Man U get late lifeline

2007-12-24 00:00

Cristiano Ronaldo scored an 88th-minute penalty to give Manchester United a 2-1 victory over Everton at Old Trafford yesterday, that kept them within a point of Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Third-placed Chelsea also kept up the chase when a first-half Joe Cole goal gave them a 1-0 win at Blackburn Rovers.

Arsenal, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on Saturday, lead the way on 43 points with United second on 42 and Chelsea on 37.

Manchester City, who drew 1-1 at Aston Villa, have 34 while Liverpool, 4-1 home winners over Portsmouth, are fifth on 33. Everton remain sixth on 30, ahead of Portsmouth on goal difference.

Manchester United, seeking a ninth successive home league win, went ahead in the 22nd minute when Ronaldo cut in from the right and clipped in a left-footed shot.

Everton hit back when Tim Cahill showed great determination to power in an excellent header.

United looked lively and inventive, but found Everton difficult to break down despite the wealth of attacking talent on show.

That changed when Steven Pienaar thrust out a leg behind him in a playground tackle on Ryan Giggs that handed Ronaldo the decisive penalty.

Yesterday’s double made the Portuguese winger the league’s leading scorer with 11. “This game was very tough, Everton played very well,” Ronaldo told Setanta Sports TV.

“It’s an important win with many games to come and not too much time to rest.”

Everton manager David Moyes rued Pienaar’s late lapse, saying: “It was a moment of madness for Steven. The players have worked really hard to take something from the game, but it is just one of those things.”

Chelsea weathered some early Blackburn pressure before striking with a sweetly taken goal by Cole, after a killer through-ball by Salomon Kalou in the 22nd minute.

Both goalkeepers then made excellent first-half saves, as Petr Cech pushed a Steven Reid shot on to the bar and Brad Friedel dived to tip a Frank Lampard effort against a post before Chelsea tightened up to secure the victory.

In yesterday’s other game bottom club Derby County secured their first point in eight matches with a 2-2 draw at Newcastle United, who twice came from behind with two goals by Mark Viduka.

On Saturday Arsenal made it 20 games without defeat against their rivals, but struggled for long spells and were helped enormously by Manuel Almunia saving a Robbie Keane penalty at 1-1.

Emmanuel Adebayor’s 10th league goal of the season after 48 minutes put Arsenal ahead, with Dimitar Berbatov equalising.

Keane then missed from the spot for the first time in 11 attempts and Arsenal cashed in when teenage Danish substitute Nicklas Bendtner headed the winner with his first touch 14 minutes from time. Portsmouth’s run of six successive away wins in the league ended at Anfield where the hosts got back to winning ways after two defeats in a row.

Yossi Benayoun, after 13 minutes, and a Sylvain Distin own goal soon after had Liverpool in charge.

Benjani Mwaruwari pulled one back in the 57th minute but Fernando Torres restored the two-goal cushion 10 minutes later and got his second in the 85th.

Rolando Bianchi gave City hopes of a first win since the first day of the season when he scored after 11 minutes but Villa levelled three minutes later when John Carew controlled a long ball, turned well to break clear and shoot home.

Another controversial finale for Sunderland and again they were on the wrong end of it as Stephen Hunt won the game for Reading in injury time. Reading had gone ahead through Ivar Ingimarsson after 69 minutes before Michael Chopra levelled with an 82nd-minute penalty. Hunt’s last-gasp volley was beaten out by goalkeeper Craig Gordon and though the Sunderland players felt the ball had been kept out, the linesman and referee awarded the goal. Last week Sunderland had a last-minute goal controversially ruled out in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. The Premier League swings into action again on Boxing Day, with a near-full programme.

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