Ashley Cole strike sends Chelsea clear at top of Premier League

Ashley Cole Chelsea

Blues put pressure on rivals Manchester United before their match today against Liverpool

BY Bill Mann LAST UPDATED AT 07:22 ON Sun 23 Sep 2012

CHELSEA extended their lead at the top of the table to three points but the Blues left it late in beating Stoke City 1-0. Ashley Cole scored the only goal of the game on 85 minutes, the England left-back firing home from close range after Juan Mata's neat flick-on.

“It was a great move and I took a chance to get into the box,” Cole explained later. “I had a few shots in the first half and took too much time on the ball with them, but this time, the first thing that came into my brain was to dink it and I just did it.”

Both Chelsea and Stoke began the day unbeaten in the Premier League although the Potters are still without a win this season having drawn their first four matches of the campaign. But the visitors came closest to snatching the lead in the first-half, Jonathan Walters rattling the Chelsea crossbar shortly before the interval.

Encouraged by their crowd, Chelsea strove to find a winner and in the end it came from an unlikely source. "It's been two or three years since I scored,” admitted Cole. “It is mentally good to get a lead in the league table, last season we didn't have a good time in the Premier League too often."

With Manchester United playing Liverpool tomorrow, and Arsenal travelling to Manchester City, Chelsea were able to increase the pressure on their nearest rivals and the Blues are now four points clear of United who drop down to fifth spot, for the time being at least.

Instead it’s Everton who are nestled in behind Chelsea, thanks to their emphatic 3-0 win away at Swansea. Victor Anichebe gave Everton the lead on 21 minutes, even though replays suggested referee Anthony Taylor had missed a handball from Marouane Fellaini in the build-up, and Kevin Mirallas added a second two minutes before the break.

Fellaini headed a third in the closing stages as Swansea’s unbeaten home record came to a shuddering halt. Nathan Dyer’s red card capped a forgettable day for the Welsh side who now lie in tenth spot.

“Both the result and performance were very good but the result is the most important thing," said Everton boss David Moyes. "We could have scored six or seven but they also had three or four opportunities but our goalkeeper made some good saves."

As if seeing Everton in second wasn’t unusual enough, West Bromwich Albion fans will wake this morning wondering if it isn’t all a dream… are the Baggies really lying third? They are, courtesy of a second-half strike from Romelu Lukaku on his full debut for West Brom against Reading. It was the third time this season that the Baggies have kept a clean sheet at the Hawthorns, but true to form, manager Steve Clarke is not getting carried away after the 1-0 win. “It is pleasing to look at the stats at the moment but there is a long way to go,” says the man who doesn’t go in for hyperbole.

In other results, Kevin Nolan struck on 90 minutes to give West Ham United a share of the points against Sunderland after Steven Fletcher had put the visitors ahead, and Southampton picked up their first points of the season in some style, thrashing Aston Villa 4-1 at St Mary’s.

Finally, Fulham won 2-1 away at Wigan to move the Cottagers up into fourth position above United, Arsenal and City. It might not last for long but Fulham fans won’t care as they tuck into their Sunday lunch. · 

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