Premier League - Malouda gives Chelsea win

Sat, 09 Apr 16:57:00 2011

Florent Malouda kept alive Chelsea's faint Premier League title hopes with a second-half goal in a 1-0 win over a battling Wigan side at Stamford Bridge.

Match Highlights: Chelsea

The France midfielder pounced in a packed area to stab the ball home on 67 minutes after Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi had failed to punch clear with David Luiz flicking Didier Drogba's corner into a posse of bodies.

Chelsea are third in the table, eleven points behind leaders Manchester United, who downed Fulham 2-0 at Old Trafford, but the English champions have a game in hand.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were worthy of their victory despite huffing and puffing to break down a stubborn visiting side, who remain bottom of the table and in deep trouble.

Fernando Torres did not start the match. He replaced Nicolas Anelka on 59 minutes in a move made with the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United on Tuesday in mind. John Terry and Michael Essien were also rested. Chelsea will try to overhaul a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of the match when they visit Old Trafford.

Torres almost scored his first goal for Chelsea in the final 10 minutes after being played in by fellow substitute Yossi Benayoun, but Al Habsi dived to make a fine stop from the Spanish striker's shot.

Torres has not scored in 10 games since his £50million move from Liverpool in January, but at least he played his part in the winning goal as he prevented the visiting keeper from getting space to punch the ball clear.

Chelsea should have been ahead in the opening minute when Drogba bounded down a flank before crossing for Frank Lampard in the middle.

The England midfielder miskicked his shot before Ramires did likewise unmarked from five yards out as Wigan somehow survived.

Drogba played provider for Malouda on nine minutes, but the French midfielder's shot lacked any power from the edge of the box as the agile Al Habsi dived to make a comfortable stop.

Charles N'Zogbia was deemed to be offside a minute later when replays showed he was clearly onside when the pass was played by the roaming Ben Watson.

The best moments of the half continue to swirl around the Wigan goal as Drogba saw a delightful ball fly across goal when it was begging to be tucked home.

Wigan grew in belief the longer the half continued as Hugo Rodallega saw a shot deflect over the bar before James McCarthy sent a volley spinning wide around the half-hour mark.

The half ended with Malouda dashing clear after Drogba had flicked on Petr Cech's long ball, but Al Habsi stood tall to halt the shot from seven yards out.

Chelsea tightened their grip on the match in the second period.

Drogba saw a free-kick deflect off the Wigan wall before being tipped over by Al Habsi moments before Malouda's decisive goal.

Despite being pinned back, Wigan never lacked heart. There was never any danger of a repeat of the 8-0 thrashing they suffered when Chelsea claimed the Premier League title on the final day of last season.

Indeed, it required a sharp diving stop by Cech seven minutes from time from visiting substitute Franco di Santo's header to ensure Chelsea collected the three points that their energy merited.


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