Man Utd maintain lead over Liverpool
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Man Utd maintain lead over Liverpool

Federico Macheda was the hero again for Manchester United as the defending champions maintained their lead over Liverpool at the top of the English Premier League.

sports Updated: Apr 12, 2009 17:31 IST

Federico Macheda was the hero again for Manchester United as the defending champions maintained their lead over Liverpool at the top of the English Premier League.

After Liverpool had thumped Blackburn Rovers 4-0 in the early match on Saturday, United edged to a 2-1 win at Sunderland, with Macheda scoring a late winner for the second weekend in a row, restoring their one-point advantage.

Chelsea survived a late collapse to beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3 and stayed third, just three points behind Liverpool, though United still have an extra game in hand on both teams.

The pressure was all on United after Liverpool's comfortable win over Blackburn and when Kenwyne Jones equalised Paul Scholes's first-half opener, a shock looked on the cards.

But as he did last week in the win over Aston Villa, 17-year-old Macheda came off the substitutes' bench to direct a mis-hit Michael Carrick shot in for a late winner.

"Today was an important away victory for us," United manager Alex Ferguson said.

"It's a difficult place to come to against a very committed Sunderland team, and we can be pleased with that. The important thing is we have seven games left now and at this point, it is about cutting each game off as they come along."

At Anfield, Fernando Torres scored two first-half goals, Daniel Agger banged in a third and David Ngog scored the fourth as Liverpool cruised to victory over a hapless Blackburn side.

"It's a great result after coming back after Chelsea," Jamie Carragher said. "Today was about the league and we've done our job."

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was delighted to have won so easily, without even needing to risk Steven Gerrard, who is nursing an adductor injury.

"We needed to play well, to score goals and we didn't concede against a good team in the air so I think that was very positive," the Spaniard said.

"It could have been even better, but it has been very positive for the confidence of the players."

Having lost 3-1 at home to Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday, Liverpool needed to bounce back and they took the lead within four minutes through a stunning goal from Torres, who took Carragher's pass on his chest before turned and lashing an unstoppable volley over Paul Robinson.

Torres missed a couple of gilt-edged chances to add to the lead before he headed home from a pinpoint Xabi Alonso free-kick.

Liverpool eased off after half-time and Christopher Samba almost pulled one back with 15 minutes to go, but he slipped when shooting and his effort was easily saved by Jose Reina.

Agger made them pay with a superb long-range strike inside the last 10 minutes and substitute Ngog headed in from close range just before the end of the 90 minutes.

Chelsea were sauntering to victory over Bolton when they stormed ahead 4-0 at Stamford Bridge. Three goals in a mad eight minutes brought Bolton back in to it, but Chelsea hung on for victory.

"It was a wake-up call for us and we talked to the boys straight after the game," Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said. "If you play at the top, you cannot afford to do it twice.

"We must not let it happen again. It is normal that the players react to the situation."

Arsenal came from behind to win 4-1 at Wigan Athletic, thanks to goals from Theo Walcott, Mikael Sivestre, Andrei Arshavin and Alex Song, keeping them in fourth and on course for the fourth Champions League spot.

Middlesbrough boosted their hopes of avoiding relegation with a 3-1 win over Hull City, thanks to goals from Tuncay, Matthew Bates and Marlon King.

"I thought our work ethic was brilliant today," Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate said.

"We had to be men, we had to stand up and answer some questions that were being posed internally and thrown at us externally. We have give ourselves hope now. We are still in there fighting and you just never know."

Middlesbrough remain second from bottom, though, after Newcastle United came from behind to draw 1-1 at Stoke City thanks to Andy Carroll's header ten minutes from time.

Bottom side West Bromwich Albion earned a point with a 2-2 draw at Portsmouth, while Tottenham Hotspur beat West Ham United 1-0 in the other game.

First Published: Apr 12, 2009 17:25 IST