LONDON: Chelsea fought back to beat Fulham 2-1 on Monday and go five points clear at the top of the Premier League, while Tottenham eased to a 2-0 victory over West Ham.
Chelsea secured the victory courtesy of Chris Smalling’s own goal after Didier Drogba had cancelled out Zoltan Gera’s opener for Fulham.
Chelsea’s grip on the league lead had been loosened by two consecutive draws, but the team returned to winning ways in front of former manager Jose Mourinho.
The Inter Milan coach witnessed a dire start for Chelsea with Gera netting inside three minutes when he met Bobby Zamora’s pass after Chelsea captain John Terry had failed to clear.
It took until the 73rd minute for Drogba to equalise in the Ivory Coast striker’s last match before going to Angola for the African Cup of Nations.
And inside two minutes, Smalling inadvertently turned the ball into his own net after goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer blocked Daniel Sturridge’s shot.
Chelsea has 45 points, while Manchester United has 40 before it hosts Wigan on Wednesday, when third-place Arsenal travels to Portsmouth.
At White Hart Lane, Luka Modric marked his return to Tottenham’s starting line-up by scoring the opener against West Ham.
Modric, who has been restricted to two brief substitute appearances since breaking his right leg in August, scored in the 11th by sweeping Aaron Lennon’s cross into the net.
Lennon also fed Jermain Defoe in the 81st minute and the former West Ham striker fired home after keeper Robert Green parried his initial shot.
The victory lifted Tottenham to fourth with 37 points, one behind Arsenal but two ahead of Aston Villa, which hosts Liverpool on Tuesday.
West Ham is a point above the relegation zone having played three more matches than 18th-place Bolton.
Also on Monday, Birmingham climbed up to seventh by winning 1-0 at Stoke, Everton ended a seven-match winless streak by beating Burnley 2-0 and Blackburn was held to a 2-2 draw by Sunderland.
The results: Blackburn 2 (Pedersen 53, Diouf 77) drew with Sunderland 2 (Bent 52, 65); Chelsea 2 (Drogba 73, Smalling 75-og) bt Fulham 1 (Gera 4); Everton 2 (Vaughan 83, Pienaar 90) bt Burnley 0; Stoke 0 lost to Birmingham 1 (Jerome 50); Tottenham 2 (Modric 11, Defoe 81) bt West Ham 0. — Agencies