United beat Newcastle to go seven points clear

LONDON,  (Reuters) – Manchester United were given an  early scare at Newcastle United yesterday before hitting back  for a 2-1 victory that restored their seven-point cushion at the  top of the Premier League.

Newcastle’s Peter Lovenkrands became the first player to  score past United keeper Edwin van der Sar in the league for  more than 21 hours with a ninth-minute tap-in but Wayne Rooney  levelled and Dimitar Berbatov sealed the points after the break.

United’s 11th consecutive league victory took them to 65  points from 27 games. Chelsea and Liverpool, who have both  played a game more, are both back on 58 with time running out.

Fourth-placed Aston Villa’s Champions League ambitions were  dealt a blow with a 2-0 loss at Manchester City while Stoke City  climbed out of the bottom three with a 2-0 home victory over  Bolton Wanderers. West Ham United won 1-0 at Wigan Athletic.

Tottenham Hotspur shook off the disappointment of losing to  Manchester United in Sunday’s League Cup final with a 4-0  hammering of Middlesbrough to ease their relegation worries.

Fifth-placed Everton drew 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers while Hull  City scored late to beat Fulham 1-0 at Craven Cottage to halt  their recent slide.

United, who are closing in on an 18th league title, saw  their lead reduced by Chelsea and Liverpool on Tuesday and their  rivals would have been hoping for a favour from a Newcastle side  is desperate need of points.

They could not have been expecting Van der Sar to offer them  a chink of light, but the veteran Dutchman did just that after  nine minutes when he spilled a cross from Jonas Gutierrez and  Dane Lovenkrands was on hand to punish the error.

“We got off to a terrible start and Newcastle were on top,”  United manager Alex Ferguson, who was clearly not happy with his  side’s early efforts, told Sky Sports.

“Edwin said himself he made a mess of it. It was a hairy  spell for us. It was going to happen sometime,” he added,  referring to Van der Sar’s rare slip.

United were at sixes and sevens early on and they were  lucky to see Obafemi Martins shoot into the side-netting when he  had a great chance to put Newcastle 2-0 ahead.

Normal service was resumed after 20 minutes when Rooney, who  missed United’s League Cup final success through illness, beat  Steve Harper with a shot on the turn.

A niggly first half ended with Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven  Taylor getting involved near the touchline and Rio Ferdinand  receiving a yellow card.

Taylor was badly at fault for United’s winner after 56  minutes when he attempted to chest the ball back to his keeper  but instead gave the ball to Park Ji-sung who in turn fed  Berbatov to score with ease.

“We required a lot of grit at times,” said Ferguson.  “Whenever you come back from 1-0 down to win you must be  pleased.”

Villa were looking for an eighth consecutive away league  victory but were second best at Manchester City who won with  goals from Elano and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

They are now just three points above Arsenal in the race for  the final Champions League berth.

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