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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Ronaldo keeps United top

Ronaldo keeps United top

December 24, 2006 14:55 IST

Leaders Manchester United began their holiday fixtures with a resounding 3-0 victory at Aston Villa as the goals flowed in the English Premier League on Saturday.

A double from an inspired Cristiano Ronaldo and a thumping Paul Scholes volley, all in the second half, briefly gave United a five-point lead before champions Chelsea responded with a last-gasp 3-2 win at Wigan Athletic to slice it to two again.

At the halfway point of the season United have 47 points from 19 games while Chelsea have 45.

Liverpool remained a distant third at the halfway stage, 13 points behind United after Craig Bellamy and Xabi Alonso sealed a 2-0 home win over bottom club Watford.

Arsenal stayed in the last Champions League qualifying spot with a 6-2 thrashing of free-falling Blackburn Rovers.

Arsenal were shocked into action after three minutes when Shabani Nonda scored a penalty, but the rampant Gunners replied three times before halftime with Gilberto Silva, Alexandr Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor's penalty.

Nonda scored again after the break as Rovers threatened a comeback only for Robin van Persie to score a late double before Matthieu Flamini completed the rout in added time.

Wayne Rooney was left on the bench for United's trip to Villa Park having missed training due to a family bereavement, but his sidekick Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage.

The Portuguese cut through the Villa defence to break the deadlock after 59 minutes and then grabbed the killer third goal either side of Scholes' thumping volley that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

"After 11 games in a row it was a good time to give [Rooney] a rest," United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports.

"But Ronaldo was fantastic, he's having a great season for us," added Ferguson who celebrated the 2,000th United goal under his command when Ronaldo scored the opener.

"Maybe I'll give him a bottle of wine," he joked.

Chelsea's victory took the day's goal tally to 32, but they looked to have blown victory when Emile Heskey's brace cancelled out goals from Frank Lampard and Salomon Kalou.

However, in the third minute of stoppage time Robben cut in from the right to fire the winner that keeps Chelsea breathing down United's neck.

Earlier at St James' Park, Newcastle United won 3-1 against a Tottenham Hotspur side looking for a sixth straight victory in all competitions.

Keiron Dyer and in-form striker Obafemi Martins gave the hosts a two-goal lead, Danny Murphy pulled one back for Spurs before Scott Parker struck again all before halftime.

Nicolas Anelka scored both goals for Bolton Wanderers as they consolidated fifth place with a 2-0 victory at Manchester City, who had Joey Barton sent off late on.

Portsmouth, who are also flying high, came from behind to beat Sheffield United 3-1 and stay sixth. Everton striker Andy Johnson, accused of diving by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho last week, responded with a goal in Everton's 2-0 win at Reading.

Charlton Athletic completed a miserable week to increase the pressure on manager Les Reed.

Thrashed by Liverpool last Saturday and beaten by fourth division Wycombe Wanderers in the League Cup on Tuesday, second-bottom Charlton lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough in a relegation battle.

Charlton have now gone 24 away matches without a victory.

Middlesbrough's win left West Ham United in the bottom three despite a battling 0-0 draw at Fulham. The struggling east London side, without an away goal since August, had Paul Konchesky sent off five minutes from time.


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