Manchester United retained its seven-point lead in soccer’s Premier League after a 2-1 victory over Liverpool yesterday, as second-place Manchester City won 2- 0 at 10-man Arsenal.
“All in all, it was an engrossing game as we expected in a Manchester United-Liverpool match,” United manager Alex Ferguson told MUTV. “It was a magnificent performance in the first half, as well as we’ve played for a long time.”
Arsenal played more than 80 minutes with 10 men after Laurent Koscielny was red-carded for bringing down Edin Dzeko in the penalty area. James Milner and Dzeko scored for City, which had defender Vincent Kompany dismissed after 75 minutes.
United has 55 points and City is on 48, with Chelsea another seven points back. Tottenham has 40 points. Arsenal remains in sixth and Liverpool eighth.
At Old Trafford, Van Persie got the opening goal after 19 minutes. The Dutchman’s 21st strike of the season came after Patrice Evra delivered a cross that Van Persie struck low into the net from about eight yards.
Danny Welbeck had a chance on 33 minutes when Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen gave away the ball, but fired over. United had a further opportunity four minutes before halftime when Tom Cleverley flashed a shot just wide.
Just before the interval, Rafael da Silva ran into the penalty area and crossed the ball to Van Persie, who tried to backheel it into the net. Martin Skrtel stopped the ball crossing the line and Shinji Kagawa was unable to score from the follow-up.
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina needed lengthy treatment after colliding with Kagawa, but was able to continue.
Liverpool, which struggled to create opportunities in the first half, introduced Sturridge for the second half in an attacking substitution for Lucas.
The Reds, though, were soon trailing 2-0. Van Persie took a free kick in the 54th minute and when Evra headed back across goal the ball hit Vidic’s head and flew past Reina.
Sturridge cut the deficit three minutes later. Steven Gerrard tested David de Gea with a 20-yard shot that the goalkeeper could only parry and Sturridge tapped into an empty net.
Reina saved from Kagawa, while Sturridge had two late chances for Liverpool. On 85 minutes, Sturridge hit a shot over the bar after tenacious work by Luis Suarez in the penalty area, then in injury time the England forward hit the side netting after a quick free kick.
Van Persie tried to score with a backheel from 10 yards soon after, but Reina was able to hold the ball.
“I think those three points are very, very important ones,” Ferguson said. “It was hard work after they scored to be honest with you and I’m just glad we won the match.”
Before City’s game at Arsenal, the Emirates Stadium was cordoned off for a time when police found a “suspect package.” The match was able to start on time after the all-clear.
With less than 10 minutes played the home team had Koscielny dismissed after he pulled down Dzeko, who took the resulting penalty. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny deflected the spot-kick against a post and then collected the ball when it rolled back toward him along the goal line.
The Gunners held out until the 21st minute, the home team’s defense reacting slowly to a quick free kick that ended with Milner firing into the net from a tight angle.
Dzeko scored 10 minutes later from close range after Szczesny saved from Carlos Tevez.
Jack Wilshere prevented City from increasing its lead just before halftime with a clearing header off the line to keep out a shot by Javi Garcia.
Kompany was red-carded for a two-footed challenge on Wilshere, even though he won the ball. City manager Roberto Mancini told Sky Sports that he plans to appeal the decision.
Theo Walcott came closest to getting a goal for Arsenal as he shot past goalkeeper Joe Hart in the final minute of regulation time. Joleon Lescott got back to clear the ball.
“I don‘t know if it was a red card but it was a penalty,” Dzeko told Sky Sports of Koscielny’s dismissal. “I didn’t score but I knew I was going to score after. I said to myself ‘You’ve missed but are playing well.’ I knew I would score when I had the chance.”
Two days ago, last-place Queens Park Rangers held Tottenham to a 0-0 tie, while Aston Villa slipped into the three-team relegation positions with a 1-0 defeat by Southampton. Reading rallied to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2, and Wigan had a 1-1 draw at Fulham.
Chelsea defeated Stoke 4-0, Sunderland beat West Ham 3-0, and there were no goals in the matches between Everton and Swansea, and Norwich and Newcastle.