United close gap as Chelsea crash
Manchester United piled the pressure on Chelsea with a 2-0 win over nine-man Wigan tonight, while the Premier League leaders crashed to a 1-0 defeat at Birmingham. Sir Alex Ferguson's second-placed side are now level on points with Chelsea and only goal difference is keeping United behind the champions, who suffered their third defeat in four matches.
Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea, without injured England stars John Terry and Frank Lampard, fell behind in the 17th minute when Lee Bowyer produced a fine finish from Cameron Jerome's header to notch his first goal in nearly a year. The Blues laid seige to Birmingham's goal after that but couldn't find a way past England goalkeeper Ben Foster as their poor run continued.
At Old Trafford, United took the lead on the stroke of half-time when French left-back Patrice Evra headed in Park Ji-Sung's cross for his first Premier League goal in four years. Wigan self-destructed after half-time as Antolin Alcaraz and Hugo Rodallega were sent off in quick succession for needless challenges. Alcaraz got his marching orders for a second yellow card after a foul on Darren Fletcher, then Rodallega saw red after a two-footed lunge on Rafael da Silva. Mexico striker Javier Hernandez ensured United pushed home their numerical advantage when he headed home Rafael's cross in the 77th minute, while Wayne Rooney came on to make his long-awaited return from an ankle injury after his contract row.
"Wayne got a great reception and that has taken a lot of pressure off the boy," Ferguson said. "He will play a full 90 against Rangers on Wednesday and that will help his fitness."
At the Emirates Stadium, Harry Redknapp's Tottenham trailed to goals from Arsenal's Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh at half-time. But Gareth Bale reduced the deficit for the visitors, who equalised through Rafael van der Vaart's penalty before Younes Kaboul headed the winner with five minutes left to give Spurs their first victory at Arsenal since May 1993.
"It's a fantastic achievement. To come back showed great character," Redknapp said. "We were either going to get beat 5-0, or have a go. That's what we did because that's my nature. I've said to my players that we can beat anybody."
Liverpool demolished bottom of the table West Ham before half-time in a 3-0 victory at Anfield. Former Hammers star Glen Johnson scored against his old club in the 18th minute and Dirk Kuyt added a second for Roy Hodgson's team with a 27th minute penalty following Danny Gabbidon's handball. Maxi Rodriguez scored Liverpool's third goal in the 28th minute as the Reds bounced back from last week's defeat at Stoke despite the absence of injured captain Steven Gerrard.
Bolton maintained their fine form with a 5-1 rout of 10-man Newcastle at the Reebok Stadium. Kevin Davies fired fourth-placed Bolton in front from the penalty spot in the 18th minute. Owen Coyle's team scored again when South Korea midfielder Lee Chung-Yong drove home in the 39th minute. Johan Elmander netted five minutes after half-time and the in-form Bolton striker struck again in the 72nd minute after Andy Carroll's consolation for Newcastle. Fabricio Coloccini was sent off for elbowing Elmander late on and Davies added another penalty in stoppage-time.
Blackpool climbed further away from the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over second-bottom Wolves at Bloomfield Road. Ian Holloway's side went ahead in the third minute when Luke Varney smashed in a dipping volley and Marlon Harewood poked in their second after a mistake by goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann just before half-time. Kevin Doyle's 86th minute strike for Wolves came too late to spark a fightback.
Stoke's Jon Walters scored twice to inspire a 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion. Tony Pulis's side snatched the lead in the 55th minute through Matthew Etherington's spot-kick and Walters converted their second penalty in the 85th minute before netting again in the 90th minute.