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Dec 28, 2009

Chelsea bounce back as Hart saves Brum again

Two quick-fire second-half goals from Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Premier League as they came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1.

• Premier League Gallery

Zoltan Gera acrobatically opened the scoring for the Cottagers after just four minutes, and Roy Hodgson's side looked good value for their lead, defending resolutely and nearly grabbing a second just after half-time. But Petr Cech saved well from Bobby Zamora, and Chelsea continued to press, eventually netting the equaliser in the 73rd minute.

Didier Drogba, allowed to stay for an extra game by the Ivory Coast ahead of the African Nations Cup, proved his worth by heading in the equaliser, before young Fulham defender Chris Smalling - making his full Premier league debut in place of the rested Brede Hangeland - turned the ball into his own net two minutes later, after Mark Schwarzer had parried Daniel Sturridge's effort.

Roberto Mancini celebrated a second successive victory since taking the reins at Manchester City as his side cruised past Wolves 3-0 to move the Eastlands club level on points with fourth-placed Aston Villa.

Mick McCarthy's side battled hard but they were dealt a cruel blow when Carlos Tevez's shot deflected off Christophe Berra past a helpless Marcus Hahnemann. Wolves pushed hard for an equaliser but when Javier Garrido - who had previously played just one minute of Premier league football this season - curled home a fantastic left-foot free-kick in the second-half, the wind was knocked out of their sails.

City dominated possession, with Tevez and Craig Bellamy - preferred in the starting line-up to Robinho - were dangerous throughout. Robinho was eventually introduced in the last five minutes and his first contribution was to set-up Tevez to slide home his third of the game and eighth in the past seven games.

Darren Bent netted his 12th and 13th goals of the season for Sunderland, but Steve Bruce's side were twice pegged back as Blackburn Rovers battled to a 2-2 draw.

Bent opened the scoring after 52 minutes but 60 seconds later Morten Gamst Pedersen equalised for Blackburn. On a day when England rival Jermain Defoe netted, Bent bagged his brace with a cool finish but Sam Allardyce's side showed their resilience as former Black Cat El-Hadji Diouf headed in the second equaliser from Pascal Chimbonda's cross.

Sunderland had lost their previous five away games before the visit to Ewood so Bruce would have at least been happy to stop the rot, despite seeing his side twice throw away the lead.

Luka Modric made a winning return to the Tottenham starting line-up, scoring the opener in a 2-0 victory over West Ham. The Croatian hadn't started a game since August after fracturing his fibula but he made an impressive return, turning home Aaron Lennon's 11th minute cross.

Former Hammers striker Defoe added the second nine minutes from time after his initial effort was saved by Robert Green, to send Spurs up to fourth in the table, just three points behind second-placed Manchester United.

West Ham failed to consolidate after their Boxing Day victory over Portsmouth and now sit one point above the relegation zone, though Bolton Wanderers - a place behind them - have three games in hand on Gianfranco Zola's side.

Birmingham secured their longest ever unbeaten run in the top flight - since their first appearance 102 years ago - after narrowly beating Stoke City 1-0 courtesy of a second-half strike by Cameron Jerome.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was again the Birmingham hero as he made a string of good saves, notably a double stop from James Beattie and Matthew Etherington, to help Alex McLeish's side to their 11th consecutive league game without defeat and propel them above Liverpool into seventh place.

Goals from substitute James Vaughan and Steven Pienaar handed Everton a 2-0 win against ten-man Burnley, after the Clarets had resolutely kept the game all square for 83 minutes.

Everton dominated throughout but struggled to break through Burnley's defence, even after defender Stephen Jordan was stupidly sent-off for a needless shirt pull on Pienaar.

But Vaughan, who five-and-a-half years ago became the Premier League's youngest ever goalscorer at 16, was introduced by David Moyes with eight minutes to go and made an immediate impact - slotting home at the near post less than a minute later before Pienaar doubled the lead with his first league goal of the season.

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