MANCHESTER: Veteran midfielder Paul Scholes kept champions Manchester United’s Premier League title ambitions alive with a stoppage- time goal in a 1-0 derby win away to Manchester City on Saturday. There were barely 20 seconds left in the three minutes of added time at the end of the match when Scholes headed in Patrice Evra’s cross, much to the despair of home fans at Eastlands. Victory ensured second place for United, close to within a point of leaders Chelsea, with three games left and dented City’s bid for Champions League football.
The derby’s importance was not lost on both teams, which perhaps explained the slightly cautious first half, particularly from City, who defended extremely deep in an effort to stifle United.The best chances of that opening period both fell to United and came in the final five minutes. First, Antonio Valencia’s intelligent header into the area wrong-footed the defence and found Wayne Rooney, only for the forward to smash his shot past the post from 15 yards. Then, with half-time beckoning, Valencia again beat the recalled Wayne Bridge far too easily down the United right and delivered a low, driven near-post cross that Ryan Giggs poked tamely into the hands of Shay Given.
But Mancini had seen enough and sent on defensive midfielder Patrick Vieira for Adam Johnson. Finally the contest began to open up and Evra, substitute Nani and Giggs all had half-chances for United while Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong threatened the United goal - all in a five-minute period. United substitute Dimitar Berbatov, on for Rooney, headed inches wide of Given’s covering dive from a Gary Neville cross nine minutes from time. Then Van der Sar mishandled a corner, sparking a furious late scramble in which Vieira and Nedum Onuoha had shots blocked.
Elsewhere, Sunderland edged Burnley nearer relegation with a 2-1 home win while secondbottom Hull remained in the drop zone after a goalless draw away to Birmingham. Bolton all but assured themselves of Premier League football next season after two goals in the final five minutes from Matt Taylor saw them come from behind to beat Stoke 2-1. Wolves inched nearer to safety with a goalless draw away to Europa League finalists Fulham, while Everton took the lead at Ewood Park. Mikel Arteta’s fourth minute penalty – after the Spaniard was brought down by Ryan Nelsen – gave Everton the lead but Blackburn Rovers levelled after Steven Nzonzi let fly with a swerving 30-yard shot in the 69th minute.
They finally surpassing Everton through Tim Cahill’s 90th minute winner, the midfielder scoring with his foot rather than his head for a change. Sunday opportunities Wigan, still not yet assured of Premier League survival are at home to Arsenal on Sunday with the Gunners looking to bounce back from their midweek derby defeat by Tottenham. Meanwhile, already-relegated Portsmouth are at home to Aston Villa. Liverpool, on the market after US co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett put the club up for sale on Friday, face strugglers West Ham at Anfield on Monday.
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