English Soccer: Grant silences critics with 4-0 win

Chelsea trounces West Ham while Man United defeats Fulham and Villa holds Arsenal 1-1.

avram grant 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
avram grant 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
After one of the most difficult weeks of his career, Chelsea boss Avraham Grant showed his strength and resolve on Saturday, leading his team to an impressive 4-0 away win at fellow London side West Ham United in the English Premier League. The Israeli manager had been subjected to massive criticism in the English press since last Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup Final. But Chelsea returned to form in style on Saturday, with the recalled Joe Cole and Michael Ballack both scoring as the Blues went 3-0 up in the first 22 minutes. And Grant's team illustrated its grit and determination after Frank Lampard was sent off in the 34th minute to hold off any West Ham attacks and win comfortably. Speaking after the match, Grant showed he had moved on from last weekend's disappointing extra time defeat to Spurs and believes Chelsea can win the league. We will do everything to do it [win the title]. I never give in and I will not start now at my age," he said. Rumors had been flying around all week about unrest in Chelsea's expensively assembled squad, but this was clearly not apparent at Upton Park. "We started very well and if it was not a red card maybe the score would have been higher," Grant stated. "I am very happy. The players showed fighting spirit and passion." Also Saturday, Manchester United moved to within a point of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League on Saturday after the Gunners drew 1-1 with visiting Aston Villa. Liverpool plays Bolton on Sunday. Former West Ham midfielder Lampard put Chelsea ahead from a 17th-minute penalty kick after Anton Ferdinand had fouled Salomon Kalou and Cole made it 2-0 in the 20th with a low shot. Ballack, who, like Cole, was dropped for the League Cup final, put Chelsea further ahead before Lampard was shown a red card for what looked like an innocuous push of Luis Boa Morte in the face. Still, Ashley Cole made it 4-0 for Chelsea in the 64th. Tottenham no longer has to worry about its league position after qualifying for next season's European competition by winning the League Cup, so it rested players including Robbie Keane, Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate to prepare for Thursday's UEFA Cup match against PSV Eindhoven. But Birmingham punished Spurs for taking the match lightly and Mikael Forrsell scored a hat trick for the Blues, who stay a point clear of the relegation zone. Arsenal almost lost at Emirates Stadium after defender Philippe Senderos scored a 27th-minute own-goal, but Nicklas Bendtner equalized in the last minute to salvage a draw. Even so, defending champion United, which had trailed by five points eight days ago, closed the gap with a 3-0 win at Fulham. Arsenal now has 65 points from 28 matches, but United's goal difference is seven better than the leaders' and Chelsea is six points back having played one game fewer. "If it comes down to goal difference, it could make a difference," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "The way it's been going in the last few weeks, it's been a bit of a seesaw. But we have to look over our shoulder because Chelsea's score today was emphatic." At the other end of the standings, Newcastle slipped to within three points of the relegation zone after a 1-0 loss to visiting Blackburn. Arsenal was desperate for victory after last week's 2-2 draw at Birmingham, in which it lost striker Eduardo da Silva to a career-threatening leg injury. It dominated the early exchanges as striker Theo Walcott had a shot saved by Villa goalkeeper Scott Carson and almost created another opportunity. Senderos shot wide from inside the area after Carson had dropped the ball from a corner, but, four minutes later, scored past his own goalkeeper when he tried to intercept a cross by Gabriel Agbonlahor. Villa lost Nigel Reo-Coker and Curtis Davies to injury, but almost went 2-0 ahead before halftime when home keeper Manuel Almunia had to push a 20-meter shot by Shaun Maloney onto the crossbar. Arsenal pushed for a late equalizer and Bendtner managed it with a close-range shot. "In the first half, you could see it was a hangover from last week," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "We were dominated physically and technically ... but this shows the team never lies down." Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi had already saved from Nani and Carlos Tevez before Tevez won a free kick just outside the area in the 15th. Owen Hargreaves curled the ball over the defensive wall and wide of Niemi to make it 1-0. Park Ji-sung scored a minute before halftime with a header and Simon Davies completed the scoring midway through the second half, with an own-goal. "It was a professional performance," Ferguson said. "It was windy and in these conditions you have to have good concentration. "I don't think Fulham were a big threat to us inside the penalty box, but outside they played some good stuff." Reading remained in 18th place with 25 points even though it ended an eight-match losing streak with a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough. But Newcastle is in serious danger of returning to the second tier after 15 years in the Premier League. Newcastle dominated Blackburn with Michael Owen and Alan Smith missing chances, but Matt Derbyshire scored in injury time to leave the Magpies on 28 points and winless since Kevin Keegan returned as manager in January. Derby stayed last with 10 points after a 0-0 draw with Sunderland, and Fulham is 19th with 19. Wigan drew 0-0 at Manchester City in Saturday's other match. Bristol City moved top of the second-tier League Championship after a 2-1 win over Hull, while idle Stoke dropped to second. Watford was in third place after a 2-2 draw at Burnley, and West Bromwich Albion is fourth after beating Plymouth 3-0. Rangers wins 11th straight league match Rangers won its 11th straight league game Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Aberdeen that kept it four points clear at the top of the standings. Christian Dailly equalized for Rangers in the 38th minute, heading a corner kick into the net for his first club goal. Charlie Adam and Kris Boyd then scored to preserve Rangers' lead over defending champion Celtic, which won 2-0 at Hibernian. Lee Naylor and Georgios Samaras scored for Celtic, which has 64 points to Rangers' 68. Motherwell is in third place and 18 points further back after a 0-0 draw at Falkirk. Hearts won 3-0 at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Kilmarnock won 1-0 at St. Mirren in Saturday's other matches.