Man Utd edged closer to the Premier League title with their eighth successive victory on a crucial day in the title race. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Shaun Derry was harshly sent off for a shove on Ashley Young, who was two yards offside when the pass was played through to him. Paul Scholes added a second with just over twenty minutes remaining to seal the win and move Sir Alex Ferguson’s men eight points clear and leave QPR looking over their shoulders.
That gap stayed at eight points as Arsenal defeated second placed Man City at the Emirates. The Gunners dominated the first half and limited Mancini’s men to very few opportunities throughout the match. But it took until the 87th minute for the deadlock to finally be broken when Mikel Arteta lined up a shot from twenty five yards which caught out Joe Hart. Mario Balotelli was shown a red card in stoppage time after being fortunate to escape unpunished for a disgusting high challenge on Alex Song after ten minutes.
Meanwhile, at the foot of the table, it was a bad weekend for all the sides battling to beat the drop. Wolves are still six points from safety after letting a 1-0 lead slip against Stoke. Michael Kightly fluke goal set Terry Connor’s side on their way but the Potters replied with strikes from Robert Huth and Peter Crouch to take all three points.
Wigan were left heartbroken in their latest attempt at the Great Escape after a highly controversial clash with Chelsea. Branislav Ivanovic gave the Blues the lead despite being nearly two yards offside but Mohamed Diame’s late thunderbolt appeared to have handed the Latics a share of the spoils. But a lasp gasp close range winner from Juan Mata, who may well have also been offside, moved Di Matteo’s men just three points behind fourth placed Tottenham.
Bolton’s fine run of form came to an abrupt end at the hands of Fulham at the Reebok Stadium. The Trotters remain one point clear of the drop zone after two goals from in-form Clint Dempsey and a late strike from Mahamadou Diarra.
Another side on the wrong end of a 3-0 were Blackburn Rovers. The score line did somewhat flatter West Brom who only led through a Martin Olsson own goal until late goals from Marc-Antoine Fortuné and Liam Ridgewell added some gloss for the Baggies.
Newcastle kept up the heat on the top four with an impressive 2-0 win at Swansea. There was a goal in each half, again, from the irrepressible Papiss Cissé. It remains to be seen whether Tottenham’s point at Sunderland after a 0-0 stalemate will be a precious one or two points dropped in their quest for Champions League football.
Elsewhere Everton stayed in seventh after an entertaining 2-2 draw with Norwich at Carrow Road. The Toffees led twice through star signing Nikica Jelavic but Jonny Howson and Grant Holt struck back for the Canaries. This means that Liverpool stay below their Merseyside rivals after despite ending their losing run with a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa. Chris Herd’s fine strike gave McLeish’s men the lead but, eight minutes from time, Luis Suarez turned the ball in from a yard out.