LONDON: Manchester United cut Arsenal’s Premiership lead back to two points yesterday after Diego Forlan’s late winner gave them a 2-1 win over title rivals Chelsea.
Chelsea had taken a deserved lead through Eidur Gudjohnsen after half an hour and, after Paul Scholes equalised six minutes before the break, looked as if they had weathered intense second-half pressure to earn a point.
But they reckoned without Forlan, who popped up in the third minute of injury time to smash an unstoppable shot past Carlo Cudicini and keep United’s title challenge on track.
Manager Alex Ferguson paid tribute to his players' perseverance for the last-gasped victory.
"In the end the perseverance has given us the victory," Ferguson told United's official website. "In the second half I thought our performance was far better.
"Their goalkeeper has made three excellent saves in the second half," Ferguson said. "We've hit the post and Roy Keane had a great chance to put us in the lead."
It was only United's third victory over Chelsea in 11 premier league meetings at Old Trafford.
With the latest setback, Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri has thrown in the towel in the Premiership title race.
"The fight is between Arsenal and Manchester United now," Ranieri admitted.
"At the start of the season I said my aim was to put Chelsea into the top four. I never thought we could win the league and at the moment I don't know who will."
Ranieri was left to rue what might have been if his team had converted their first half superiority into goals.
"We were the better team in the first half but we were very unlucky," he said.
"They only had one chance during that time and that was through our own mistake. We caused Manchester United a lot of difficulties, so I can be happy with that, if not the result."
Arsenal can restore their lead when they entertain relegation-threatened West Ham at Highbury today.
Newcastle leapfrogged Chelsea to go into third place with a 2-0 win over Manchester City that was kickstarted by an Alan Shearer goal after just ten seconds.
The England striker charged down a Carlo Nash clearance and slotted home the loose ball for his 14th Premiership goal of the season.
Shearer’s striking partner Craig Bellamy secured the points 64 minutes later as Newcastle notched up their tenth successive Premiership win at St James’ Park.
Everton maintained their drive for a place in the Champions League by coming from behind to beat struggling Sunderland 2-1 at Goodison Park.
Defender Kevin Kilbane had given the visitors a shock first-half lead but American World Cup star Brian McBride scored a second-half double on his home debut to give Everton the points.
McBride has now scored three in two starts since arriving at Everton on a short-term loan deal earlier this month.
Tottenham are also not out of the running for a place in Europe and their chances were boosted by a 1-0 win at Aston Villa that was secured when former England striker Teddy Sheringham side-footed home a Steven Carr in the 69th minute.
Birmingham ended a run of three straight defeats with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn.
Irish international Damian Duff put the home side ahead after 19 minutes but they were up against it for the last hour of the match after Andy Todd was red-carded for a savage foul on Christophe Dugarry.
Birmingham’s efforts were finally rewarded seven minutes from the end when Stern John got on the end of a Stan Lazaridis cross to head home and secure a precious point for Steve Bruce’s team.
Charlton also edged closer to survival with a 1-1 draw at home to Bolton. But the Addicks were left frustrated after allowing Youri Djorkaeff to equalise five minutes from the end.
South African Mark Fish's strike two minutes after the break had given Charlton the edge but they paid the price for sitting on their lead and could easily have ended up losing as Bolton piled on the late pressure.
West Brom held Leeds to a goalless draw at Elland Road to move level on points with West Ham at the foot of the table. – Agencies