Status quo intact as 10-man City match United
LONDON (AFP) –
Manchester United preserved their seven-point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday, defeating West Bromwich Albion 2-0 as the champions scraped a 4-3 win at Norwich City.
United manager Alex Ferguson was the centre of pre-match attention at Old Trafford for an outspoken attack on Newcastle United counterpart Alan Pardew, but his side got down to business quickly and went ahead in the ninth minute.
The scorer wore a blue and white shirt, however, with West Brom defender Gareth McAuley inadvertently shinning the ball into his own goal after Ashley Young drove a low cross across the face of goal.
Former United goalkeeper Ben Foster tipped a Young shot onto the crossbar, but United were not able to breathe easily until substitute Robin van Persie curled a glorious shot into the top-left corner in the last minute.
United have amassed 50 goals in their 20 league games to date, and Ferguson told the BBC: “We’re in a good position.
“We’re halfway there. We’ve a game on Tuesday away from home at Wigan and we’ve got a few players to freshen it up. We’ll look forward to the next game and try and win it.”
City lost Samir Nasri to a first-half red card at Norwich but edged an open-ended encounter thanks in no small part to Edin Dzeko, who scored twice and might have had a hat-trick.
The Bosnian, who has had to become accustomed to a role on the substitutes’ bench this season, struck twice inside the opening four minutes to put City in control at Carrow Road.
But Norwich hit back through a deflected Anthony Pilkington free-kick and the visitors were then dealt a blow when Nasri was sent off for aiming a head-butt at Sebastien Bassong.
Sergio Aguero’s deft, lobbed finish restored City’s two-goal cushion in the 50th minute and although Russell Martin headed in for Norwich, Dzeko made it 4-2 when his shot hit the post and bounced in off Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn.
Martin scored again with 15 minutes to go, prodding in from close range after City failed to clear a corner, but Roberto Mancini’s men were able to hang on.
“I don’t know why (Nasri was sent off) as the linesman was there and I don’t know what he saw,” said City manager Mancini, whose side lost 1-0 at Sunderland on Wednesday.
“We saw the video — both players touch heads. With 10 men it was difficult. The guys played very well.”
Aston Villa’s recent miseries continued as they sank 3-0 at home to Wigan Athletic.
Villa would have slipped into the relegation zone had third-bottom Southampton not been denied victory in a 3-3 draw at Stoke City by a sensational 25-yard strike from Cameron Jerome.
Southampton had led 3-1, and played against 10 men following the 71st-minute dismissal of Steven N’Zonzi, but second-bottom Reading did a better job of defending a lead in a 1-0 home win over West Ham United.
Fulham’s dismal form continued, meanwhile, as they lost 2-1 at home to Swansea City.
In the lunch-time game, Tottenham overturned a half-time deficit to win 2-1 at Sunderland, provisionally moving them into third place.
Spurs bossed the first half at a rain-sodden Stadium of Light, hitting the bar through Emmanuel Adebayor, but fell behind in the 40th minute when John O’Shea scored after Hugo Lloris had saved superbly from Steven Fletcher.
However, a Carlos Cuellar own goal saw the visitors draw level three minutes into the second period, before man-of-the-match Aaron Lennon completed the comeback with a composed finish in the 51st minute.
Andre Villas-Boas’ side have taken 19 points from a possible 24 and are now a point above third-place Chelsea, who have two games in hand and visit Everton on Sunday.
Arsenal, who began the day in seventh place, host Newcastle United in the evening game.