United step on title accelerator


United step on title acceleratorManchester United’s drive to reclaim the Premiership title accelerated on Saturday as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side pulled nine points clear of Chelsea at the top of the Premiership.
Chelsea have played two games less than their rivals but United’s 3-1 win over local rivals Manchester City added to the pressure on the champions to take maximum points from their meeting with Arsenal on Sunday. United, now unbeaten in 12 league matches, had been in control of the derby after first-half goals from Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha. But they looked weary and vulnerable after Hatem Trabelsi pulled one back for City before Cristiano Ronaldo finally made the points safe with six minutes left. “We can relax now and watch the game tomorrow and we’ll be supporting the Gunners, which doesn’t happen often,” Ferguson said afterwards. “I look forward to watching it and hopefully we will be in an even better position by Monday morning.” Steven Gerrard had a second-half penalty saved but managed to score from the rebound to send Liverpool on their way to a 4-0 win over Fulham at Anfield that was watched by representatives of Dubai International Capital, the would-be new owners of the club.
Jamie Carragher, who had last scored in 1999, got the second before late strikes from Luis Garcia and Chilean Mark Gonzalez completed an ultimately comfortable win.
Matthew Taylor scored from inside the centre circle as Portsmouth returned to third place with a 2-0 win over Everton. Nigerian forward Nwankwo Kanu added a superb volleyed second mid-way through the first half as Harry Redknapp’s side chalked up their sixth win out of nine matches at their Fratton Park fortress.
Bolton returned to winning ways by beating West Ham 4-0 on the day that midfielder Gary Speed became the first player to make 500 appearances in the Premiership.
A brace from Kevin Davies and fine finishes from El Hadji Diouf and Nicolas Anelka left West Ham mired in deep trouble. A double from Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins helped Newcastle pull further away from the drop zone with a 3-1 win over ten-man Blackburn.
Martins and Steven Taylor had put Newcastle two goals up by the time Blackburn’s Swiss defender Stephane Henchoz was given a straight red card for fouling Martins when he had a clear run at goal.
Morten Gamst Pedersen pulled one back for Rovers just after the break but Martins added his second in the final minute.
Aiyegbeni Yakubu’s close-range finish salvaged a point for Middlesbrough at home to Wigan, who had taken the lead through Henri Camara’s first-half penalty and were frustrated by a superb display from Boro goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Charlton’s hopes of going on a relegation-beating run after defeating Blackburn in midweek were crushed by Tottenham, who thrashed their London rivals 5-1 at White Hart Lane with the help of two goals from their Bulgarian forward Dimitar Berbatov.
Jermain Defoe, Teemu Tainio and Steed Malbranque also got on the scoresheet and Spurs even provided Charlton’s only strike in the form of an own goal by Michael Dawson. Watford remained at the bottom of the table, five points adrift of the last survival spot, after a goalless draw with Reading, the only one of the Premiership newcomers not to be embroiled in the relegation battle.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2006