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United claim title as Chelsea held

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LONDON, England -- Manchester United were crowned English Premier League champions on Sunday as nearest challengers Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Chelsea went into the match needing a victory to keep alive their slim hopes of winning a third successive title, but despite a brave late rally came up short.

It is United's first title since 2003 and their ninth since the inception of the Premiership.

"It's a fantastic day for the club," said United manager Alex Ferguson who admitted to watching the last 15 minutes of the Arsenal-Chelsea match on television.

"Over the last two years, Chelsea have dominated the Premier League, and yes, we had a big job to do to catch up with them. The key was having a good start to the season and trying to stay with them. And I think we did that very well."

United can complete the double when they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final later this month at the new Wembley Stadium.

The two sides also meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday in what had been billed as a title decider but is now academic with United seven points clear with just two games remaining.

Arsenal went ahead just before halftime as Gilberto Silva converted from the spot after Khalid Boulahrouz had pulled back Julio Baptista to concede the penalty.

Chelsea protests

Boulahrouz was sent off by referee Alan Wiley, prompting fierce Chelsea protests and leaving Arsenal with a man advantage for the entire second half.

The home side wasted a series of chances to make the game safe with Emmanuel Adebayor and Williams Gallas the main offenders and were nearly made to pay for their profligacy as Shaun Wright-Phillips crossed for Michael Essien to head a 70th minute equalizer.

It sparked Chelsea's best spell of the match and Jens Lehmann had to save smartly Frank Lampard and late on Salomon Kalou. Joe Cole also had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was magnanimous in defeat, but also praised the way his side had gone done fighting.

"Congratulations to Sir Alex, his players and their fans but I have to say I'm prouder today of my team than when we became champions," he said.

"I'm very very proud of my players. When a team has a lot of success and loses it's usually down to lack of motivation, but my team were the opposite - they were brilliant, fighting against everything, and the game today was one to remember.

"And the season's not over, we've got a (FA Cup against Manchester United) final to play."


The pivotal moment of the match as Boulahrouz is shown the red card by Alan Wiley.



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