Dimitar Berbatov scored three goals as Manchester United joined Manchester City atop the Premier League with a 5-0 win over Wigan. City was held 0-0 by West Bromwich Albion.
United has now scored 10 goals in its last two matches and Berbatov, who’s been overlooked for much of the season, has scored four of them. City allowed United to make up two points after failing to score for the first time in a Premier League game this season.
“The result pleases me considering the injuries,” United manager Alex Ferguson said in a televised interview with Sky Sports after the game. “We’ve had 10 players missing and young Jonny Evans was taken off at half time. If it had been a closer game we’d have been worried about that.”
City now leads United by goal difference with both teams on 45 points after 18 games. Tottenham is ten points further back having played two fewer matches.
Earlier in the day, American Clint Dempsey foiled fourth place Chelsea’s hopes of closing the gap on the top two by canceling out Juan Mata’s strike to give Fulham a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal, which plays Wolves tomorrow, can move above Chelsea into fourth with a victory.
Last-place Blackburn tied Liverpool 1-1 at Anfield, Newcastle beat Bolton 2-0 and Sunderland and Everton finished 1- 1. Stoke hosts Everton in the evening kick-off.
Ferguson named midfielders Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia in his defense because of injuries. The alterations didn’t affect his team, which took the lead through Park Ji- Sung. Valencia was the other scorer in a match played against 10-men after Wigan’s Conor Samon was sent off in the first half.
Manchester City failed to extend its lead after failing to find a way past ninth-place West Brom. Striker Mario Balotelli went closest with a strike that hit the bar in the 53rd minute. West Brom also hit the woodwork late on through winger Jerome Thomas.
“When you a play a team with all players behind the ball at home, if you don’t score in the first half it’s not easy, you don’t have any space,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. “When we have a chance we should score but maybe we were too slow in the first half. It is impossible to score three or four goals for 38 games.”
Chelsea’s Mata scored within two minutes of the start of the second half with a shot following a layoff from Fernando Torres. Dempsey equalized from close range after Bryan Ruiz’s near-post cross. Chelsea mounted a late siege on the visitor’s goal, but found no way through goalkeeper David Stockdale who produced a series of saves.
“The title will be pretty difficult now,” said Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas. “The distance by the end of today could make it very hard for us to challenge for the title.”
Blackburn manager Steve Kean was forced into deploying reserve goalkeeper Mark Bunn after losing Paul Robinson. The keeper kept out Andy Carroll’s effort in the last minute of injury time to give his team a point. Blackburn took the lead through Charlie Adam’s own-goal before Maxi Rodriguez headed Liverpool level.
“In the second half, sometimes you need great saves and lucky breaks,” said Kean. Liverpool has now tied six games at home.
Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa scored second-half goals for Newcastle against Bolton, which has the worst defensive record in the league with 41 goals against in 18 games. At Sunderland, a Leighton Baines penalty for Everton canceled out Jack Colback’s deflected first half opener.