowed to shoot low into the left corner in the 6th minute and with 7 minutes of the match left Michael Owen headed in from a free-kick to give the home crowd something to smile about. Tuncay ran onto a George Boateng flick in the 31st minute to shoot past Carroll giving Middlesbrough a 1-0 victory over bottom side Derby. Roque Santa Cruz took his tally against Wigan Athletic to five for the season as Blackburn Rovers enjoyed a 3-1 home win. The Paraguayan opened the scoring with a simple header after Chris Kirkland could only parry a David Bentley strike in the 12th minute, but 4 minutes later Christopher Samba saw red for denying Hesky a goal scoring opportunity and Marlon King slotted in the equaliser from the penalty spot. Jason Roberts turned in the box and tucked the ball past Kirkland on the stroke of half time, and Santa Cruz ran onto a Bentley cross to head in the 3rd in the 63rd minute. Wigan's fate was sealed when Wilson Palacios was sent to the showers for a second yellow in the 69th minute. A long ball over the Aston Villa defence found Michael Chopra who scored the only goal of the match in the 83rd minute to give Sunderland a 1-0 away win, while Manchester City drew 0-0 at Bolton. In the late match Everton were pegged back to 1-1 at home to West Ham after Yakubu had given the Toffees the lead with a powerful finish in the 8th minute. Tim Howard could not keep Dean Ashton's decisive header out as West Ham equalised in the 68th minute. On Sunday Manchester United strengthened their position at the top of the Premier League table with a convincing 3-0 win over 10 man Liverpool, while Chelsea came from behind at Stamford Bridge to beat Arsenal 2-1 and leap frog them into second place. At Old Trafford Wes Brown got to the ball before Pepe Reina to head in a cross from Rooney and give United a 34th minute lead which they seemed less likely to relinquish after Javier Mascherano, who had already been booked, was sent off a minute before the break for talking himself into trouble with the referee. Reina who had made several saves to keep Liverpool in the match, once again failed to reach a cross and was punished by Cristiano Ronaldo with a header in the 79th minute. Two minutes later Nani lashed the ball into the bottom corner to put the result beyond doubt. Arsenal took the lead at Chelsea when Bacary Sagna beat Carlo Cudicini at the near post with a header in the 59th minute, but Didier Drogba fired a low shot past Almunia in the 72nd minute and scored the winner 9 minutes later turning in the box and knocking the ball into the Arsenal net.
A 2-2 home draw against Fulham was not enough to keep Derby in the top flight. Tito Villa deflected in Dean Leacock's shot to give Derby the lead after 10 minutes, but Diomansy Kamara's header put Fulham level 14 minutes later and with 12 minutes left the visitors took the lead after Carroll kept out a shot from Kamara and Hameur Bouazza followed up with a shot which took a wild deflection over the hapless keeper. Derby equalised with a firm header from Alejandro Villa 2 minutes later, but it was too little to save the Rams from relegation. Ten-man Arsenal came from 2-0 down at Bolton to win 3-2 and stay in the title race. Matthew Taylor executed Steinsson's pinpoint delivery with a thumping header in the 14th minute, and after Abou Diaby had been dismissed for a reckless tackle in the 31st minute, Taylor doubled the lead with a deflected shot 2 minutes before the break. But Arsenal rallied back in the second half with William Gallas meeting a corner-kick to side-foot the ball into the back of the net in the 62nd minute and van Persie levelling the score from the penalty spot 6 minutes later, with Hleb pulling the ball back for Fabregas to roll in off 2 Bolton defenders right at the end. Mauro Zarate scored twice for Birmingham to send Manchester City back with a 3-1 defeat. Zarate ran onto a through ball lifting it past Hart 5 minutes before the interval and extended Birmingham's lead in the 54th minute with a low shot into the left corner. Franck Queudrue fouled Benjani in the box and was sent off, leaving Elano to drive the ball in from the spot in the 59th minute, but Birmingham regained their 2 goal advantage when they were awarded a soft penalty for Gary McSheffrey to convert in the 77th minute. Sunderland continued their recent god run with a 2-1 home win against West Ham. Freddie Ljungberg put the Hammers ahead with a low drive in the 18th minute, but Kenwyne Jones equalised with a tap in 11 minutes later and Andy Reid struck the winner with a sweet volley just before the final whistle. Jermain Defoe scored both goals as Portsmouth defeated Wigan 2-0 at Fratton Park. Defoe tucked in his first from a tight angle in the 32nd minute and after David James had saved a penalty from Taylor who lofted the rebound into the crowd in the 61st minute, Defoe secured a home win when he broke through to beat Kirkland in the 90th minute. Reading earned a point in a goalless draw at home to Blackburn despite being reduced to 10 men after Marek Matejovsky received a second yellow in the 72nd minute. In the late match Manchester United took a step closer to the Premier League title with an emphatic 4-0 victory at home to Aston Villa. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a confident back-heal in the 17th minute and crossed the ball for Tevez to head in after 33 minutes. Wayne Rooney rounded the keeper for the 3rd in the 53rd minute after a pass from Ronaldo, and the two combined again in the 70th minute with Rooney screwing the ball in for 4-0. On Sunday Ricardo Carvalho's accurate header in the 5th minute was enough to give Chelsea 3 vital points against Middlesbrough despite the visitors striking the woodwork several times in the second half. Newcastle triumphed 4-1 at White Hart Lane after Darren Bent had headed the ball into the far corner to give Tottenham a 26th minute lead. Nicky Butt curled a low shot past a motionless Paul Robinson just before the break and Geremi stunned the Tottenham keeper from a free-kick 7 minutes into the 2nd half. Michael Owen received the ball in the 65th minute after a dummy from Viduka and curled it up into the net from 12 yards with Obafemi Martins putting the icing on the cake with a 4th after a solo run in the 83rd minute. Liverpool strengthened their claim for 4th spot with a 1-0 home win over local rivals Everton when Fernando Torres slid it to send the ball past Tim Howard in the 7th minute of the match.
March comes to an end with Manchester United in poll position followed by Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.