United and Chelsea trim the gap at the top with big wins


LONDON: Manchester United came from behind to give their English Premiership title hopes a lift yesterday with a 3-1 win at relegation-haunted West Bromwich Albion. 

With Arsenal not playing at Birmingham until today, United trimmed the gap at the summit to two points. 

The Gunners have 46 points from 22 matches with United on 44 from 23, three ahead of Chelsea, who beat Charlton 4-1 at Stamford Bridge. 

Faltering Liverpool meanwhile made it 11 league outings without a win bonus as they allowed Aston Villa to bag a point in a 1-1 draw at Anfield. 

West Brom gave Manchester United an early fright when Jason Koumas smacked home a 25-yarder after just six minutes – but Ruud Van Nistelrooy levelled barely 100 seconds later from a David Beckham cross and Paul Scholes put United in front in the 23rd minute, Roy Keane the provider. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer netted the clincher in the 55th minute. 

"You have to work hard here for a victory and they made us do that today," United manager Alex Ferguson said afterwards. 

Liverpool continued their worst barren run in the league in half a century after their draw against a struggling Villa side who have yet to win on their travels this term. 

Michael Owen swept in his ninth league goal of the season on his full return from a hamstring injury after Senegalese forward El Hadji Diouf provided the ammunition with the cross after 38 minues. 

But Dion Dublin equalised four minutes after the restart from the penalty spot, the kick given for a Sami Hyypia foul on Gareth Barry. 

West Ham were unable to upset the form book, despite the midweek acquisition of England midfielder Lee Bowyer from Leeds, as the East Londoners drew 2-2 at home to Newcastle – although they did move off the foot of the table a point above West Brom. 

Bowyer was soon in the thick of the action, testing Shay Given in the visitors’ goal with an early right-foot drive. 

But it was Newcastle, without the suspended Alan Shearer and bidding to improve a dismal away record of seven defeats for only two wins, who took the lead in the ninth minute. 

Welsh striker Craig Bellamy celebrated his new five-year deal with Newcastle by firing home a left-footed shot from seven yards after good work by Jermaine Jenas. 

Bellamy flashed another effort wide before West Ham began to settle and they levelled within five minutes, Joe Cole drilling home from the edge of the box. 

Seconds before the break Jermaine Defoe drove home West Ham’s second with Newcastle’s inept defence caught ball-watching in traditional fashion. 

But Jenas rescued a point with a belting drive for his first top flight goal after 81 minutes to deny the Hammers a first home win of the season. 

Chelsea, looking to wrest a Champions League slot off Newcastle this season, swamped Charlton as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with a third-minute penalty, William Gallas and Eidur Gudjohnsen made the points safe with a three-goal opening salvo inside 34 minutes. 

Jason Euell pulled one back from the spot before the break but Graeme Le Saux hit the fourth for the buzzing Blues. 

Manchester City brought Leeds’ recent rich vein of form to a halt with a 2-1 win at Maine Road as Shaun Goater scored on the half hour and Niclas Jensen added a sizzling second after the break in a major fillip for Kevin Keegan’s men, who go level on points with Liverpool, 12 points off the pace. 

Australian Harry Kewell fired in a late goal for Leeds. 

On-fire James Beattie scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season but Southampton, pressing claims for a surprise top five-finish, had to make do with a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough. 

Noel Whelan had bagged what looked like a consolation for Boro before Paul Telfer was adjudged to have fouled Massimo Maccarone, who completed the hosts’ fightback from the spot in the 82nd minute. 

Elsewhere, Bolton and Fulham produced a goalless stalemate and Sunderland and Blackburn likewise parted 0-0 at the Stadium of Light. Fulham had a Facundo Sava effort chalked off for an infringement. – Agencies 

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