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Drogba Is Grant's Unlikely Vindicator

With Chelsea trailing 1-0 with 20 minutes to play against Arsenal, respect for Chelsea manager Avram Grant was in short supply. The Blues were staring down their first potential defeat at Stamford Bridge in almost two years. Off came Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele for Nicolas Anelka and Juliano Belletti, as the crowd started chanting "You don't know what you're doing" at the Chelsea manager. Soon thereafter, fans started singing former coach Jose Mourinho's name.

But the Israeli's vindication came 10 minutes later, as Didier Drogba, who had had a frustrating game and could have been the one taken off for Anelka, hammered home Chelsea's equalizer, a rebound from a failed clearance, with perfect precision. Ten minutes after that, substitutes Belletti and Anelka combined to feed Drogba for the match-winner. The Independent's Sam Wallace called it "bitterly ironic" that Drogba, a staunch Mourinho loyalist, was Grant's savior -- "as the Ivorian came off the pitch at the end there was the briefest of handshakes with Grant but a hug for his assistant, Steve Clarke," he observed.

In the end, it was Arsenal's failure to deal with the powerful Drogba that proved the North London club's undoing. The Gunners played a fine opening 70 minutes, but center backs William Gallas and Kolo Toure could not ultimately contain the Ivorian. Indeed, after the match, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger lamented that his side lacked "defensive authority." Undoubtedly, the biggest winner of the London derby was Manchester United, who moved five points clear at the top thanks to a 3-0 thrashing of Liverpool.

Read the whole story at Independent »

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