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United in sight of title

2009-03-05 06:52

Newcastle - Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney were on target as Manchester United extended their advantage at the top of the English Premier League with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Newcastle United.

An 11th consecutive league victory put United seven points ahead of their nearest challengers Chelsea and Liverpool with a game in hand.

They were made to fight all the way by relegation-threatened Newcastle, who stunned the Premier League champions by taking an early lead thanks to an uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

But the hosts were unable to hang on, to leave them without a home win for more than two months and just one victory in 10 league games to increase their worries near the bottom of the table.

Rooney soon had United level before Berbatov's 13th goal of the season nine minutes after the interval proved decisive.

It arrived from a mistake by Ryan Taylor, whose attempt to chest the ball back to keeper Steve Harper fell short, allowing Park Ji-Sung to intervene, before slipping a square pass to the unmarked Berbatov to tap in.

As expected, Sir Alex Ferguson made wholesale changes for the return to league action, with only four players on duty from the team which beat Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Sunday to claim the League Cup, the second of five possible trophies targeted by United.

Cristiano Ronaldo saw an early goal-bound shot deflected wide by Fabricio Coloccini, but the leaders were soon on the back foot as their seven-game run without conceding an away league goal was brought to a halt after just nine minutes.

Newcastle broke swiftly downfield as Michael Carrick's corner came to nothing. Obafemi Martins combined with Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique in a 70-yard surge, before the latter's reverse pass found the Argentina international in space on the edge of the box.

The midfielder's curling effort looked like providing a routine save for van der Sar, only for the keeper to inexplicably fumble the shot, with Peter Lovenkrands needing no second invitation to sweep the loose ball into the unguarded net from six yards for the Dane's second goal in four starts since signing in January.

It was the first league goal conceded by van der Sar in more than 14 games spanning 1311 minutes, almost 22 hours' football, since Samir Nasri scored past the Dutch international in Arsenal's 2-1 victory in November.

Martins came within inches of doubling the advantage moments later as the speedy striker fired into the side-netting.

But Newcastle were left to rue their failure to make more of their territorial advantage when Rooney fired United level in spectacular style on 20 minutes.

John O'Shea's low centre from the right found Rooney with seemingly few options with his back to goal on the edge of the area.

What appeared to be an unfavourable position soon became anything but as the forward turned in an instant to lose his marker Coloccini, before firing a stunning left-foot effort past Steve Harper with the aid of a slight deflection off defender Steven Taylor.

Newcastle continued to pose much more of a threat, and Nemanja Vidic was fortunate not to deflect Ryan Taylor's centre into his own net just after the half-hour.

Van der Sar continued his uncomfortable night by flapping at Taylor's resulting corner, but as the ball bounced free, captain Rio Ferdinand was alert to block Martins' close-range effort as the danger was cleared.

After Berbatov had put them ahead, United took control of the match and it took a fine save from Harper to deny Ronaldo from extending the advantage further as Newcastle left gaps at the back in their quest for an equaliser.

AFP

Comments
  • Peter - 2009-03-05 07:49

    Sir Alec makes 7 changes,and they still beat the Geordies at St James'.Liverpool must be so depressed!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous User - 2009-03-05 08:02

    Well well well, Liverpool and Chelsea thought they were going to have the advantage, but lookie here, the champions are back on top of the world. Glory Glory Man United!!

  • the kop - 2009-03-05 08:21

    After such a display of character and determination Man U deserve to win the title . Watching Fergie on the touchline shows why he is the best manager in the world at the best team in the world .He does not like to lose and neither does his players . Once United win their next game they can afford to lose to Liverpool and Arsenal at OT and still win the league ! A truly great football team .

  • Mbuso - 2009-03-05 08:35

    Aren't Liverpool always depressed?

  • Anonymous User - 2009-03-05 08:54

    THATS TITLE NO.18 ON THE WAY!!! 7 points clear and 1 game in hand thats awesome! to all pool fans We know the game on saturday is gonna be the biggest game of your season so i hope and pray that you guys bring your A-Game cos i dont wanna hear all of your TIRED excuses when we put you guys to rest!

  • Shaheen - 2009-03-05 08:56

    United has better players than Liverpool, and that's a fact, as simple as that. People of close ability (if not even) gets replaced, whereas Liverpool chop and change players like Lucas, Kuyt, Riera, Babel, Dossena... should I go on? No hard feelings though, but Liverpool has squandered their best chance of winning the League title since '90. Glory Glory Man United.

  • Anonymous User - 2009-03-05 09:45

    Well done to ManUre. Why the references to us 'Pool & Chelski supporters again. We have already conceded it's your guy's title to lose. And it should be - from the Paul Tomkins article today, some intresting points : "The most expensive squads (excluding players out on long-term loan) are as follows : Chelsea £207m Manchester United £206m* Spurs £188m Manchester City £140m Liverpool £127m (*£226m if Carlos Tevez's deal made permanent, given that it is initially a unique two-year £10m agreement, and very different from 99.9 of transfer deals. Effectively United are winning games with a £30m player.)" AND "Rafa has been in his job about five times as long as Harry, so you obviously wouldn't dare compare their teams. And yet Ferguson has been in his job about five times as long as Rafa, and yet the Spaniard is expected to have Liverpool as champions by now." That is all. :-)

  • Lunga Biyela - 2009-03-05 14:25

    The race is over. The League can start tying red and white ribbons on the trophy.

  • Nazeem - 2009-03-05 15:31

    Anonymous user @ 9:45am all your fancy stats and mind boggling cash analysis proves a few things: 1. you have too much time on your hands and have no life and 2. will not change the fact that liverpool are still a k@k side with an even worse manager.... Man Utd forever!!!:-)

  • LUCAS - 2009-03-05 15:32

    Anonymous User , the reason United have such an expensive team is because as soon as a team hears of interest by United in one of it's players they increase their asking price . All of Fergie's acquisitions have proven themselves , unlike Rafa's pathetic excuses for footballers .

  • the kop - 2009-03-06 11:06

    the kop 3/5/2009 8:21 AM---------------> WHICH EVER MAN BENDERS FAN DID THIS..... THIS IS AN ALL NEW LOW...........

  • Anonymous User - 2009-03-06 12:35

    Why do Man United fans don't just brag about their teams achievements, and leave Liverpool out of it. The answer is simple, " Liverpool is the measuring stick that all teams gauge themselves against." Hard to swallow, but true.

  • Douw Nortier - 2009-03-07 03:12

    Oooohhh!!!! @anonymous user is 'n suurgat! Chelsea won how many trophees with a new manager in a space of time? I admire Torres but Liverpool... no way! It is like asking me to have a good word for Luke Watson... so painful...

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