Drogba comes off bench to salvage draw for Chelsea

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The Independent Online

Didier Drogba rescued Chelsea from embarrassment in a rare, below-par performance yesterday when he scored an 82nd-minute equaliser to earn the Premiership leaders a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham City.

Didier Drogba rescued Chelsea from embarrassment in a rare, below-par performance yesterday when he scored an 82nd-minute equaliser to earn the Premiership leaders a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham City.

As Steve Bruce's side worked hard to stifle Chelsea's creativity it began to look as if Walter Pandiani had set up an upset with his goal after 62 minutes. But Chelsea, a shadow of the side who beat Bayern Munich in their Champions' League on Wednesday, did show flashes of the form that has taken them to the verge of their first title in 50 years.

Frank Lampard finally provided the spark they needed, feeding the substitute Drogba, who beat the offside trap to equalise.

There was no such reprieve for Liverpool, who had also celebrated a European triumph during the week when they defeated Juventus. At Manchester City they had no time to fight back after Kiki Musampa, the Dutch winger, met Lee Croft's cross on the edge of the box with a stinging volley to put the home side ahead in the last minute.

Arsenal struggled to break down a determined Middlesbrough on Teesside but they secured the victory they needed to maintain their pursuit of second place with a messy goal by Robert Pires after 73 minutes.

The value of the Frenchman's goal became apparent later when Manchester United lost 2-0 at Norwich to slip three points behind in third place. The bottom club sealed victory with a fine goal by Leon McKenzie after Dean Ashton's header.

With Crystal Palace and West Bromwich playing today, the only side in action in the bottom three were Southampton. They remain six points from safety after losing 3-0 at Blackburn, with Fulham, the side above them, also losing, 3-1 at Bolton.

There was a winning start for Alain Perrin at Portsmouth, who eased their relegation worries with a 4-2 home win over Charlton.

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