Chelsea misses a chance to close on Man. City

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS -

Chelsea’s week went from bad to worse on Satur­day in a loss to New­cas­tle, and Manch­ester United took a 10-point lead in the ti­tle race by beat­ing Ful­ham.

Moussa Sis­soko, one of four New­cas­tle sign­ings from France in the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow, scored twice in his home de­but to give New­cas­tle a 3-2 vic­tory over Chelsea.

As New­cas­tle moved fur­ther out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone, Chelsea missed a chance to close the gap on sec­ond-place Manch­ester City, which trails its crosstown ri­val by 10 points and leads Chelsea by six ahead of Sun­day’s match against Liver­pool.

And the pres­sure is be­ing cranked up on Rafa Ben­itez, whose Chelsea side also drew against rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Read­ing on Wed­nes­day af­ter be­ing held by third-tier club Brent­ford in the FA Cup on Sun­day.

“What I know, what I can see is the team do­ing well, work­ing hard and when we have this ad­van­tage, we have to man­age in a bet­ter way,” Ben­itez said.

Flood­light fail­ure halted United’s match at Ful­ham for 10 min­utes be­fore half­time. Af­ter the break, Wayne Rooney pro­vided the spark with a crisp fin­ish to clinch a 1-0 win.

Ar­se­nal won by the same score to go a point be­hind Tot­ten­ham and Ever­ton, who are fourth and fifth.

COL­LEGES

Of­fi­cials at Auburn Univer­sity have an­nounced the iconic oak trees at Toomer’s Cor­ner will be re­moved.

Univer­sity of­fi­cials made the an­nounce­ment Fri­day and said in a state­ment that the trees are un­likely to sur­vive de­spite ef­forts to save them af­ter they were poi­soned with a pow­er­ful her­bi­cide.

Univer­sity of­fi­cials say a new land­scap­ing plan will be un­veiled and the school will host a block party at Toomer’s Cor­ner on April 20 to give fans a fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to gather near the land­marks.

It’s un­clear when the trees will be re­moved.

Har­vey Updyke Jr. is ac­cused of poi­son­ing the trees and is sched­uled to go to trial April 8.

The school plans to con­struct alternative struc­tures for stu­dents and fans to gather around af­ter big wins and on other spe­cial oc­ca­sions. . . .

New Pur­due foot­ball Coach Dar­rell Hazell has sus­pended wide re­ceiver O.J. Ross in­def­i­nitely for a vi­o­la­tion of team rules.

The school did not say what rule or rules were vi­o­lated. In a state­ment, Pur­due said it would make no ad­di­tional com­ment.

Ross, who will be a se­nior next sea­son, fin­ished sec­ond on the team with 56 re­cep­tions and sec­ond in yards re­ceiv­ing with 454 last sea­son. He also caught two touch­down passes de­spite miss­ing two games.

He started 10 games as a sopho­more, catch­ing 33 passes for 356 yards and three touch­downs and had three car­ries for 20 yards. Ross played in eight games, mak­ing four starts, as a fresh­man, catch­ing 11 passes for 149 yards and one score.

MISC.

Sec­ond-seeded Maria Kir­ilenko of Rus­sia and fifth-seeded Sabine Lisicki of Ger­many ad­vanced to the fi­nal of the Pat­taya Open in Thai­land with straight­set vic­to­ries.

Kir­ilenko used a pow­er­ful re­turn of serve to de­feat fourth­seeded So­rana Cirstea of Ro­ma­nia, 6-0, 6-2, in only 67 min­utes and take a 3-2 lead in head-to­head en­coun­ters.

Lisicki boosted her chances of a fourth WTA ti­tle, fir­ing eight aces to beat Nina Bratchikova of Rus­sia, 7-5, 6-3. . . .

Earl Wil­liams, the 1971 Na­tional League Rookie of the Year, has died. He was 64.

Wil­liams died ear­lier this week at home of acute myeloid leukemia.

Wil­liams earned the 1971 rookie award af­ter hit­ting 33 home runs with At­lanta.

He hit 28 homers the next year, then was traded to Baltimore af­ter the 1972 sea­son in a mul­ti­player deal that sent Davey John­son — now the Na­tion­als’ man­ager — to the Braves.

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