United top as Chelsea stutter
Manchester United returned to the top of the Premier League on Sunday as Korea Republic midfielder Park Ji-Sung sealed a 2-1 victory over bitter rivals Liverpool, while spluttering Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw at Blackburn.
Sir Alex Ferguson's team trailed to an early goal from Fernando Torres at Old Trafford, but Wayne Rooney equalised with the rebound from a controversially awarded penalty before Park's third goal of the season won it for the champions. United are now two points clear of second-placed Arsenal and four ahead of third placed Chelsea, who have played a game less than the champions.
At Ewood Park, Chelsea suffered another setback after their midweek UEFA Champions League exit against Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan. It took just six minutes for Carlo Ancelotti's side to take the lead as Didier Drogba, sent off against Inter, slotted home Nicolas Anelka's cross for his 28th goal of the season. But the Blues couldn't build on their advantage and El-Hadji Diouf equalised in the 70th minute when he climbed above Paulo Ferreira to head in Michel Salgado's cross.
"Blackburn won a lot of second balls and we lost our composure before conceding the goal," Ancelotti said. "We still came back to play but it was too late and I'm disappointed. We've lost two points, important points."
Earlier in the day, Torres took just five minutes to score his third goal in his last three meetings with United. Liverpool's lead lasted just seven minutes as United equalised through Rooney's 33rd goal of the season.
Antonio Valencia was deemed to have been fouled by Javier Mascherano in the penalty area. Jose Reina saved Rooney's spot-kick but the rebound fell perfectly for the England star to tap home into the net. United were dominant after that and Park sealed United's first win over the Reds since March 2008 with a brave diving header from Darren Fletcher's cross in the 60th minute.
"I thought the penalty kick decision was a red card but it was very tight and Liverpool are good at stopping you playing, we know that," Ferguson told Sky Sports News. "You have got to be patient and we scored a tremendous goal from Park Ji-Sung, who played another vital role for us."
At Craven Cottage, Manchester City beat Fulham 2-1 to move above Liverpool into fifth place. Fulham looked tired after their stunning UEFA Europa League victory against Juventus on Thursday and City raced into a two-goal lead before half-time.
Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz claimed his first goal since December in the seventh minute after Craig Bellamy hit a post, then Carlos Tevez jinked past Chris Smalling in the 36th minute to score his seventh goal in eight appearances. Danny Murphy got one back for Fulham with a 75th minute penalty after Gareth Barry was penalised for handball.
On Saturday, Arsenal had kept the pressure on United and Chelsea by beating London rivals West Ham 2-0 despite the first half dismissal of defender Thomas Vermaelen. After Denilson had given Arsenal the lead, Vermaelen was sent off for a professional foul on Guillermo Franco but Manuel Almunia saved Alessandro Diamanti's penalty and Cesc Fabregas sealed the points with a late spot-kick of his own.
Elsewhere, Tottenham consolidated fourth place with a 2-1 win over 10-man Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. Aston Villa were held to a 2-2 draw at neighbours Wolves, Everton defeated Bolton 2-0 and Sunderland beat Birmingham 3-1.
Portsmouth scored twice in the last two minutes to defeat fellow strugglers Hull 3-2 at Fratton Park, while Hugo Rodallega's 90th minute goal for Wigan secured a 1-0 win over Burnley.