Manchester City’s Premiership Title Hopes Hit by Everton

Manchester United beat Reading 1-0 to increase its lead in English soccer’s Premier League to 15 points over Manchester City, which lost 2-0 to 10-man Everton.

Wayne Rooney scored the only goal as United stretched its unbeaten run in the league to 17 games with its sixth straight win. United has 74 points and needs just 13 from its final nine games to win a record-extending 20th English league title.

“It wasn’t a great performance, but where we are today is not down to today but the last six months,” United manager Alex Ferguson said on the club’s website. “It’s a great position to be in but the only thing we can do is win our next game.”

Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavic scored as Everton overcame the second-half sending off of Steven Pienaar to beat defending champion Manchester City. Southampton beat Liverpool 3-1, Aston Villa defeated Queens Park Rangers 3-2, Arsenal beat Swansea 2-0, while Stoke and West Brom finished 0-0 in today’s other matches.

Rooney scored with a deflected shot in the 21st minute at Old Trafford in Manchester to give United a tougher-than-expected win over a Reading team that sits next-to-last in the standings.

Rio Ferdinand set up the goal by intercepting a pass from Garath McCleary and carrying it forward before feeding Rooney to his left. The England striker took a shot that hit Alex Pearce and left goalkeeper Stuart Taylor with no chance to stop it.

Reading, which was playing its first match since manager Brian McDermott was fired five days ago, lost its fifth straight match.

Everton Rebounds

Everton rebounded from a 3-0 home loss to Wigan in the F.A. Cup quarterfinals to beat Manchester City for the sixth time in the past eight meetings. The win lifts the Toffees over Liverpool into sixth place.

“We played the champions of England and I thought we gave them a right good going for their money,” Everton manager David Moyes said on the club’s website.

Osman then scored in the 32nd minute with a swerving shot into the top corner from 25 yards out. Everton then went down to 10 men in the 61st minute as Pienaar received his second yellow card for a challenge on Javi Garcia.

City later appealed for a penalty when Marouane Fellaini appeared to be in the area when the ball hit his arm. However, referee Lee Probert awarded a free kick just outside the box, which Aleksandar Kolarov hit into the wall.

Everton then clinched the victory in stoppage time on a counter attack as Jelavic beat Joe Hart with a deflected shot.

Relegation Zone

Southampton moved seven points clear of the three-team relegation zone at the bottom of the standings with its home win over Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlein, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez scored as the Saints ended a three-match winless run.

Aston Villa also helped its chances of avoiding relegation by beating last-place QPR. Christian Benteke’s goal with nine minutes left gave Villa, which moved six points ahead of the drop zone, the win.

Nacho Monreal and Gervinho scored in the second half as Arsenal won at Swansea to pull within two points of Chelsea in the race for fourth place and the final Champions League qualifying spot.

Stoke climbed into the top half of the standings after finishing scoreless with eighth-place West Brom. It was Stoke’s league-high 13th draw of the season.

Sunderland hosts Norwich, Fulham visits Tottenham, Chelsea plays West Ham and Newcastle is at Wigan in tomorrow’s matches.

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