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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 September 2006, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
By Mandeep Sanghera

Didier Drogba
Drogba celebrates his winner at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea increased the gap over title rivals Liverpool to eight points after a stunning Didier Drogba winner.

Drogba swivelled and powered in a shot from 18 yards to put the Blues ahead before the home side's Michael Ballack was sent off for an apparent stamp.

Steven Gerrard spurned the best chance for the visitors when he shot straight at keeper Petr Cech from eight yards.

Liverpool were denied a penalty when Gerrard seemed to be pushed before Peter Crouch missed with a late header.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho had waited in the tunnel for Reds counterpart Rafael Benitez prior to kick-off as the antagonism between the pair appeared to have been eased with a shake of the hands.

When the action got under way, Chelsea slowly started to exert some authority against a Liverpool side that was sitting back and trying to sting the Blues on the counter-attack.

Chelsea struggled to break down the discipline and organisation of the Reds, while the visitors were let down by some stray passing.

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But Reds striker Dirk Kuyt almost unlocked a cagey first half when a defence-splitting diagonal ball from Xabi Alonso left him with a clear sight of goal.

Kuyt made powerful contact with a rising, angled drive but agonisingly saw it come back off the crossbar.

Frank Lampard saw a 25-yard free-kick easily gathered by keeper Jose Reina, while at the other end Craig Bellamy had a shot saved as the rival teams enjoyed yet another tight affair.

It needed a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock and Drogba produced it when he chested down Lampard's ball, with his back to goal.

In one move the Ivory Coast striker swivelled and unleashed a left-foot, half-volley with such speed and power that it left defender Jamie Carragher stunned and Reina rooted to his spot.

Referee Mike Riley gives Michael Ballack (centre) his marching orders for a challenge on Mohamed Sissoko (right)
Ballack is red-carded for his challenge on Sissoko

Mohamed Sissoko was fortunate not to be sent off for a second bookable offence after a foul on Lampard before Gerrard came close to equalising just before the break.

Gerrard cut in from his left-midfield position and decided to shoot from a tight angle - instead of crossing for better-placed team-mates - only to see his shot sail shot sail high.

Chelsea suffered a setback when Ballack was red-carded for a rash 51st-minute challenge on Sissoko when it appeared he stamped on his rival midfielder's leg.

The visitors slowly started to capitalise on their advantage in numbers and created a glorious chance for Gerrard, who saw a fierce shot from eight yards blocked by Cech.

Arjen Robben had a penalty claim waved away at the other end when he was the filling between a Carragher and Daniel Agger sandwich as the game opened up.

Liverpool's turn to be incensed came when they were not awarded a spot-kick for what appeared to be a Lampard push on Gerrard.

The visitors had chances to pull level but lacked a cutting edge and Crouch headed straight at Cech late on to sum up their frustration.


Chelsea: Cech, Boulahrouz (Paulo Ferreira 71), Ricardo Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien, Makelele, Ballack, Lampard, Shevchenko (Robben 65), Drogba (Kalou 90).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Mikel.

Sent Off: Ballack (51).

Booked: Boulahrouz, Drogba, Cech.

Goals: Drogba 42.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Agger, Carragher, Warnock (Aurelio 54), Pennant, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko (Zenden 67), Bellamy (Crouch 78), Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia.

Booked: Warnock, Sissoko.

Att: 41,882.

Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).



SEE ALSO
Mourinho accepts Ballack red card
17 Sep 06 |  Premiership
Sunday football photos
17 Sep 06 |  Football


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