Robin van Persie scored against his former team to earn newly crowned Premier League champion Manchester United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal.
Chelsea beat Swansea 2-0 to move ahead of Arsenal into third spot, while Reading and Queens Park Rangers were relegated from English soccer’s top flight after they drew 0-0 yesterday.
Arsenal took a second-minute lead through Theo Walcott and dominated United in the first half before Van Persie leveled from the penalty spot just before halftime. United manager Alex Ferguson denied his men started slowly after celebrating the title they clinched last week.
“Arsenal set off at a fantastic pace, very aggressive and a lot of tackles, I think the referee just couldn’t keep up,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. He said referee Phil Dowd had been wrong to yellow card five United men, including Van Persie.
“When we have a foul he’s booked us right away,” Ferguson said. “We have one of the best disciplinary records in the country. For Man. United to have five players booked, I don’t think that’s right.”
United has 85 points and cannot now beat Chelsea’s record Premier League points haul of 95. Last year’s champion Manchester City has 71, followed by Chelsea (65), Arsenal (64) and Tottenham (62).
Van Persie joined United from Arsenal in a 24 million-pound ($37 million) trade last year. His 25 league goals helped the Manchester team clinch its 20th English league title and 13th Premier League crown last week.
United’s players were welcomed on to the field at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium with a guard of honor by the home team. There was a mixed reception from home fans, with some booing Van Persie then and throughout the game.
Walcott gave Arsenal the lead from what may have been an offside position. He collected Tomas Rosicky’s pass on the right and slotted past goalkeeper David de Gea for his 12th league goal this season.
Even though United lacked fluency in the first half as Arsenal pressed, Van Persie tied it in the 44th minute, slamming a penalty kick past Wojciech Szczesny after he was brought down by Bacary Sagna.
“From the first to the last minute it was two teams giving absolutely everything to win,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We gave everything and, at the end of the day, the regret you have is the way we conceded the goal. Just before halftime that was a serious blow to us.”
Chelsea’s win at Stamford Bridge maintains its challenge for a top-four place and Champions League qualification. Oscar and Frank Lampard, with a penalty kick, got the goals in a two- minute span just before halftime. Lampard’s 201st goal for the Blues puts him one behind record club scorer Bobby Tambling.
At Reading, either the home team or QPR needed a win to preserve a chance of avoiding relegation. Neither side could find a breakthrough in a nervy match that left both teams on 25 points. They can reach a maximum of 34 points in the three games left.
Wigan has 32 points and Aston Villa -- which hosts Sunderland tonight -- has 34. Wigan plays Villa on the last day of the season, meaning at least one of those teams is sure to reach 35 points. Reading was promoted to the top flight last year, a season after QPR was promoted.
Two days ago, Liverpool won 6-0 at Newcastle, Manchester City defeated West Ham 2-1 and Everton had a 1-0 victory over Fulham. West Brom won 3-0 at Southampton, Stoke beat Norwich 1-0 and Tottenham drew 2-2 at Wigan.
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