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Lesser lights have their day

LONDON: Chelsea, Newcastle United and Liverpool were all humbled on a day of surprises Saturday when the lesser lights enjoyed some unpredictable success in the Premier League.

Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw at Norwich City, Newcastle crashed 5-2 at Fulham and Liverpool, who had beaten Bolton in their last 10 league meetings over the last five years, lost 3-1 at the Reebok Stadium as Bolton climbed out of the bottom three for the first time since mid-September.  There was also a notable win for Queens Park Rangers, who rose above the relegation zone after beating bottom-placed Wigan Athletic 3-1 to record their first league win in 10 games and their first three points under new coach Mark Hughes.

With four of the top five not playing until Sunday when leaders Manchester City play third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, and second-placed Manchester United meet fifth-placed Arsenal, Chelsea had a chance to close the gap to Spurs but missed out at Norwich. They remain fourth, five points behind Harry Redknapp’s men.

Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas said his team did not do well enough at Norwich despite dominating much of the game but were thwarted by a fine goalkeeping display from Norwich’s John Ruddy.

Spain striker Fernando Torres, their 50.0 million pounds signing from Liverpool a year ago, failed to find the net for the 17th successive match for club and country.

Chelsea also lost England midfielder Frank Lampard with a suspected torn calf muscle in the first half.

Villas-Boas, who delayed giving a debut to Gary Cahill, their new signing from Bolton, said that Chelsea should have done better and a point was not enough.

“It was a frustrating day because we were dominant, particularly in the second half, but just couldn’t find the net,” he told Sky Sports.

“I thought John Ruddy was magnificent for them and for the co-ordination of his defense, but for our progress in the league a point is not enough.”

Regarding another goalless Torres appearance, he added: “He had good chances and to have good chances you have to position yourself well, and with a bit more luck he will find the back of the net.

In some respects Chelsea’s west London neighbours Fulham did them a favor by crushing Newcastle who stayed back in sixth place on 36 points, five behind Chelsea.

Danny Guthrie put Newcastle ahead just before halftime with a superb strike, before Fulham crashed in four quick goals with Clint Dempsey scoring twice before adding a third later for his second hat-trick in three games. Danny Murphy and Bobby Zamora also converted penalties for Fulham who climbed to 12th.

Dempsey told the BBC: “We never found our rhythm in the first half but we began to get into their penalty area in the second half. Danny Murphy scored the first goal and then we kept going and going. Luckily the ball kept going in. We never took our foot off the gas and we took our chances.”

Liverpool also had a day to forget at Bolton, who scored three against them in a league match for the first time since 1950 and won at home in the league for only the second time in 11 league matches this season.

Bolton, in the bottom three for four months, ended the day in 17th place after goals from Mark Davies, Nigel Reo Coker and a rare second half strike from Gretar Steinsson. Craig Bellamy had pulled one back for Liverpool when they were 2-0 down following a nod-on from his much criticised goal-shy partner Andy Carroll.

The loss left Liverpool adrift in seventh place, six points behind a Champions League spot.

“We are out of the bottom three and we have to move on from that. I thought we deserved it today,” Bolton manager Owen Coyle told ESPN.

It was also a good day for Ireland skipper Robbie Keane, on loan at Aston Villa from Los Angeles Galaxy, who scored twice on his full debut to give Villa a 3-2 win at 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers where he started his career 15 years ago.

Tim Cahill scored for Everton for the first time in 34 matches after a blatant handball by team mate Marouane Fellaini was missed by the referee as Everton drew 1-1 with Blackburn Rovers, who equalised through David Goodwillie.

That briefly lifted Blackburn out of the bottom three but they ended the day back in it with just Wolves and Wigan beneath them.

Elsewhere, West Bromwich Albion won 2-1 at Stoke City with a stoppage time winner from a free kick by Graham Dorrans after Jon Walters missed a penalty for the home side, and Sunderland continued their revival under new boss Martin O’Neill with a 2-0 win over Swansea City.

The Premier League action switches to the top of the table Sunday when Manchester City face Spurs at 1:30 p.m. British time and Arsenal host Manchester United at 4:00 p.m. British time.