Premier League – United end Arsenal title bid
Manchester United came from behind to earn a 2-1 Premier League win over Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Emmanuel Adebayor put the Gunners ahead early in the second half but a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and Owen Hargreaves free-kick secured a vital win for United, who established a six-point lead over Chelsea at the top of the table.
The defeat effectively rules Arsene Wenger’s side out of the title race as they are now nine points off the lead with four games remaining.
Arsenal were impressive in the first 45 minutes and Adebayor was guilty of no less than five misses when put in good shooting positions.
The first was on 18 minutes when he shot tamely at Edwin van der Sar following a one-two with Robin van Persie, and the second was an identikit back-pass after brilliant work by Alexander Hleb on 35 minutes.
The hosts had their chances too. Most of their attacking threat came from Wayne Rooney, who forced one good save from Jens Lehmann after an impudent flick by Ronaldo who bamboozled Song on the United left.
Lehmann was standing-in for the injured Manuel Almunia and the veteran German produced a superb save from Rooney, who had stroked the ball towards the bottom right corner after leading a counter attack. Lehmann somehow stuck his left boot out to divert the ball behind for a corner and the sides went in level at the break.
Arsenal took the lead when Adebayor exploited hesitancy between Van der Sar and Rio Ferdinand after a quickly-taken free-kick allowed Van Persie to cross into the six yard box.
Ferdinand stopped and the Togo striker nicked ahead of the Dutchman to flick the ball home with what appeared to be his hand. United’s protests were waved away and Arsenal had a lead that threatened to derail Sir Alex Ferguson’s title hopes.
But, as has often happened recently, Arsenal conceded almost immediately.
They had been agonisingly close to doubling their lead when Ferdinand’s attempted clearance was spectacularly saved by Van der Sar.
Ferdinand then hooked the loose ball away and United countered. Michael Carrick played the ball into the box and William Gallas handballed to gift United a penalty. Ronaldo converted twice, the first strike disallowed after Park Ji-Sung encroached and the second drilled low to Lehmann’s right.
The match was blown wide open, and substitute Carlos Tevez almost netted with a long-range effort, while Wes Brown deflected a Gael Clichy cross towards goal that Van der Sar did very well to tip onto the post.
United’s second goal came on 71 minutes – and from two unlikely sources. Left back Patrice Evra got forward, playing through Rooney and winning a free-kick off Gilberto on the edge of the box after the England striker’s shot was blocked.
Hargreaves stepped up and asked Ronaldo to move aside. The former Bayern Munich midfielder then unleashed an immaculate shot that dipped over the wall and curled away from Lehmann into the bottom left for his second goal of the season, a carbon copy of his first strike against Fulham.
The stuffing was knocked out of the Gunners, although they attacked with intent late on and sub Nicklas Bendtner should have made Van der Sar work harder to save his far-post header after he was found by Fabregas.
United held on at the end and now lead Chelsea by six points at the top of the Premier League.
Second-placed Chelsea host Wigan on Monday night at 20:00, which you can follow on eurosport.yahoo.com.
Reda Maher / Eurosport