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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 17:56 GMT
Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea
Joe Cole (left) and Arjen Robben (right) celebrate Chelsea's win with captain John Terry
Goals from Arjen Robben and Joe Cole restored Chelsea's nine-point advantage at the top of the table - and all but ended Arsenal's own title bid.

Arsenal had survived a frenetic opening period before almost taking the lead when Thierry Henry hit the post.

The Gunners also had a Robin van Persie goal ruled out for offside before Robben ran clear down the left and slid the ball home with a precise finish.

Cole capitalised on a Lauren mistake to curl in Chelsea's second goal late on.

The defeat means Arsenal have now lost three Premiership games in a row for the first time since March 1995.

They have also failed to score in their last four matches in all competitions - and languish in eighth place in the league, 20 points behind Chelsea.

But despite the Gunners' poor form, this always looked like being a pulsating clash of two heavyweights - and so it proved.

Jose Mourinho's side dominated early on, with Cole, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien all having chances.

Arsenal were on the ropes but showed their class by almost fashioning a goal with their first attack after 20 minutes.

Alexander Hleb fed Henry, who shrugged off Ricardo Carvalho before flicking the ball past Petr Cech - only to see the ball come back off the post.

And seconds later the ball was in the Chelsea net - Van Persie running on to Freddie Ljungberg's pass and firing home only to have his effort disallowed.

Van Persie was clearly onside - and it was not clear whether the linesman was flagging for him, or for Henry, who was walking back from an offside position - but the goal was ruled out.

That proved to be the last goalmouth action for a while but there was plenty of incident elsewhere.

Tackles were flying in all over the pitch, yet it was an attempt to fend off a Lauren tackle by Essien that earned the Chelsea midfielder a yellow card.

Essien appeared to raise his elbow as Lauren ran in, leaving the Arsenal full-back prostrate on the floor - and apparently without one of his front teeth.

For a spell, both sides seemed more interested in winning the physical battle than creating any chances - and it was almost out of nothing when Chelsea did take the lead after 38 minutes.

Drogba looked up and set Robben free and the Dutchman headed for goal before sliding the ball under Lehmann and into the net.

The Gunners - who had won all seven of their previous home league games this season - came out strongly after the break.

But the nearest they came to an equaliser was when Lauren beat Paulo Ferreira and fired in a powerful shot that Cech parried away.

Meanwhile, Chelsea were making the most of the space the Gunners were leaving at the back - Robben wasting two opportunities around the hour mark.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger tried one last desperate gamble - bringing on Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp with 20 minutes left.

But the game was put out of his reach soon afterwards when Cole stole possession from Lauren and cut inside from the right before curling his shot in off the post.

Only a brilliant Lehmann save stopped Cole from adding a third goal before a flurry of chances arrived for the Gunners at the end of the 90 minutes - but it was all academic by then.

The result keeps Chelsea's title charge on course - while Arsenal's challenge looks out for the count.

Arsenal: Lehmann, Toure, Senderos, Campbell, Lauren, Ljungberg (Bergkamp 70), Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb (Pires 70), Van Persie (Owusu-Abeyie 82), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Eboue.

Booked: Van Persie, Senderos, Henry.

Chelsea: Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Terry, Gallas, Essien, Makelele, Lampard, Joe Cole, Drogba (Huth 88), Robben (Geremi 77).
Subs Not Used: Crespo, Gudjohnsen, Cudicini.

Booked: Robben, Essien, Makelele, Lampard.

Goals: Robben 39, Joe Cole 73.

Att: 38,347

Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).

Interview: Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho

Interview: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

Interview: Chelsea's Arjen Robben


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