Chelsea stretch lead at top, Spurs held

LONDON, (Reuters) – Goals by Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou helped Chelsea open a five-point gap at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday.

Malouda struck his seventh league goal of the season and Kalou came off the bench to seal victory after the break for Carlo Ancelotti’s side whose early-season torrent of goals has slowed to a trickle in recent weeks.

Tottenham Hotspur rose to third, seven points behind Chelsea, after Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart made it five goals in seven since joining the north London club. The midfielder notched the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at home to improving Everton.

West Bromwich Albion maintained their dream start to life back in the top flight, moving into fourth place with a 2-1 home defeat of Fulham while Birmingham City beat Blackpool 2-0.

Sunderland beat Aston Villa 1-0 and Wigan Athletic’s home match against Bolton Wanderers ended 1-1. Bottom club West Ham United host Newcastle United later yesterday.

Manchester City can reduce Chelsea’s lead today when they host Arsenal while Manchester United, down in sixth place, end their turbulent week away to Stoke City. Liverpool are at home against Blackburn Rovers.  Chelsea were not the fluent force that racked up 21 goals in their opening five league matches this season but they are yet to concede at home and despite a few alarms against Wolves they continue to look hot favourites to retain their title.

It took them 23 minutes to break through against a lively Wolves side and it wasn’t until the 83rd minute that the visitors were forced to admit defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Malouda’s opener owed much to Nicolas Anelka’s enterprise down the left. The Frenchman played in Yuri Zhirkov and the Russian pulled the ball back into the path of Malouda who was unmarked inside the penalty area.

Chelsea have not conceded a league goal at home since March but Wolves came close to breaching the Blue wall on several occasions, most notably when Stephen Hunt’s header was cleared off the line by Michael Essien.

Kevin Doyle forced Chelsea keeper Petr Cech to save his low shot and there was a growing sense of unease in the crowd before Kalou made it 2-0 after Essien and Didier Drogba linked up well.

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