Chelsea did the damage in the first half as a 3-0 win over Portsmouth stretched their lead to 11 points at the top of the Barclays Premiership.
Two goals from Didier Drogba and one for Arjen Robben left Pompey with no capital gains, and turned the heat up on title rivals Manchester United and
Arsenal. Jose Mourinho's side have now conceded just eight goals in their opening 24 league games, and they require 11 wins from their remaining 14
matches to clinch the club's first league title since 1955. Drogba repaid another slice of his hefty transfer fee by firing Chelsea ahead in the 15th
minute, the Ivory Coast striker turning in a Robben cross from close range. Robben stretched their lead to 2-0 after 21 minutes when he latched on to
a Frank Lampard pass and coolly sidestepped goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown before slotting home. With Lomana LuaLua and Amdy Faye suspended, Portsmouth
began well before fading fast, although Aiyegbeni Yakubu ought to have grabbed one back, only to miss from close range. It became 3-0 after 39 minutes
when Drogba struck again, this time from long range with a terrific free-kick.
Manchester United had to fend off a determined Aston Villa at Old Trafford before eventually running out comfortable 3-1 winners, a result which
lifted them above Arsenal who face Newcastle at Highbury tomorrow. The in-form Cristiano Ronaldo fired home after eight minutes, his second goal in
four days after calming nerves with the opener in the FA Cup win at Exeter. Louis Saha took Roy Keane's pass from midfield, beat two Villa defenders,
and then slipped a superb ball inside Olof Mellberg to Ronaldo, who beat Thomas Sorensen with a low finish from 15 yards. But Gareth Barry levelled up
for Villa after 53 minutes after a neat move involving Nolberto Solano. Then came United's revival, with Saha restoring their lead after 69 minutes
and Paul Scholes heading a third a minute later after Ronaldo's shot had been only parried by Sorensen.
Southampton's prospects of survival grew after their 2-0 victory over Liverpool in the lunchtime kick-off, with Harry Redknapp finally able to
celebrate his first league win since taking charge. Liverpool's defence was exposed as David Prutton and Peter Crouch struck to decisive effect in the
opening 22 minutes at St Mary's. Prutton profited from a mistake by newcomer Mauricio Pellegrino to put Saints in front after just five minutes.
Terrible marking allowed Crouch to add a second, his third in consecutive games, with a sharp header from Prutton's cross. For Liverpool, who had
Steven Gerrard unusually muted in midfield and Fernando Morientes scarcely involved in attack, it was a third defeat in eight days, after painful
losses to Manchester United and FA Cup opponents Burnley. Saints remained in the bottom three, but Crystal Palace headed them on goal difference
alone, with the possibility remaining that the two sides might switch places by full-time.
Everton, with James Beattie making his home debut, were beaten 1-0 by Charlton at Goodison, with Matt Holland firing the Addicks ahead from long range
just before the break. Beattie hit the post in the second half, and that was as close as the Toffees came.
Birmingham thrust new loan signing Salif Diao straight into action at St Andrews, but they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against Fulham, whose improvement
continued. Moritz Volz's messy own goal after 51 minutes gave Birmingham the lead, but Andy Cole's penalty put the Cottagers level and Papa Bouba Diop
headed his second matchwinner in a week to give the visitors a valuable victory, repeating the trick after doing similar damage to West Brom.
Crystal Palace upped the tempo in the second half and crushed Martin Jol's Tottenham 3-0 at Selhurst Park. Eagles went in front after 66 minutes when
Mikele Leigertwood turned a left-wing cross from Tom Soares past Paul Robinson. Danny Granville then added a second for Palace after 70 minutes and an
Andy Johnson penalty seven minutes later, after he had been brought down, put the finishing touches to the welcome win.
Struggling Norwich looked dead and buried against Middlesbrough going into the closing stages, but they clawed back three goals to secure a 4-4 draw.
Damien Francis gave the Canaries an 18th-minute lead, only for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to bring Middlesbrough back onto level terms soon after the
half-hour mark. Boro were revitalised for the second half and a quickfire double from Franck Queudrue, who headed home a Stewart Downing corner after
49 minutes and then tapped home his second six minutes later, looked to have put the game beyond Norwich. Hasselbaink's second of the game, a curling
free-kick after 78 minutes, made it miserable for Norwich, but they had some cause for cheer two minutes later when 3million man Dean Ashton scored
his first goal since joining from Crewe. A Leon McKenzie header in the 90th minute made for a tense finish, and incredibly Norwich then pinched an
equaliser in injury-time through Adam Drury - the sort of finish which could change their season. Their delight may, however, be tempered by news of
the wins for Palace and Southampton.
West Brom revived their hopes of avoiding relegation with a 2-0 victory over Manchester City. The Baggies got the perfect start with a Kevin Campbell
strike in his home debut. Ronnie Wallwork's close-range header made it two and seemed to have secured the points. City thought they had equalised
almost immediately when Richard Dunne's thunderous free kick flew into the top corner. But ref Graham Poll controversially ruled it out and with it
went City's chance of getting something from the game.