Lampard Penalty Takes Blues Top (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0
Title credentials were on the line in a mouth-watering clash at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United - but it was The Blues that picked up a 1-0 victory - and top spot in The Premiership.
A Frank Lampard penalty was enough to separate the sides in a tense affair that saw Chelsea provide more moments of quality than the visitors - roared on by their highest crowd for 17 years.
Arsenal's draw against Fulham earlier in the day means that three points not only gave Chelsea a cushion over their opponents, but also put them clear of The Gunners ahead of the busy Christmas period.
The sides had both looked tentative through the early exchanges - with nervous defending almost undoing the Chelsea defence in the opening quarter of an hour.
Carlo Cudicini had already saved smartly when Diego Forlan's bobbling shot had evaded everyone, following good work from Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Both Cudicini and John Terry then nearly gifted Forlan an opener, but got away with their lapses.
Cole's inclusion for Chelsea had been at the expense of some key names - but the young England international justified his selection when he earned his side the penalty that gave them victory.
Cole's darting run was enough to get away from marker Roy Keane and, although his first touch was poor, the Chelsea man was fortunate enough to invite a challenge from the Manchester United captain just as he nicked the ball away from his feet.
Despite the protestations, referee Alan Wiley pointed to the spot confidently, and Frank Lampard despatched the spot kick with equal decisiveness, sending Tim Howard the wrong way.
Chelsea pressed on and had three good chances as Howard made an important save to deny a close range Mario Melchiot effort on the half hour mark.
Cole could have added a second when he burst onto a loose ball in the box but dinked over both goal and keeper, and Lampard saw a swerving drive drift narrowly wide of the post.
The second half started in bizarre circumstances, with two Chelsea players late arriving back at the pitch after deciding to change their boots to suit the drizzle.
Several Manchester United players must have felt they should have done the same - with van Nistelrooy and Keane the only consistent threats to an otherwise fairly comfortable Chelsea defence.
The Dutchman had a clever shot on the turn dribble wide of the post whilst Forlan and Ryan Giggs also had half-chances to convert after a fine ball from Keane, and William Gallas was relieved when Cristiano Ronaldo's fizzed cross ricocheted off him but straight into his goalkeeper's arms.
The final glorious chance fell to Jimmy Floyd
Hasselbaink, but Howard recovered from his parry to make a fine diving stop -
and for those that doubted that Chelsea can last the distance, this result will
be major food for thought.
Chelsea Cudicini, Bridge,
Gallas, Melchiot, Terry, Cole (Duff 57), Geremi, Lampard, Makelele, Crespo
(Gronkjaer 60), Mutu (Hasselbaink 78)
Subs Not Used Ambrosio, Desailly
Goals Lampard (pen 30)
Cautions Cole, Melchiot, Lampard, Mutu
Manchester United Howard,
Ferdinand, Neville G, Neville P (Kleberson 76), O'Shea, Silvestre, Fortune (Ronaldo
71), Giggs, Keane, Forlan, van Nistlerooy
Subs Not Used Carrol, Butt, Bellion
Referee: A. Wiley (Staffordshire).