Dimitar Berbatov’s last-minute winner for Manchester United put the Red Devils top of the Premier League after a 1-0 victory at Bolton while Chelsea netted twice in the last three minutes to salvage a 2-1 win at home to Stoke.
With Liverpool not in action until Monday,when it hosts neighbor Everton,Alex Ferguson’s defending champions had the chance to go top for at least 48 hours. But United needed a late winner from its Bulgarian striker on Saturday after Bolton looked set to hold on for a point.
Even without injured striker Wayne Rooney,United had plenty of chances but were defied by Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
“I don’t think it’s decisive (to be top of the league). Of course it’s always nice to be there,” Ferguson said. “I always feel the best place to be is in the lead. Liverpool have their game against Everton on Monday night but,at the moment,even if it’s only two days we can reflect on a very good period for us.”
Chelsea appeared to be headed for an embarrassing home defeat when Rory Delap,famous for his long throw-ins,shot Stoke ahead after 60 minutes at Stamford Bridge. But Juliano Belletti equalised in the 88th minute and Frank Lampard scored an injury-time winner to take the pressure off manager Luiz Felipe Scolari,who dropped striker Didier Drogba from the team.
“Football for me is not very exciting,it’s dangerous,” Scolari said. “We conceded one chance from which (Stoke) scored. That’s not exciting for the coach.”
There was grim news for Chelsea before kickoff when Joe Cole was ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury. Captain and centerback John Terry also missed the game after getting injured in the warmup.
Aston Villa came from behind to win 2-1 at Sunderland with goals by James Milner and Gareth Barry but had to play the last 18 minutes with 10 men after Ashley Young had been sent off for a two-footed lunge at Dean Whitehead.
Arsenal won 3-1 at Hull to remain fifth,currently six points off the lead but having played a game more than both Man United and Liverpool. Emmanuel Adebayor,Samir Nasri and Nicklas Bendtner scored the Gunners goals at the JJB Stadium although Daniel Cousin replied for the home side and the game was level at 1-1 with eight minutes to go.
The results mean that United leads with 47 points from 21 games,Liverpool is second with 46 from 21,Chelsea is third with 45 from 22 and Villa is fourth with 44 from 22. Arsenal has 41 from 22.
In other games,Manchester City,which has bid more than 100 million pounds for AC Milan’s Kaka,edged Wigan 1-0 with Pablo Zabaleta’s second half strike to climb to 11th. City had to hang on after central defender Richard Dunne was sent off for the second time this season and eighth of his career.
Blackburn beat Newcastle 3-0,Jason Roberts scoring twice after Benni McCarthy’s 61st minute penalty.
Robert Koren scored twice as last-place West Bromwich Albion beat Middlesbrough 3-0 to complete two league victories over Gareth Southgate’s team having also won 1-0 at the Riverside. The victory lifted the Baggies off last place and sent Tottenham bottom,but Spurs can leapfrog them by beating Portsmouth at home.
Wolves moved five points clear of its rivals at the top of the League Championship after a 2-2 draw with Bristol City although Mick McCarthy’s team squandered a 2-0 lead. Second place Reading lost 2-0 at Swansea and third place Birmingham was held 1-1 by Cardiff.