Manchester United suffered a humiliating 2-0 defeat to Fulham, in which star players Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney were both sent off. Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to admit the Premier League title race is wide open.
AFP - Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney were sent off as Manchester United slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat at Fulham that forced Sir Alex Ferguson to admit that the Premier League title race is back on.
Chelsea, beaten 1-0 at Tottenham on Saturday, were unable to capitalise on the champions' slip-up.
But Liverpool, who beat United 4-1 last Saturday, can cut United's lead at the top to one point by beating Aston Villa at Anfield on Sunday.
A Danny Murphy penalty and Zoltan Gera's late strike sealed the points for Fulham, condemning United to back-to-back league defeats for the first time in almost four years as well as their first reverse at Craven Cottage since 1964.
United could have few complaints after a lacklustre display in which Scholes was ordered off after only 17 minutes for the goalline handball that allowed Murphy to open the scoring.
Rooney, who only came on as a second-half substitute, was given his marching orders after collecting a second yellow card moments after Gera's 87th-minute strike.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted his side had been off the pace from the start.
"In the first half we never got started. They were lively and got stuck in and we respect that - they lost 4-0 to us a couple of weeks ago. But it's disappointing we didn't meet the challenge.
"If you lose games in March and April it can cost you. Fortunately we have a slender lead at the moment but not a lot and I'm hoping we come back from the internationals back to our best."
United's slip-up ensured that Chelsea's first defeat under temporary manager Guus Hiddink was particularly frustrating. Luka Modric made the difference, finishing off Aaron Lennon's clever cutback five minutes after half-time.
"We lost a huge opportunity, knowing that United were losing, it was a great chance to really change things," Hiddink admitted.
Arsenal increased the pressure on Villa ahead of their trip to Liverpool by beating Newcastle 3-1 at St James' Park, a win that leaves their hosts in the relegation zone.
Obafemi Martins, who had seen a first-half penalty saved by Manuel Almunia, cancelled out Nicklas Bendtner's opener for the Gunners inside a minute just before the hour mark.
But Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri quickly killed the contest to leave Arsenal three points clear of Villa in fourth place, the final qualifying slot for next season's Champions League.
Everton now look to be out of the race for fourth after a 2-1 defeat by struggling Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
Leighton Baines had curled in a free-kick to give Everton a fourth-minute lead but two Peter Crouch headers sealed the points for Pompey.
Stoke dragged themselves out of the bottom three with a 1-0 win over second-from-bottom Middlesbrough. Ryan Shawcross's 84th-minute strike, predictably set up by one of Rory Delap's long throws, made the difference and ensured Newcastle kicked off their evening clash with Arsenal in the relegation zone.
Stoke's win ensured Blackburn finished the day in a worse position than they started it, despite a battling display to earn a 1-1 draw with West Ham at Ewood Park, substitue Keith Andrews cancelling out Mark Noble's first half strike for the Hammers.
West Brom's chances of hauling themselves off the bottom look bleak after they could only draw 1-1 with Bolton, who were volleyed into a deserved lead by Matt Taylor, mid-way through the second half.
An own goal by Danny Shittu ensured a point for the Baggies but they remain adrift at the bottom with time rapidly running out.
Date created : 2009-03-21