Centurion Drogba fires Chelsea revival, Liverpool lose

LONDON: Chelsea boosted its hopes of securing Champions League football for next season by beating 10-man Stoke 1-0 on Saturday while Queens Park Rangers’ controversial 2-1 loss to relegation rival Bolton reignited the debate over goal-line technology.

Didier Drogba’s 68th-minute goal—his 100th in the Premier League—rescued the win for Chelsea in its first league game since firing manager Andre Villas-Boas, drawing the team level on points with fourth-place Arsenal.

Liverpool lost 1-0 at Sunderland thanks to Nicklas Bendtner’s 56th-minute goal to leave the League Cup winners 10 points off Chelsea and Arsenal, which hosts Newcastle on Monday. Third-place Tottenham played Everton later Saturday.

Bolton’s victory over QPR, which lifted the winners out of the relegation zone, was tinged with controversy as officials failed to spot Clint Hill’s header clearly crossing the line for the visitors when the score was 0-0.

Bolton then grabbed a 85th-minute winner through Ivan Klasnic to pile on the misery for Mark Hughes’ side, which dropped into the bottom three and is without a win since January.

“Obviously, from our point of view, to have that clear goal chalked off was a significant moment,” Hughes said. “Don’t underestimate the significance of scoring first.”

Wolverhampton Wanderers stayed in the drop zone after losing 2-0 at home to relegation rival Blackburn, with Canadian forward Junior Hoilett scoring both goals.

Fulham’s march up the table was halted by a 1-0 loss at Aston Villa, with Andreas Weimann grabbing a last-minute goal.

With title rivals Manchester City and Manchester United not playing until Sunday, the focus at the top of the standings was on the race for the remaining two Champions League places.

Chelsea’s faltering form under Villas-Boas led to him being fired last weekend and replaced by Roberto Di Matteo until the end of season, with the team having dropped out of the top four.

The Italian’s first match in charge was a 2-0 victory over Birmingham in an FA Cup fifth-round replay on Tuesday and he followed that up with a narrow win over Stoke, which played more than an hour a man light after Ricardo Fuller’s sending-off for a stamp on Branislav Ivanovic’s groin in the 25th.

Chelsea hit the bar twice before Drogba, a day before his 34th birthday, collected a pass from substitute Juan Mata, rounded goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and slotted in his finish.

“With the events of the last week, it was important for us to get that win,” Di Matteo said. “You could feel a bit of nervousness but better times will come.”

Liverpool extended its poor run in the league to just one win in eight games with a poor defeat at the Stadium of Light, with Kenny Dalglish’s team barely having a chance of note. (Agencies)

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