Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Aston Villa’s Marc Albrighton put his name in the English Premier League record book last night as Manchester City and Manchester United tightened their grip on the top of the standings.
Albrighton scored the 20,000th goal in Premier League history during a 2-1 loss to Arsenal. Sheffield United’s Brian Deane scored the league’s first goal against Manchester United on Aug. 15, 1992.
“It is one of those things you remember for the rest of your life,” Albrighton said after the game. “It is a milestone, but it has been soured slightly by the fact we lost the game.”
First-place City defeated Stoke 3-0 and United was a 5-0 winner at Fulham. City holds a two-point lead over defending champion United, which is eight points ahead of third-place Tottenham.
West Bromwich beat Newcastle 3-2, Everton defeated Swansea 1-0, Sunderland topped Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and Wigan tied 0-0 with Liverpool.
Yossi Benayoun’s late header allowed Arsenal to spoil Albrighton’s historic tally at Villa Park. Robin van Persie scored in the 17th minute with a penalty kick for his league-leading 16th goal. Albrighton then answered nine minutes into the second half to tie the score.
Benayoun headed in van Persie’s corner kick with three minutes remaining to lift Arsenal into a tie with Chelsea for fourth place with 32 points. Chelsea visits Tottenham tonight.
Villa’s Alan Hutton was then sent off after receiving two yellow cards in injury time.
Sergio Aguero scored twice to help guarantee Manchester City will be in first place on Christmas Day for the first time since 1929.
Top of Table
“We played really well against a difficult opponent and I am pleased for all our supporters that they will enjoy Christmas with their team top of the table,” City manager Robert Mancini said on the club’s website. “I have said many times, though, it is better to be top of the table in May than it is at this time of year.”
Aguero scored after 29 minutes and Adam Johnson doubled the lead seven minutes later. Aguero then added his 13th league goal in the second half as Stoke’s four-game winning streak was ended.
Manchester United extended its unbeaten run to eight games. Danny Welbeck, Nani and Ryan Giggs scored in the first half at Craven Cottage. Wayne Rooney made it 4-0 in the 88th minute and Dimitar Berbatov added the final goal in injury time.
“We played some superb football in the first half,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “It was a great start and allowed us to keep control up to halftime.”
Paul Scharner’s goal in the 85th minute gave West Brom the win at Newcastle, which is winless in six matches, while Wes Brown scored on a header in the final minute as Sunderland won at QPR. Leon Osman scored the goal as Everton beat Swansea to end a four-match winless run.
Penalty Kick Stopped
Ali Al Habsi stopped Charlie Adam’s penalty kick in the first half of Wigan’s goalless home draw with Liverpool.
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez started less than 24 hours after being handed an eight-match suspension for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra in a game. Suarez is free to play while Liverpool decides whether to appeal the ban, and his teammates wore white t-shirts during warmups with his image on the front and name and number on the back in support.
“I think the boys showed their respect and admiration for Luis with wearing the t-shirts,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said. “He has earned that. He deserves it and we will always stand beside him.”
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