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Chelsea take giant stride towards title with Anfield win

Didier Drogba's first half goal set Chelsea on their way to a vital win at Anfield.
Didier Drogba's first half goal set Chelsea on their way to a vital win at Anfield.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-0 to strengthen grip on English Premier League
  • Goals in each half from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard seal vital win
  • Champions Manchester United close gap to one point with 1-0 win at Sunderland
  • Chelsea and United both have home matches in final round next week

(CNN) -- Chelsea closed on the English Premier League title with a commanding 2-0 win over a disappointing Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday with goals in each half from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

The victory leaves them a point clear of champions Manchester United, who beat Sunderland 1-0 in a later match on Sunday with Nani scoring the only goal in the first half at the Stadium of Light.

Chelsea will win the title if they beat lowly Wigan at Stamford Bridge next Sunday. United, who host Stoke, must hope they secure a win and Chelsea lose or draw.

The trip to Liverpool appeared the last major obstacle to Chelsea ending a run of three successive titles for Alex Ferguson's United but it proved a routine win.

Defeat ends Liverpool's hopes of a Champions League place and coming hard on the heels of a Europa Cup semifinal exit to Atletico Madrid on Thursday casts considerable doubt over the future of manager Rafa Benitez.

Liverpool made a bright start but Chelsea took the lead after a sorry error by home captain Steven Gerrard as he failed to spot Ivory Coast international Drogba in making a back-pass to his goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

It was a very important step for our fight for the title
--Carlo Ancelotti
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Drogba accepted the gift with relish to round the Spanish keeper and put his side ahead after 33 minutes.

Other goals might have followed as Liverpool wilted and Nicolas Anelka was a fraction away from getting a decisive touch to a Salomon Kalou cross.

But in the 54th minute the Frenchman picked out Lampard, who scored easily from close range.

Reina's one-handed save kept out Florent Malouda while Chelsea were rarely troubled by a lackluster Liverpool, missing star striker Fernando Torres, who watched forlornly from the stands.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti knows his men have one hand on their third English championship.

"It was a very important step for our fight for the title," Ancelotti told Sky Sports.

"We played very well, we deserved to win.

"We are happy because it was a difficult step against Liverpool. Tactically we did very well."

After Chelsea's win, Unitd knew that three points were a must to leave themselves a chance of a 19th English crown.

Nani's neatly-taken 28th minute goal proved enough although United might have added further goals with Dimitar Berbatov wasteful.

Wayne Rooney, who has been struggling with injury, played a full part in the victory while fellow England internationals Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves, who has endured a lengthy injury layoff, were also deployed as late substitutes.

Ferguson said the title race was not over and hoped that Chelsea might struggle against Wigan.

"They're a good team, they'll have a go and you just never know. It's a crazy game," he told Sky Sports.

"Maybe we are clutching at straws a little bit. It is important for us to win in front of our home fans and play the right way.

"It would be a incredible achievement for us."

In Sunday's other Premier League game, Fulham celebrated their passage to the final of the Europa League with a 3-2 win over West Ham in an entertaining London derby.