Man United extend lead, Arsenal back in contention

March 30th, 2008 - 12:36 pm ICT by admin  

(Premier League Roundup)
London, March 30 (DPA) Champions Manchester United extended their lead at the top of the English Premier League football to six points as they crushed Aston Villa 4-0 at Old Trafford. Ten-man Arsenal kept alive their title hopes with a stunning second-half comeback as they recovered from 0-2 down to win 3-2 at Bolton Wanderers Saturday.

United now have 76 points, with Arsenal on 70 and Chelsea, who play Middlesbrough Sunday, on 68.

Derby County were officially relegated after their 2-2 draw with Fulham, thanks to Birmingham City’s 3-1 win over Manchester City.

Villa had not won at Old Trafford in 25 years and United turned on the style to run out comfortable winners.

In truth, the match was over at half time after an audacious flick from Ronaldo - his 35th goal of the season - and a header from Carlos Tevez put them 2-0 up.

Shaun Maloney missed a golden chance to pull one back at the start of the second half but Wayne Rooney ended the visitors’ slim hopes when he rounded Scott Carson to score the third. And it was Rooney again who rounded off the win with another cool finish after a slick passing move.

After the match, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson refused to accept that his team are now almost certain to go on to win the league. “We don’t feel that close yet while there are still six games left,” said Ferguson.

“We wish there was only one. But nonetheless, I think there is great confidence in the way the team is playing and that’s always good at this time of year,” added the United boss.

Bolton went into the game against the Gunners having beaten Arsenal in each of the past three seasons at the Reebok and two Taylor goals had the home fans dreaming of making it four in a row.

First Taylor headed home a great cross from Gretar Steinsson on 14 minutes - his first goal for the club - and then, after Abu Diaby was sent off for a poor challenge, he doubled their lead two minutes before the break.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger gambled everything just before the hour mark, taking off Philippe Senderos and Niklas Bendtner and bringing on Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott.

And the changes inspired Arsenal as Gallas pulled one back (62 minutes) and then Van Persie levelled from the penalty spot after a foul on Alexander Hleb.

Fabregas then bundled in the winner into injury time after Hleb’s deflected strike, to send the Arsenal players, fans and even their manager wild.

“I can’t remember a better comeback than that - to be 0-2 down, with 10 men and win 3-2 with just half an hour to go is a great credit to the team. I am very proud of our performance because we got a big blow last week (losing to Chelsea) but responded well,” a delighted Wenger said.

“The first half we didn’t play badly but everything went against us. Not only was their first shot on target a goal, but we had a player sent off and just before we go to half-time they score a second one which was a big blow.”

He added: “The last 30 minutes we had chance after chance and in the end we were a bit lucky on the third goal but we did absolutely everything to win the game and we got a very important victory for us.”

Jermain Defoe kept up his amazing record of scoring in every home game since his move to Portsmouth with two goals as they beat Wigan Athletic 2-0.

Ryan Taylor missed a second-half penalty and Wigan are now five points above the bottom three, on 31 points.

Sunderland moved up to 13th on 33 points after a last-gasp 2-1 win over West Ham United, while Reading are one point behind after they survived 20 minutes to draw 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers.

Derby manager Paul Jewell had no excuses for the performance of his side.

“I’ve been in charge for 20-odd games and we haven’t got enough points. I think there were mitigating circumstances - but I am not hiding behind anyone else and I will take the criticism,” he admitted

“Whatever happens this season, we can’t just write it off. We have all made mistakes and we have to learn from them and come back better from it.”

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