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Chelsea's title hopes dented by late Wigan goal
April 15, 2008 09:48 IST
Chelsea's hopes of winning the Premier League title were rocked at Stamford Bridge on Monday when an injury time goal from Emile Heskey gave the relegation-threatened visitors a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Although they were not playing, Manchester United [Images] were the big winners on the night as Heskey's goal left Chelsea five points behind Alex Ferguson's league leaders with only four matches to play.
Manchester United have 80 points, Chelsea have 75, with Arsenal [Images], whose manager Arsene Wenger has conceded his side are out of contention, in third place on 71 points after losing at United on Sunday.
Chelsea, who rarely looked like champions-elect and were booed off by their own fans at halftime and at the end of the match, had still looked all set to close the gap on United to three points thanks to a 55th minute Michael Essien goal.
However they were punished for not taking their earlier chances when Heskey latched on to a cross from Jason Koumas and lashed the ball past Petr Cech from close range.
Chelsea often appeared lifeless and uninspired and although their second half performance was better than their first 45 minutes after Joe Cole replaced Florent Malouda, Wigan kept battling away for the equaliser.
Chelsea had been weakened before the start when Frank Lampard [Images] pulled out of the team because of personal reasons and they certainly missed his inspirational influence.
Essien opened the scoring early in the second half within a minute of John Terry hitting Wigan's bar and Salomon Kalou having a point-blank shot saved by Chris Kirkland.
Nicolas Anelka had had two good headers in the first half, but they wasted a number of chances after the break with Kirkland making some important stops.
Then, just when it appeared that Chelsea had done enough to keep their title challenge alive, Wigan launched one last counter-attack with Koumas providing the speculative cross for Heskey to score.
The victory moved Wigan on to 35 points, six clear of the relegation zone. Just about the only consolation for Chelsea was that they stretched their unbeaten home league record to 80 matches although for most of the fans dejectedly leaving Stamford Bridge at the end, the draw must have felt more like a crushing defeat.