Soccer: Chelsea topple Manchester United

Frank Lampard completed Chelsea's second-half fightback against Manchester United from the penalty spot today, securing a 2-1 victory that tightened the Premier League title race.

Lampard found the net in the 80th minute after Yuri Zhirkov was tripped by defender Chris Smalling. That ensured Chelsea would climb a place to fourth in the standings, 12 points behind leader United but with a match in hand.

Securing one of the four Champions League spots is Chelsea's main target, with a second successive title unlikely despite inflicting only United's second league loss of the season.

"We're still a lot of points behind, but all we could do was win the game," Lampard said. "United are deservedly top of the league, but we've still got some fight in us and we showed that tonight."

United losing had seemed unlikely at halftime, with the visitors in control of a high-intensity encounter.

David Luiz started the defending champions' comeback in the 54th, volleying in his first goal for Chelsea to cancel out Wayne Rooney's first-half opener.

United captain Nemanja Vidic was sent off in stoppage time after receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Ramires, ruling the center back out of Sunday's match against Liverpool.

A third successive league loss to Chelsea leaves United four points in front of second-place Arsenal having played an extra game.

United manager Alex Ferguson selected an unchanged side for the first time in 165 matches. But he was fortunate to have Rooney available after the England striker escaped punishment for elbowing an opponent in an off-the-ball incident in Saturday's match at Wigan.

There was an early moment of frustration for Rooney at Stamford Bridge, heading a well-placed cross from Nani wide while facing away from goal.

But given the ball by Nani and with the freedom to twist and turn 25 meters (yards) from goal on the half-hour, Rooney seized his chance, striking a low shot past the diving Petr Cech.

It is the first time Rooney has scored in three straight league matches since a spell spanning February and March last year.

While Rooney has overcome his recent slump, Fernando Torres still awaits his first goal since moving from Liverpool in January for 50 million pounds (then $81 million).

Playing for Liverpool against United, the Spain striker had scored three times in his last four games but he never troubled goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar on Tuesday.

"I thought the front three were great, Fernando Torres' movement was top class," Lampard said.

But Torres was upstaged by Luiz, the 20 million pound defender who also joined on transfer deadline-day in January. From Branislav Ivanovic's headed flick-on, Luiz fired the bouncing ball into the bottom corner of the net.

Ivanovic could have scored just before halftime, but Van der Sar knocked the ball away in a goalmouth scramble after initially fumbling Lampard's free kick.

- AP

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