Manchester Utd. Beats Norwich to Extend Premier League Lead

A Shinji Kagawa hat trick helped Manchester United beat Norwich 4-0 to continue its push to a record-extending 20th English soccer league title.

Wayne Rooney also scored at Old Trafford today as United ran its unbeaten run in the Premier League to 16 games. The league leader now has 71 points, 15 more than second-place Manchester City, which visits Aston Villa in two days.

Liverpool routed Wigan 4-0, last-place Queens Park Rangers won 2-1 at Southampton and Chelsea beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0. Also, Everton defeated Reading 3-1, West Ham won 1-0 at Stoke, Swansea beat Newcastle 1-0 and Sunderland came from behind to draw 2-2 with Fulham.

With a Champions League game against Real Madrid next week, Manchester United was forced to work harder than expected in avenging a 1-0 loss at Norwich in November.

United controlled play in the first half but didn’t break through until stoppage time when Robin van Persie knocked Antonio Valencia’s cross to Kagawa, who shot past Mark Bunn.

Norwich pressured early in the second half, but didn’t really test United goalkeeper David de Gea. The Reds manager Alex Ferguson, with an eye toward the Champions League, took top scorer van Persie off in the 66th minute and brought on Danny Welbeck.

United doubled the lead with 14 minutes left as Rooney ran onto a pass in the Norwich area and laid off a ball which Kagawa easily tapped past Bunn. Kagawa completed his hat trick in the 88th minute off another pass from Rooney, who then closed the scoring two minutes later.

Top Scorer

Luis Suarez scored a hat trick and Stewart Downing added a goal as Liverpool won at Wigan. Suarez leads the league with 20 goals, one more than van Persie.

Jay Bothroyd scored the winning goal in the 77th minute as QPR won only its third game of the season on manager Harry Redknapp’s 66th birthday. Loic Remy also scored for QPR, which remains last in the 20-team league, but move within four points of Wigan in the last spot in the standings above the relegation zone.

Demba Ba scored as Chelsea beat West Brom to move above Tottenham, which plays Arsenal tomorrow, in third place. It was the Blues’ first home game since interim manager Rafael Benitez criticized the club’s fans for protesting against his hiring in November.

Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas scored as Everton won for just the second time in seven games, while Jack Collison’s goal ended West Ham’s eight-match away winless run.

Luke Moore scored in the 85th minute as Swansea, which won the first major trophy in its 101-year history in the League Cup final last weekend, beat Newcastle. Goals from Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon earned Sunderland the draw with Fulham, which led 2-0 after scores from Dimitar Berbatov and Sascha Riether.

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