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Rediff.com  » Sports » Manchester United see off Birmingham

Manchester United see off Birmingham

March 27, 2006 10:04 IST

Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney steered Manchester United back to second place in the English Premier League after a 3-0 win over struggling Birmingham City on Sunday.

An early Giggs free kick flew in off City keeper Maik Taylor before the Welshman drilled home a second with only 15 minutes on the clock at Old Trafford. Rooney then surged through the defence to beat Taylor in a one-on-one in the 83rd.

Victory moved Alex Ferguson's men nearer an automatic Champions League place and a Birmingham side managed by former United favourite Steve Bruce closer to relegation.

Earlier, defender Stuart Parnaby scored a stoppage-time goal to give Middlesbrough a thrilling 4-3 win over Bolton Wanderers while Charlton Athletic beat Newcastle United 3-1.

Champions Chelsea, who defeated Manchester City 2-0 on Saturday, are top on 78 points from 31 matches, with United second on 66 points with a game in hand.

Liverpool, who beat Everton 3-1 in the Merseyside derby, have 64 points from 32 games. They should at least hold on to third place and reach the Champions League qualifiers.

Giggs stamped his authority on Sunday's game from the start, his curling free kick beating Taylor, striking the post and rebounding in off the keeper's gloves after three minutes.

He followed up with a cool finish, feeding the ball to Rooney outside the area and then running through to collect the England striker's superb defence-splitting pass.

Rooney, who missed a couple of first-half chances, made no mistake towards the end of a game in which team mate Gary Neville made his 500th appearance for United.

Though Ferguson felt his team took their foot off the gas, he told Sky Sports News: "Overall, the form has been excellent. The players are working very well and we're playing some great football."

Birmingham, crushed 7-0 by Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, are 18th in the 20-team division. Ahead of Portsmouth on goal difference, they are three points adrift of West Bromwich Albion.

Bruce said: "We've been battered from pillar to post all week and at last we've responded in a way...and shown a bit of courage to take them on.

"We're still in there and fighting, and trying to make sure we stay in the Premier League.

"Realistically, it's one (survivor) from three. Can we be above Portsmouth and West Brom over the next eight games? That's the challenge."

There was a goal bonanza at the Riverside where Boro's victory lifted Steve McClaren's men well clear of the relegation zone and dented Bolton's Champions League hopes.

HASSELBAINK STRIKES

Bolton took a third-minute lead through Greek forward Stelios Giannakopoulos before Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored twice and made another for Boro.

Nigerian Jay-Jay Okocha pulled one back for Bolton in the 57th minute, after his penalty was parried, and Tunisian defender Radhi Jaidi looked to have won Sam Allardyce's men a point by heading an 81st-minute equaliser.

"It was one of those strange games that are a manager's nightmare," McClaren told the club's website.

"But we're delighted, it's a big win because we kept going and showed great character."

Allardyce said: "For the fans it was an absorbing match. From my point of view, our defensive efforts were woeful."

Defeat in a game between two candidates for the England manager's job left Bolton seventh on 48 points.

Tottenham Hotspur occupy the fourth slot, and England's other place in the Champions League qualifiers, with 52 points, followed by Blackburn Rovers (52) and Arsenal (50).

Down at The Valley, Charlton striker Darren Bent furthered his claim for a place in England's World Cup squad by converting a 23rd minute penalty for his 20th goal of the season.

Newcastle's Scott Parker equalised against his old club with a 25-metre screamer but a 37th minute own goal by Lee Bowyer and Jay Bothroyd's late strike sealed the points for Charlton.

Trevor Huggins
Source:
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