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Manchester United Increases English Premier League Lead

Manchester United beat Southampton 2-1 to increase its lead in English soccer’s Premier League, while Reading moved out of the relegation zone with a late 2-2 draw against Chelsea.

Arsenal rallied for a 2-2 draw at home with Liverpool, Everton defeated West Brom 2-1, Fulham beat West Ham 3-1 and Tottenham tied 1-1 with Norwich in last night’s other matches.

Wayne Rooney scored both goals at Old Trafford as Manchester United extended its unbeaten run to 12 league games and moved seven points ahead of defending champion Manchester City.

“In my experience at the club, when we’re going for championships there’s always a game where you say to yourself ‘we were a bit lucky,’ and I think this was one of those nights,” United manager Alex Ferguson told his club’s TV channel. “Southampton in the second half gave the best performance anyone’s given here this season.”

Jay Rodriguez put Southampton, which sits 16th in the 20-team league, in front after three minutes as he picked up an errant back pass from Michael Carrick and put a shot past David De Gea.

The lead lasted five minutes as Rooney scored off a pass from Shinji Kagawa. United then took the lead in the 27th minute as Patrice Evra headed Robin van Persie’s free kick toward Rooney, who tapped it into the net.

Reading Comeback

Third-place Chelsea seemed ready to move within four points of Manchester City thanks to goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard.

Adam Le Fondre then scored for Reading in the 87th minute and struck again in the fifth minute of injury time when he fired in a close-range shot after a free kick.

“If you’ve got Adam Le Fondre at your club, you always have a chance,” Reading manager Brian McDermott told reporters.

The comeback lifted the Royals out of the three relegation places at the bottom of the standings over Wigan and Aston Villa on goal difference.

“We have to be more clinical and be more aware of defending set pieces,” Chelsea coach Rafael Benitez said in comments on the team’s website. “Everybody has the same feeling -- we were in control until the last minute.”

Liverpool looked on the way to its second league win in 11 games against Arsenal as it took advantage of suspect defending by the Gunners.

Luis Suarez converted a slip by Bacary Sagna and a poor clearance to give the Reds the lead in the fifth minute. Jordan Henderson then beat Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos for a score that made it 2-0 in the 60th minute.

Speedy Recovery

Two goals in three minutes pulled Arsenal even. Olivier Giroud headed in Jack Wilshere’s free kick in the 64th minute, then laid off a pass for Theo Walcott, who fired a shot past Pepe Reina.

“We were nervous from the start at the back but, overall, we’ve shown great quality and tremendous spirit,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in comments on his team’s website.

Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs will miss three weeks after leaving the game in the first half with a thigh strain, Wenger said.

Leighton Baines scored twice in the first half as Everton pulled within a point of Tottenham for fourth place and the final Champions League spot. Shane Long had the goal for West Brom, which has one win in its past 14 visits to Goodison Park.

“We’ve drawn a lot of games, so in the second half of the season we’ve got to try to win more,” Everton manager David Moyes said in comments on his team’s website.

Gareth Bale’s goal in the 80th minute earned Tottenham a point at Norwich, while Dimitar Berbatov and Hugo Rodallega scored in Fulham’s home win over West Ham.

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