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Man Utd go top as rivals drop points
December 27, 2007 04:42 IST
Manchester United went top of the Premier League after a 4-0 romp at Sunderland on Wednesday with Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points.
Arsenal, who began the day in first place, were held 0-0 in a late kick-off at Portsmouth while third-placed Chelsea were involved in an astonishing 4-4 battle with Aston Villa.
Champions United were a class above hapless Sunderland, two goals from Louis Saha and one each by Wayne Rooney [Images] and the league's leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo [Images] allowing them to go above Arsenal with 45 points at the season's halfway stage.
The holiday fireworks were at Stamford Bridge where Gareth Barry's last-gasp penalty gave 10-man Villa a deserved share of the spoils against a Chelsea side who had Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole sent off.
Chelsea have 38 points, two more than Liverpool who went fourth after a late goal from captain Steven Gerrard earned a 2-1 victory at bottom club Derby County.
Everton stayed in touch with the top four by beating Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at Goodison Park.
Chelsea, already without John Terry, Florent Malouda, Claude Makelele and Didier Drogba, face an injury crisis after midfielder Frank Lampard [Images] joined the casualty list when he limped off with a thigh problem.
Defenders Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole also face suspension after being sent off after a double from Andriy Shevchenko and a goal from Alex had turned around a 2-0 deficit to put them 3-2 up.
In an action-packed final 20 minutes Martin Laursen made it 3-3, substitute Michael Ballack [Images] appeared to have sealed it for Chelsea with a sublime free kick before Cole was red-carded for handball and Barry drove in Villa's equaliser.
Villa had taken a deserved 2-0 lead with two goals from Shaun Maloney, the second a bad mistake by goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Chelsea got a lifeline on the stroke of halftime when Zat Knight bundled Ballack over in the area and was shown a red card before Shevchenko fired home the spot kick.
The Ukrainian made it 2-2 with a spectacular finish and Alex put Chelsea in control before the late twists and turns.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill was frustrated. "We were playing great and deserved to be 2-0 up," he told the BBC. "Their penalty was really dubious, it's a major point in the game... we went from being 2-0 up and suddenly it's 2-1 and we're down to 10 men."
Chelsea said they would appeal against Cole's sending off -- he appeared to head the ball down on to his arm -- but Carvalho had no complaints.
"It was never my intention to hurt Gabriel Agbonlahor with the tackle. I was going for the ball and I don't want people to think that I tried to hurt another player," the Portuguese defender said in a club statement.
United manager Alex Ferguson rested a few of his first teamers against Sunderland but United were still too good and Rooney opened the scoring after 20 minutes.
Saha's volley and a Ronaldo free kick made it 3-0 before halftime and Saha completed the rout with a late spot kick.
At the bottom Birmingham City gave themselves some breathing space with 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic moved out of the drop zone with a 1-0 defeat of inconsistent Newcastle United.
Wigan move above Fulham who were thrashed 5-1 at Tottenham Hotspur, for whom Robbie Keane and Tom Huddlestone both scored twice. West Ham United drew 1-1 with Reading.