Ronaldo puts United on top as Arsenal were held

March 16th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by admin  

London, March 16 (DPA) Manchester United moved to the top of the English Premier League (EPL) Saturday after they won 1-0 at Derby County and Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough. Cristiano Ronaldo’s 31st goal of the season gave United victory at Pride Park, while Arsenal needed a late equaliser from Kolo Toure to grab a point at Middlesbrough.

United and Arsenal both have 67 points, three points clear of Chelsea - who beat Sunderland 1-0 Saturday, but United are top on goal difference and, like Chelsea, they still have a game in hand.

Derby caused United far more problems than the champions expected and Ben Foster, making his debut in goal for the visitors, had to pull off a number of good saves.

Liam Miller went close to scoring for Derby but failed. United’s Portugal striker Ronaldo struck a volley home on the 76th minute which eventually proved to be the winner.

“To tell the truth we didn’t expect they could be so strong,” United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz said. “It was very difficult after we missed so many chances at the beginning. But we kept fighting in the second half and got the result we expected.”

Arsenal have drawn their past four matches in the league after they were frustrated by Middlesbrough.

The home side dominated the match in terms of possession but was undone by some sloppy defending. A neat finish from striker Jeremie Aliaidiere off Tuncay’s cross put Middlesbrough ahead on the 25th minute.

Earlier in the match, Emmanuel Adebayor had a goal ruled out.

Arsenal poured forward in search of the equaliser and Fabregas had a shot well saved by Mark Schwarzer on the 65th minute and then saw his header shave the post five minutes later.

But just as it looked like their luck was out, Toure rose to head home a Fabregas corner. Middlesbrough substitute Mido was then sent off for a high boot in Gael Clichy’s face but both the teams failed to earn the winner and shared the points.

“Hopefully we will not regret that (the dropped points),” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

“It doesn’t go for us at the moment but we have to go through a patch like that and show our strengths. The result is disappointing and I don’t think we got the result we deserved,” he said.

At the Stadium of Light, John Terry’s goal after 10 minutes kept alive Chelsea’s title hopes though Sunderland had several chances to equalise with Kenwyne Jones squandering the best of them.

“It was very difficult,” admitted Chelsea manager Avram Grant. “They fought for their lives and fought for every ball.”

At Anfield, fourth-placed Liverpool beat Reading 2-1. Marek Matejovsky fired Reading into a surprise lead after five minutes, but Javier Mascherano equalised with his first goal for the club.

Fernando Torres then headed the winner early in the second half to become the first Liverpool player to score 20 league goals in a season since Robbie Fowler in 1995-96.

“We have been encouraging him (Mascherano) to shoot more, and he has started doing that,” Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said.

“And of course I was pleased with Fernando again. He did not have much space, but scored another crucial goal.”

Reading manager Steve Coppell, whose side are just three points above the relegation zone, was angry with referee Andre Mariner after he failed to award the visitors a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Steven Gerrard on the arm.

“Having seen a (similar) penalty given earlier in the week for Aston Villa, this one was stitched on,” Coppell said.

“The ball was heading for the goal from (Dave) Kitson and it hit Gerrard on the arms.”

Portsmouth moved above Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa into sixth after beating team 2-0 through goals from Jermain Defoe and an own goal from Nigel Reo-Coker.

West Ham United ended a run of three 4-0 defeats with a 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers in the day’s other match, with 18-year-old Freddie Sears heading the winner.

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