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Gallas heads Arsenal back to the top

London, Dec 17: Arsenal remain one point clear at the top of the English Premier League after winning 1-0 at home to London rivals, Chelsea, in a combative match.

Earlier in the day Manchester United had gone top due to a 1-0 win away to Liverpool, but Arsenal's victory put United back into second place. A header by Arsenal captain William Gallas, against his old club, won the game for Arsenal. With the last chance of the first half, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech missed a corner cross in the six-yard box and Gallas headed the ball in for Arsenal. Arsenal's midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamani and Alexandar Hleb came back into the team after injury at a lively Emirates Stadium.

Chelsea, who had only conceded one goal in their last nine Premier League games, lined up with an out-of-form Andriy Shevchenko in attack in the absence of Didier Drogba, who is recovering from knee surgery.

High tempo match

Arsenal put Chelsea under pressure early on with sharp offensive play. Adebayor caused confusion in the Chelsea defence when chasing a long ball, forcing Alex to head over an advancing Cech but which went wide.

The game was played to a high tempo with quick, intricate passing leading to tough tackling by both sides.

In the first half hour scuffles broke out as John Terry, the Chelsea captain, flew into a challenge with Fabregas.

A dipping, long-range effort by Shevchenko on 32 minutes was later unconvincingly dealt with by Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, as the two sides became more belligerent.

Then, on half-time, Arsenal scored. Chelsea missed centre-back Terry - who had earlier been substituted due to injury - at the corner as Gallas was not sufficiently pressurised for the header.

In the second half Shaun Wright-Phillips had the most clear opportunity of the game. A cross from the left cut out the Arsenal defence but Wright-Phillips could only volley the ball wide of Almunia's right-hand post from four yards out.

Going into the last 15 minutes Arsenal caught an attacking Chelsea on the break. Hleb was put through and laid the ball on to substitute Van Persie 17 yards out in the centre of the goal, but the ball was smacked over the cross bar.

Chelsea heaped pressure on to the Arsenal defence, but could not find an opening.

As they pushed forward Arsenal counterattacked and a double save by Cech from Van Persie and then Fabregas prevented Arsenal from taking the victory early.

Five minutes of extra time gave Chelsea an opportunity with a drive from a Shevchenko free kick that was tipped over the bar by Almunia.

Fabregas had one last chance for Arsenal 10 yards out but his weak effort rebounded straight off Cech before the final whistle was blown.

One India

Story first published: Monday, December 17, 2007, 15:13 [IST]
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