CHELSEA stretched their lead to eight points at the top of the English Premiership table following a hard-fought 2-0 win over Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Tuesday.
Pompey, just as they had done against champions Arsenal, made life tough for Chelsea until Arjen Robben\'s deflected shot 11 minutes from time sent the visitors on their way.
Jose Mourinho\'s men were assured of the points when Joe Cole hit Chelsea\'s second goal at the death.
Everton, who were in third before kick-off, suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Charlton where substitute striker Duncan Ferguson was sent-off in the closing minutes.
Elsewhere West Brom remained bottom of the table following a 1-1 draw at Manchester City where they were forced to play most of the game with 10 men after Thomas Gaardsoe was sent-off.
Meanwhile Birmingham continued their recent good form with a 3-2 win away to Fulham while Tottenham\'s run of five straight wins was ended with a 1-1 draw against drop candidates Crystal Palace.
Middlesbrough bounced back from their Boxing Day defeat by Birmingham with a 2-0 win against drop candidates Norwich as Blackburn added to Bolton\'s woes with a 1-0 win at the Reebok.
Giggs strike downs Villa
Ryan Giggs capped a fine individual display by scoring the goal that took Manchester United into third in the Premier League on Tuesday with a 1-0 win against Aston Villa.
Giggs\'s strike four minutes before half-time at Villa Park eventually left United level on points with Everton but third on goal difference, plus 18 to plus six.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson\'s side were still a point behind second-placed champions Arsenal, who played Newcastle yesterday, and nine shy of leaders Chelsea who earlier Tuesday beat Portsmouth.
Victory meant United had dropped just two points from their last eight games.
By contrast this latest defeat was Villa\'s fourth on the trot in a run where they\'d taken just one point from six matches.
Wales wing Giggs, 31, who also scored in Sunday\'s 2-0 home win against Bolton, looked sharp throughout and such was his class it was hard to believe he was having trouble agreeing an Old Trafford contract extension.
Ferguson made two changes before kick-off with Paul Scholes, who scored his seventh goal in six games after coming on as a substitute against Bolton, starting following a bout of \'flu.
He joined Phil Neville in midfield with club captain Roy Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. - (supersoccer)