Manchester United stretch away

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LONDON - Manchester United went three points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over Stoke City.

Fulham and Birmingham City climbed out of the relegation zone with victories over West Bromwich Albion and Blackpool, respectively.

United, yet again, weren’t fluent, but they stretched their unbeaten run to 20 matches with an edgy victory.

They had controlled possession without looking especially threatening when they took a 27th-minute lead through Mexican striker Javier Hernandez.

A series of rapid passes ended with Dimitar Berbatov spreading the ball wide to Nani, and when he crossed Hernandez ran across the near post to flick his shot past Asmir Begovic.

But Stoke levelled four minutes after half-time with their first goal at Old Trafford for 30 years. Tuncay Sanli crossed, and Dean Whitehead converted with a deft header.

It was the 16th goal United have conceded in the second half this season, as opposed to only three in the first.

It only sparked United into life, though, and Nani restored their lead with an exquisite second after a one-two with Hernandez after 61 minutes.

Fulham clambered out of the bottom three as they beat a West Brom side who have now lost their last five games.

The opener came when Dickson Etuhu muscled Yussouf Mulumbu off the ball and laid a pass to Simon Davies. His shot from 25 yards was well struck and swerved a little in the air, but Scott Carson should still have done better than to palm the ball into his own net.

The some-time England goalkeeper was beaten above his head again nine minutes into the second half, as Clint Dempsey headed in a Davies corner.

Another Davies corner provided the third for Brede Hangeland after 65 minutes.

Blackpool were playing their first home game in 45 days, and unfamiliarity perhaps cost them, with Stephen Crainey giving the opening goal to Alexander Hleb after 24 minutes.

DJ Campbell levelled with a firm shot midway through the second half, but Scott Dann made it 2-1 to Alex McLeish’s side in the final minute.

Filed under: Soccer

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