LONDON - Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to score twice as Arsenal defeated Premier League top four rivals Aston Villa 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium yesterday.
Gunners captain Fabregas, a second-half replacement for Denilson, fired the home side in front with a superbly struck 65th-minute free-kick from the edge of the box that curled past the right hand of diving keeper Brad Friedel.
And with nine minutes left, Fabregas latched onto a through-ball from Theo Walcott before coolly shooting home to make it 2-0.
However, it seemed as if he may have aggravated an existing hamstring injury in the process and, after just 28 minutes on the pitch, Fabregas was taken off by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
But the Gunners had something else to cheer in stoppage time when Abou Diaby made it 3-0.
Meanwhile, Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti says though he is disappointed with their goalless draw at Birmingham on Saturday, he is happy with his side's general performance on the day.
"It is not a good result for us," admitted Ancelotti. "We are disappointed with the result but not for the performance of the team. We played well."
Ancelotti's charges created a handful of second-half chances but have now won just one of their past five league matches, and that only with a late penalty against last-place Portsmouth.
Birmingham tried to play on the counter-attack and were unlucky not to be ahead at half time against a Chelsea side featuring Daniel Sturridge in attack alongside Didier Drogba.
Birmingham striker Christian Benitez was called for a contentious offside when through on goal and then had a goal ruled out by a decision from the same linesman even though Drogba was playing everyone on by lying on the floor apparently injured.
Also on Saturday, Manchester City beat Stoke 2-0 to close in on fifth-place Tottenham, who drew 0-0 at Fulham, while Liverpool beat 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 and West Ham beat Portsmouth 2-0 to climb out of the relegation zone. Wigan drew 1-1 with Blackburn.
Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez scored first-half goals to give Roberto Mancini victory in his debut as Manchester City manager. - Sapa-AP and AFP