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Feb 21, 2009

Premier League: Hiddink reign begins with Villa win

Guus Hiddink's Chelsea reign began in earnest with a 0-1 victory at Villa Park which sent the Blues into third place in the Premier League table above their opponents and nearest rivals.

The first goal of Hiddink's tenure was fit to welcome any new leader, with Frank Lampard's fleet-footed run through the Aston Villa defence presenting Nicolas Anelka with a chance which he guided delicately over Brad Friedel for his 21st goal of the season.

Ashley Young rattled the crossbar from a free-kick in the 33rd minute but despite a more confident showing from Martin O'Neill's men in the second period it was Chelsea who looked more like adding to the scoreline.

John Terry's header was cleared off the line by Stilian Petrov and both Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba went close for Chelsea whose win keeps their flickering title hopes alive.

Manchester United's proud defensive record finally slipped when an equaliser from Blackburn's Roque Santa Cruz made him the first player in 1,337 minutes of football to breach the United defence.

It wasn't enough though as a superb Ronaldo free-kick won the game for the home side, who had taken the lead with a first-half Wayne Rooney goal from close range.

Rovers will nurse a sense of injustice at referee Howard Webb's failure to award them a penalty after Rafael appeared to take down Morten Gamst Pedersen and the visitors battled hard to make life difficult for United.

Andrei Arshavin made his long-awaited debut in an Arsenal shirt but was unable to prevent the home side dropping points as the Gunners were held at home in a goalless draw with Sunderland.

Arshavin made a bright start at the Emirates when he went close to netting with a first-half effort. Robin Van Persie then almost opened the scoring before a Kolo Toure effort was saved by Marton Fulop on the stroke of half-time.

Sunderland threatened on the break and frustrated the injury-hit Gunners in the second half who will be rueing the loss of anopportunity to put more pressure on Villa in the race for a Champions League spot.

Two early goals within a minute of each other put Bolton in the driving seat against West Ham at the Reebok as the Trotters secured their second Premier League win of 2009.

Matt Taylor struck the first with a smartly-hit free-kick which evaded the Hammers wall and Robert Green. Seconds later the stunned West Ham keeper was picking the ball from his net once more as Kevin Davies doubled the home side's lead.

Scott Parker's 66th minute strike put West Ham back in the match but Bolton held as the Hammers sought in vain for an equaliser and the home side won the day 2-1.

Stoke City and Portsmouth were involved in a see-saw finish at the Britannia Stadium with a Ryan Shawcross own goal in the dying seconds making it 2-2 to leave the honours even between the sides .

Three goals in five second-half minutes saw Stoke City sense victory over fellow strugglers Pompey at the Britannia Stadium.

Niko Kranjcar's 75th minute strike looked to have set Portsmouth on their way to back-to-back wins following last week's victory over Manchester City.

Two minutes later though James Beattie had converted a controversially awarded penalty for the home side and the ex-Southampton man's 80th minute header put the home side ahead but Shawcross' late mistake, sending Hermann Hreidarsson's shot past Thomas Sorenson, levelled the contest,

A drab goal-less draw was played out at the Riverside between Middlesbrough and Wigan with neither side able to breach the tedium with a goal as Gareth Southgate watched his side's dismal league run stretched to 14 games without a win following the 0-0 draw.

Former Boro midfielder Lee Cattermole was at the centre of the game's only moment of controversy after he was involved in a challenge which led to French midfielder Didier Digard being stretchered off and taken to hospital.

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