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United go on top after Arsenal draw

sports Updated: Dec 27, 2007 07:49 IST
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Manchester United climbed atop of the English Premier League on Wednesday, winning 4-0 at Sunderland while Arsenal drew 0-0 at Portsmouth.

United's fifth straight win gave it 45 points, followed by Arsenal (44), Chelsea (38), Liverpool (36) and Manchester City (34). It's the first time this league season that Arsenal was held without a goal stymied by a Portsmouth defense led by former Gunner Sol Campbell.

"We would prefer to be at the top but it is very tight only one point," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

Aston Villa scored a late equalizer to draw 4-4 at Chelsea in a game that had three players sent off.

Louis Saha scored twice, with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo adding one each against Sunderland, which is coached by former Red Devil Roy Keane.

Aston Villa saved a point in injury time, getting a penalty kick from Gareth Barry after Ashley Cole was sent off for a handball. Cole followed Villa's Zat Knight and Chelsea's Ricardo Carvalho in being ejected.

Red cards also featured several other matches. Ten-man Reading rallied to draw 1-1 at West Ham, and Tottenham beat Fulham 5-1 with two goals each from Robbie Keane and Tom Huddlestone. Fulham's Moritz Volz was sent off in the 87th with a second yellow card.

Rooney put United ahead in the 20th with a goal from 18 meters, then set up Saha to extend the lead with a volley in the 30th. Ronaldo scored on a free kick to make it 3-0 in the 45th, before Saha added his second with a penalty kick in the 86th. "It was an excellent performance. I thought the passing and movement was excellent," Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. "The first goal put us in the driving seat because we knew Sunderland were going through a bit of a sticky patch. It was a marvelous move for the first goal, and after that, we did play well."

Chelsea extended its unbeaten streak in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge to 72 matches as Villa failed to repeat its 2-0 home win over the Blues in the league earlier this season. Shaun Maloney put Villa ahead in the 14th minute, taking a header from John Carew to score past goalkeeper Petr Cech, who started despite bruising his side and hip in Sunday's 1-0 win over Blackburn.

Maloney doubled Villa's lead in the 44th after Cech fumbled his shot.

Andriy Shevchenko converted a penalty kick in the 45th after Knight was sent off for a challenge on Michael Ballack, and then equalized with a powerful shot from 20 meters in the 50th. Alex took a pass from Shevchenko to score in the 66th, before Martin Laursen equalized in the 72nd with a volley from a free kick by Ashley Young.

Carvalho was sent off in the 80th for a lunge on Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Ballack, who entered when Frank Lampard limped off with a leg injury in the first half, thought he'd scored the winner with a free kick in the 88th only for Villa to equalize again with the penalty. "We deserved nothing less than a draw," Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill said. "We were terrific. We never gave up and came back from the dead twice."

Chelsea said in a statement it would appeal Cole's red card. Tottenham registered its biggest league win of the season. Robbie Keane scored in the 27th on a rebound after Steed Malbranque's shot hit the post and then took a header from Dimitar Berbatov in the 62nd to score his 100th Premier League goal.

Huddlestone had goals in the 45th and 71st, with Jermain Defoe rounding off the win in the 90th.

Clint Dempsey scored off his own rebound in the 60th for Fulham, which is playing under caretaker manager Ray Lewington after Lawrie Sanchez was fired on Friday.

Tottenham manager Juande Ramos, who took over on Oct. 27, said his new fitness regime was paying dividends.

"We are happy that the team has players that have slimmed down _ they are obviously a lot lighter now," Ramos said, referring to Huddlestone in particular. "The team appreciates this because we needed this to happen."

Liverpool needed an injury time goal from Steven Gerrard to beat a stubborn Derby 2-1.

Fernando Torres put Liverpool ahead in the 12th minute, curling a shot past Derby goalkeeper Lewis Price, who was making his first league appearance of the season because of an injury to Stephen Bywater.

But Jay McEveley leveled for Derby in the 67th after taking a free kick from Eddie Lewis, prompting a frantic press from Liverpool at the end of the game.

Liverpool had beaten Derby 6-0 earlier in the season. West Ham took the lead against Reading in the 42nd through Nolberto Solano and Dave Kitson leveled for the visitors in the 60th, taking Nicky Shorey's pass to score.

Reading had been reduced to 10 men in the 29th minute when Brynjar Gunnarsson made a two-footed challenge on West Ham midfielder Hayden Mullins.

Everton captain Phil Neville scored in the 51st minute with a cross that eluded everyone on its way into the net. Tim Cahill doubled the lead in the 70th.

Birmingham went ahead when Stewart Downing scored an own-goal in the 22nd and Mikael Forssell made it 2-0 in the 45th. Wigan moved out of the relegation zone through Ryan Taylor's 65th-minute goal from a free kick, while Newcastle United slumped down to 11th place.

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