Chelsea title put on hold

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All smiles, handshakes and exchanges of shirts at the end, which, between two rivals of such supposed bitterness, pretty much said it all, writes Jonathan Wilson at Stamford Bridge. A 0-0 draw suited both Arsenal and Chelsea, and while nobody could suggest that was pre-arranged, there certainly was not the bite of recent encounters.

For José Mourinho's side it means a title party deferred, not cancelled. A win on Wednesday night would have allowed them to confirm the Premiership at home to Fulham on Saturday, 50 years to the day since they sealed their only other championship; now they will have to wait until at least Monday, and then only if a win for them is coupled with an Arsenal failure at home to Tottenham. Bolton the following Saturday looks a more likely venue for the celebrations.

This was pleasant enough, and there were spells of superb football. Perhaps if Robert Pires's third-minute volley had flown in rather than smacking the bar, a true match would have broken out. As it was, for all the magnificent passing of the two teams, there was a sense that for both the league has become a formality to be seen out.

Arsenal, at least, can take satisfaction from the fact that the draw, coupled with Manchester United's 1-0 defeat at Everton, gives them a four-point advantage over United, which with four games to go and Chelsea still to travel to Old Trafford, should be enough to secure second place.

Indeed, on Wednesday night there was little to choose between the top two teams, certainly not the 11 points the table shows, and Arsenal must regret their implosion after their 49-game unbeaten run ended at Old Trafford in November. It is that, and Arsène Wenger's stubbornness in persisting with Pascal Cygan, that has cost them. Since Philippe Senderos - strong, calm and assured once again last night, replaced him 10 games ago, Arsenal are unbeaten and have conceded only twice.

That bodes well for next season, but for this year it is too late. As Wenger said, the title is Chelsea's "unless somebody plants a bomb here".

* At the foot of the Premiership, West Bromwich Albion moved out of the bottom three as their improved form continued with a 1-1 draw at Tottenham. Zoltan Guera gave the visitors a first-half lead only for Robbie Keane to level after 52 minutes.

Dean Ashton struck a late winner in a dramatic finish at Carrow Road as Norwich beat Newcastle 2-1 to maintain their hopes of avoiding relegation. Patrick Kluivert looked to have denied the hosts when his last-minute goal cancelled out a stunning 35-yard strike from Youssef Safri midway through the second half. But Norwich threw everything forward and Ashton headed his third goal in four games. The win took Norwich to the same number of points as Crystal Palace, who lost 1-0 at Blackburn, thanks to a Morten Gamst Pedersen goal.

Manchester United suffered the rare experience of having two players sent off in their 1-0 defeat at Everton. Gary Neville was dismissed for kicking the ball into the crowd after an exchange with a fan and Paul Scholes for two yellow cards. Duncan Ferguson headed the 55th-minute winner to maintain a grip on the fourth Champions League slot.

* Football clubs could be deducted points or even expelled from European competitions under a tough policy starting next season, Uefa announced on Wednesday. European football's governing body plans a crackdown in an effort to protect officials and players and to punish clubs that fail to control their supporters.

Uefa's move follows two recent controversies. First, Chelsea manager José Mourinho's two-match touchline ban following the Barcelona debacle that led to the retirement of referee Anders Frisk, and then the case of Inter Milan, who were ordered to play four European home games behind closed doors after a flare thrown by Inter fans struck AC Milan goalkeeper Dida during last week's Champions League semi-final.

Inter were also fined £132,000 but Lars-Christer Olsson, Uefa chief executive, admitted financial sanctions against wealthy clubs might no longer be enough. "They were a strong instrument before but one of our tasks for June is to introduce other consequences," he said. "These, in future, could include withdrawal of points. We could also say that matches could not be played for a certain period of time."

With reference to the Mourinho affair, Olsson said the sanctions announced in June would cover deliberately provocative statements made by coaches as well as foul play on the pitch and in the stands.

* Blackburn defender Andy Todd has denied an FA charge of using violent conduct during Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal. Todd clashed with Robin van Persie after the striker had scored the third goal in a 3-0 win. The case will now be heard by an FA disciplinary commission today.

* Michael Yardy continued his remarkable start to the cricket season by recording another century for Sussex, and overshadowed Kevin Pietersen's championship debut for Hampshire at Hove.

Yardy hit a brilliant 104 to help Sussex recover from a perilous 10 for 2 to reach 252 all out on the opening day after they had won the toss and decided to bat. Hampshire were 67 for 1 in reply at the close. Yardy's innings sidetracked spectators who had come to watch the first championship appearance of Pietersen, the most talked-about cricketer in the country following his displays for England in the one-day series in South Africa. Yardy, 24, also scored centuries in the final match of last season against Surrey and in the first match of this summer against the same opponents.

* In snooker, Mark Williams became only the fifth player to make a maximum 147 break at the Embassy World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. The world number two from Cardiff finished off a 10-1 first-round win over Rob Milkins with his perfect break to claim a £147,000 cash bonus. He will also likely add to that the highest-break prize of £14,000. The 2000 and 2003 champion follows the maximum-break feats at the Crucible of Cliff Thorburn, Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

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