Following Manchester United's precious 1-0 win over Everton, Liverpool will be desperate to avoid yet another season as also-rans in the Premier League title race as they host fellow second-placed Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday.
REUTERS - Manchester United enjoyed a hugely satisfying Saturday, beating Everton 1-0 to go five points clear in the Premier League after challengers Arsenal and Aston Villa were held to home draws.
Cristiano Ronaldo's 44th-minute penalty at Old Trafford was enough to give the champions 53 points from 23 matches.
Chelsea and Liverpool, who meet at Anfield on Sunday, have 48 points, as do Villa after their 0-0 draw with Wigan Athletic.
Fifth-placed Arsenal, held by West Ham United to their first goalless home draw for three years, have 43 points and Everton remain sixth on 37.
Everton, in good form after recent draws with Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool (twice), held United at bay until Mikel Arteta tripped Michael Carrick and Ronaldo scored from the spot.
The visitors, still playing without a recognised striker, rarely threatened Edwin van der Sar.
The United keeper secured his 12th consecutive league clean-sheet to eclipse former Reading keeper Steve Death's 30-year-old record of 18 hours 23 minutes without conceding a goal.
"He (Van der Sar) brings absolute calm and assurance to the players in front of him," manager Alex Ferguson told Setanta Sports television.
"We've had to change the back four I don't know how many times so great credit should go to Edwin."
United were not at their best, with an early Ronaldo toe-poke against a post and shots by Carlos Tevez and Park Ji-sung in the second half the best of their few other efforts.
"Everton kept going, showed great resilience and took us to the wire," added Ferguson. "They kept their energy going very well, they are a young team.
"With us being only 1-0 up they kept going. They didn't have any chances but they keep you under pressure."
Arsenal, who scrambled a point with an injury-time Robin van Persie goal in Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Everton, found it hard going against a West Ham side who made it seven away games in a row without defeat.
Kolo Toure had an effort cleared off the line, Emmanuel Adebayor missed two good chances and even Van Persie, brought on for the last 15 minutes, could not find a way through.
It was a similar story at Villa Park where the hosts twice hit the woodwork and came up against some determined defending.
The game of the day was at the Reebok Stadium where Tottenham Hotspur came from two down only to lose 3-2 to Bolton Wanderers.
Bolton, who had thrown away a 2-0 lead to draw with Blackburn Rovers in midweek, led by the same scoreline after goals by Sebastien Puygrenier and Kevin Davies.
Darren Bent came off the Spurs bench to net twice in three second-half minutes only for Davies to head the winner four minutes from time.
Manchester City ended a miserable month when they were beaten 1-0 at Stoke City, who played more than half the game with 10 men.
Stoke's first win in 10 matches came via a James Beattie header after Rory Delap had been sent off for kicking Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 37th minute.
Date created : 2009-02-01