Premier League round-up
Federico Macheda did it again for Manchester United, who continue to be pursued by Liverpool and Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title. The headline-grabbing Macheda nabbed the winner at Sunderland for United, who had briefly been usurped at the top of the table after Liverpool thrashed Blackburn Rovers at lunchtime. Chelsea are also still in the hunt, but nearly threw away a four-goal lead at home to Bolton Wanderers, while Arsenal rallied to beat Wigan Athletic. Middlesbrough are not yet dead and buried after Gareth Southgate's side recorded a rare Premier League win over fellow strugglers Hull City. West Bromwich Albion let a lead slip in drawing at Portsmouth, and Tottenham Hotspur closed on West Ham United in the race for a Europa League place. Fresh from scoring an injury-time winner a week ago, Italian teenager Macheda was once again United's saviour as the leaders won 2-1 at spirited Sunderland. Macheda climbed off the bench to turn home the winner with his first touch on 76 minutes to claim a priceless three points. Nemanja Vidic almost provided United with the lead on 17 minutes, but the Serbian defender's header was cleared off the line by the covering Danny Collins. United did make the breakthrough two minutes later when Wayne Rooney, playing on the left of midfield, clipped in a perfect cross which Paul Scholes glanced into the far corner. Sunderland responded positively and almost levelled before half-time when Carlos Edwards' low cross was deflected on to his own post by Jonny Evans. The Black Cats deservedly equalised 10 minutes into the second half when Kenwyne Jones stabbed home from close range after an initial poor header from Teemu Tainio's cross. Sir Alex Ferguson threw on Macheda and got an immediate reward when the striker diverted Michael Carrick's wayward effort past Craig Gordon to deflate a Sunderland side who deserved a point. Fernando Torres was in deadly form as Liverpool continued to boost their goal difference with an emphatic 4-0 victory over a limp Blackburn side at Anfield. With Steven Gerrard starting on the bench, it was left to Torres to inspire the title chasers and he opened the scoring after just five minutes with a stunning volley after chesting Jamie Carragher's searching pass under control. Rovers keeper Paul Robinson denied Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt with smart stops, as Torres and Yossi Benayoun produced glaring misses from the rebound on each occasion. Torres, though, did take advantage of slack defending to increase the lead on 33 minutes as he darted across the box to powerfully head home a free-kick from fellow Spaniard, Xabi Alonso. Liverpool cruised through the second half against a Blackburn side devoid of an attacking threat, with centre-half Chris Samba pressed into action as a striker. Daniel Agger smashed home a left-footed shot seven minutes from time before substitute David N'gog completed the scoring in injury-time as he nodded home from close range. Chelsea maintained their title challenge in dramatic fashion after hanging on for a 4-3 victory over Bolton at Stamford Bridge. Guus Hiddink's men took the lead five minutes before half-time when Michael Ballack slipped in Salomon Kalou on the right of the box before bursting into the area to steer the return pass beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen. The lead was doubled three minutes into the second half when Frank Lampard's low free-kick was swept home at the near post by Didier Drogba. Lampard made it 3-0 from the penalty spot on the hour mark after the England midfielder's cross struck the arm of Bolton full-back Gretar Steinsson. And the game appeared to be in safe keeping when Drogba scored Chelsea's fourth on 63 minutes by tucking home from close range after Branislav Ivanovic knocked down Florent Malouda's corner. However, Bolton rallied in the last 20 minutes and pulled a goal back through Andy O'Brien who stabbed home the loose ball after Petr Cech came out to block the defender's initial effort. Chelsea's advantage was further reduced on 74 minutes when Chris Basham stretched out a leg to prod the ball home after Kevin Davies' had nodded a cross back across goal. The nerves started jangling for the hosts on 78 minutes when Matt Taylor headed beyond Cech after Davies had helped on Jaaskelainen's long clearance. Bolton keeper Jaaskelainen went up for a late corner and almost helped his team snatch an equaliser, but the Blues hung on. Arsenal strengthened their claims of taking the fourth UEFA Champions League spot after coming from behind to win 4-1 at Wigan Athletic. Wigan edged ahead on 18 minutes courtesy of an acrobatic finish from Mido after a corner was knocked down into the Egyptian striker's path. And the Latics almost increased their lead on the stroke of half-time when Arsenal were fortunate not to be down to 10 men after Kieran Gibbs pulled back Antonio Valencia as the winger bore down on goal. Gibbs was shown leniency by referee Alan Wiley to only be booked and, from the resulting free-kick, Ben Watson's curling effort came back off the post. Arsenal stepped up the pace in the second half and drew level on 61 minutes when Andriy Arshavin flicked the ball on to Theo Walcott to finish confidently past Chris Kirkland. The turnaround was complete 10 minutes later with Cesc Fabregas the provider as his low ball into the six-yard box was side-footed home by Mikael Silvestre. Substitute Robin van Persie had a goal chalked off for offside before Arsenal hit Wigan on the break to score a third in the last minute. Arshavin fired home after being gifted possession by Jason Koumas and there was still time for Alexandre Song to dance his way into the box and drill a low shot past Kirkland. Portsmouth inched nearer to Premier League safety, as West Brom edged closer to relegation, after a 2-2 draw at Fratton Park. Portsmouth went in front on 33 minutes when Jermaine Pennant flicked the ball inside for Younes Kaboul, who cut into the box before curling a sumptuous left-footed effort into the far corner. West Brom showed fighting spirit after the break to equalise on 48 minutes after a mistake by Pompey keeper David James. England's No.1 hit a clearance straight at James Morrison, whose shot was parried by James into the path of Jonathan Greening to slide home. And the Baggies took the lead on 62 minutes when Chris Brunt's free-kick from 25 yards took a deflection on its way past James. However, Pompey snatched a point three minutes later when Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar curled an exquisite free-kick into the top corner. Middlesbrough injected life into their survival bid, and increased Hull City's worries, after a 3-1 success at the Riverside. Boro enjoyed a dream start in front of a packed Riverside when Tuncay Sanli turned home the loose ball after just three minutes when Tigers keeper Matt Duke could only parry Afonso Alves' low shot. But the visitors were quickly back on level terms when on-loan striker Manucho beat a team-mate to the punch by heading home former Boro midfielder Nick Barmby's cross. The hosts were back in front on 29 minutes when Tony McMahon's corner from the right was met by a neat flick at the near post from Matthew Bates. Marlon King, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Hull, made the points safe late on when he slotted past Duke after Kamil Zayatte had dwelt in possession. Tottenham Hotspur boosted their hopes of qualifying for Europe after a 1-0 home win over rivals West Ham United. The only goal arrived on 65 minutes when Croatian duo Vedran Corluka and Luka Modric combined to feed Roman Pavlyuchenko, who turned smartly and shot past Robert Green.
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