English Premiership

Berbatov scorches Birmingham

2011-01-22 19:19
Dimitar Berbatov (File)

Manchester - Dimitar Berbatov claimed his 18th goal and third hat-trick of the season as Manchester United retained first place in the Premiership with a 5-0 battering of Birmingham at Old Trafford.

Berbatov started the rout inside two minutes after Nani won a corner inside the first 60 seconds and Ryan Giggs curled in a superb cross from the right-hand flag.

John O'Shea steered a strong header towards the far corner where the Bulgarian forward headed into the back of the net from a position practically on the goal-line.

The Bulgarian, who would go on and add a hat-trick to his three goals against Liverpool and five against Blackburn earlier in the season, claimed a second goal just after the half-hour when Birmingham defender Roger Johnson carelessly conceded possession just inside his own half.

Anderson collected the errant pass, feeding Wayne Rooney who, in turn, sent Berbatov powering into the penalty area, the forward wrong-footing Johnson, who had made a committed recovering run, before driving the ball past former United goalkeeper Ben Foster.

Those goals had decided the outcome of the game but it was United's third, claimed by Giggs in first-half injury-time, that showcased their superiority and the wonderful attacking football they were putting together.

Berbatov fell, in an attempt to dispossess David Murphy, but still managed to win the ball from his position on the ground, finding Rooney who instantly returned the pass with an audacious back-heel.

Berbatov completed the one-two with a ball that allowed Rooney to race to the right-hand by-line and send over a perfectly-weighted far-post centre which Giggs, arriving at pace, placed first-time into the back of the net.

The first-half performance could hardly have been more emphatic and the risk of United seeing their 26-match unbeaten streak come to an end always looked minimal from the opening goal.

The second half opened with more of the same; the unmarked Rooney somehow missing an open goal as he attempted to connect with Nani's cross although it did not take long for Berbatov to show his team mate how to find the net, completing an impressive hat-trick in the process.

Rooney's pass allowed Giggs to deliver a pinpoint cross from the left which Berbatov met with an accomplished finish into the roof of the Birmingham goal from six yards.

The misery of the visiting players was summed up in the 58th minute when Keith Fahey lost his footing at the far post as he appeared poised to convert Matt Derbyshire's cross-shot.

The relentless United pressure seemed likely to yield more goals and, after failing with a number of efforts from distance, Nani collected O'Shea's 75th minute pass and finished clinically.

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