Leaders Manchester United stunned at Fulham; Chelsea lose

March 22nd, 2009 - 12:50 am ICT by IANS  

Chelsea London, March 21 (DPA) The English Premier League title race was thrown wide open Saturday when leaders Manchester United suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at Fulham, ending the match with just nine men.
Danny Murphy put them ahead from the penalty spot on 18 minutes after Paul Scholes was sent off for hand-ball, and Zoltan Gera scored a second late on to dent United’s hopes of a third straight title.

United ended the match with just nine men after Wayne Rooney was also sent off in the dying minutes for throwing the ball away, receiving a second yellow card.

United are still in pole position, four points clear with a game in hand, but Liverpool can cut the gap to just one point if they beat Aston Villa Sunday.

Chelsea, who began the day level on points with Liverpool, missed the chance to close in on United when they lost 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur in a match that was delayed for half an hour because of a “suspect vehicle” parked near the ground.

United were hoping to bounce back from their 4-1 mauling by Liverpool at Old Trafford last weekend but their plans went awry inside 20 minutes.

After seeing his initially header well saved by Edwin van der Sar, Bobby Zamora headed the rebound goalwards but Scholes thrust his hands in the air to stop it and was promptly sent off.

Up stepped Danny Murphy - the former Liverpool player - and he coolly dispatched the penalty to put the home side ahead.

Fulham had several chances to go further ahead in the first half and only Van der Sar prevented them from doubling their lead.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson brought on Rooney at half-time and the visitors piled on the pressure, but they could not force the breakthrough.

And after holding out under pressure, Fulham doubled their lead in spectacular style when Gera teed the ball up for himself and volleyed in the second.

Rooney was then sent off for a second bookable offence and when the final whistle went, it meant United have lost back to back Premier League games for the first time since 2005, while Fulham

moved up to eighth.

Luka Modric scored the only goal of the game at White Hart Lane, sweeping Aaron Lennon’s pull-back into the corner to give Spurs a 1-0 win over Chelsea.

A point-blank header from John Terry was brilliantly saved by Heurelho Gomes and Tottenham hung on to move up to ninth and dent Chelsea’s slim title hopes.

In the day’s other games, Robert Koren scored the equalizer as bottom side West Brom drew 1-1 with Bolton, while Stoke City moved out of the bottom three with a 1-0 win over fellow relegation candidates Middlesbrough.

Portsmouth moved away from danger with a 2-1 win over Everton thanks to two headed goals from Peter Crouch and Blackburn drew 1-1 with West Ham.

Arsenal were looking to cement fourth place later on Saturday when they travelled to Newcastle United.

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