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City delight as Benitez, Wenger despair

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LONDON, England, December 1 – Chelsea and Arsenal were both dealt damaging defeats on Saturday, while champions Manchester City crept to the top of the Premier League table despite a 1-1 draw with Everton.

Chelsea conceded a half-time lead to go down 3-1 at West Ham United, as interim coach Rafael Benitez saw his new side’s run of league matches without a win extended to seven — their worst sequence since 1995.

Juan Mata scored the first goal of the Benitez era to put Chelsea ahead at Upton Park but a revitalised West Ham roared back to prevail through goals from Carlton Cole and substitutes Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga.

Chelsea have drawn twice and lost once since Benitez replaced Roberto Di Matteo and they could end the day nine points off the top if former leaders Manchester United prevail at Reading later on Saturday.

“At this level, you have to take your chances, and we had many clear chances to finish the game,” Benitez told Sky Sports television.

“In the second half we were not winning the first ball or the second ball and we didn’t have the control we had in the first half.”

Arsenal plummeted to 10th place, five points below the Champions League places, after Spanish forward Michu’s late brace gave Swansea City a 2-0 victory over Arsene Wenger’s misfiring side.

A cut-price £2 million ($3.2 million, 2.5 million euros) close-season signing from Rayo Vallecano, Michu struck in the 88th and 90th minutes to take his tally for the campaign to 10 league goals and silence the Emirates Stadium.

Having taken just 21 points from a possible 45, it is Arsenal’s worst start to a season since Wenger became manager in 1996.

“We were not good and Swansea deserved to win,” said the Frenchman.

“Our fans cannot be happy when we do not win games and what we produced today is not enough to keep our fans happy.”

City crawled above cross-city rivals United on goal difference at the top of the table after drawing 1-1 at home to David Moyes’ Everton.

Marouane Fellaini put the visitors in front in the 33rd minute, following in after Joe Hart saved his initial header, but the Belgian’s foul on Edin Dzeko allowed Carlos Tevez to level from the spot before half-time.

“It was a hard game,” City manager Roberto Mancini told the BBC.

“In the first half we went down and it was difficult, like every game against Everton.

“We tried to break them down but this week we have played three games in six days so we are tired. We also have players injured.”

A 75th-minute goal by Dean Whitehead gave Stoke City a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion, and Tottenham Hotspur capitalised on the Baggies’ setback to move into fourth place with a 3-0 win at Fulham.

Brazilian holding midfielder Sandro set Spurs on their way with a wickedly swerving 30-yard effort in the 55th minute, before a quick-fire Jermain Defoe brace took the game away from Martin Jol’s side.

Spurs lost both Michael Dawson and the in-form Gareth Bale to injury, but coach Andre Villas-Boas said: “They are not very serious (injuries) and hopefully we will have them both back soon.”

Harry Redknapp’s home debut as Queens Park Rangers manager ended in stalemate after the top flight’s bottom club were held 1-1 by Aston Villa at Loftus Road.

Brett Holman put Villa ahead in the eighth minute but Jamie Mackie’s fine 18th-minute header levelled the scores for QPR, who had Stephane Mbia taken to hospital following a collision with Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Liverpool climbed one place to 11th after Daniel Agger’s 43rd-minute header was enough to secure a 1-0 success at home to Southampton and earn Brendan Rodgers’ side only their third home win of the campaign.

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