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United takes 7-point lead into 2013
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 30 - 12 - 2012

LONDON — Manchester United preserved its seven-point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League Saturday, defeating West Bromwich Albion 2-0 as the champion scraped a 4-3 win at Norwich City.
United manager Alex Ferguson was the center of pre-match attention at Old Trafford for an outspoken attack on Newcastle United counterpart Alan Pardew, but his side got down to business quickly and went ahead in the ninth minute.
The scorer wore a blue and white shirt, however, with West Brom defender Gareth McAuley inadvertently shinning the ball into his own goal after Ashley Young drove a low cross across the face of goal.
Former United goalkeeper Ben Foster tipped a Young shot onto the crossbar, but United was not able to breathe easily until substitute Robin van Persie curled a glorious shot into the top-left corner in the last minute.
City lost Samir Nasri to a first-half red card at Norwich but edged an open-ended encounter thanks in no small part to Edin Dzeko, who scored twice and might have had a hat trick.
The Bosnian, who has had to become accustomed to a role on the substitutes' bench this season, struck twice inside the opening four minutes to put City in control at Carrow Road.
But Norwich hit back through a deflected Anthony Pilkington free-kick and the visitors were then dealt a blow when Nasri was sent off for aiming a head-butt at Sebastien Bassong.
Sergio Aguero's deft, lobbed finish restored City's two-goal cushion in the 50th minute and although Russell Martin headed in for Norwich, Dzeko made it 4-2 when his shot hit the post and bounced in off Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn.
Martin scored again with 15 minutes to go, prodding in from close range after City failed to clear a corner, but Roberto Mancini's men were able to hang on.
Aston Villa's recent miseries continued as they sank 3-0 at home to Wigan Athletic.
Goals from Ivan Ramis, Emmerson Boyce and Arouna Kone put paid to Paul Lambert's young team, who have now shipped 15 goals in three games after losing 8-0 to Chelsea and 4-0 to Tottenham Hotspur.
Villa would have slipped into the relegation zone had third-bottom Southampton not been denied victory in a 3-3 draw at Stoke City by a sensational 25-yard strike from Cameron Jerome.
Southampton had led 3-1, and played against 10 men following the 71st-minute dismissal of Steven N'Zonzi, but second-bottom Reading did a better job of defending a lead in a 1-0 home win over West Ham United.
Fulham's dismal form continued, meanwhile, as it lost 2-1 at home to Swansea City.
In the lunch-time game, Tottenham overturned a half-time deficit to win 2-1 at Sunderland, provisionally moving them into third place. Andre Villas-Boas' side has taken 19 points from a possible 24 and is now a point above third-place Chelsea, which has two games in hand and visits Everton Sunday.
Vilanova recovery on track
Barcelona President Sandro Rosell has said coach Tito Vilanova, who suffered a recurrence of cancer in his saliva glands earlier this month, will be back at work midway through January.
Vilanova underwent surgery on Dec. 20, a day after the club announced that the 44-year-old's condition had returned. He first had treatment in 2011.
“He'll be back within 15 or 20 days, but he must spend some days at the hospital and rest,” Rosell told reporters in Dubai Friday. “He will mix work with his treatment. The most important thing is his health. Right now football comes second,” added Rosell.
Barcelona has made a record-breaking start to its first season under Vilanova. — Agencies

Premier League Table

P W D L F A Pts
1. Man United 20 16 1 3 50 28 49
2. Manchester City 20 12 6 2 38 19 42
3. Tottenham 20 11 3 6 36 26 36
4. Chelsea 18 10 5 3 37 17 35
5. Everton 19 8 9 2 32 23 33
6. West Bromwich 20 10 3 7 28 25 33
7. Arsenal 18 8 6 4 32 18 30
8. Stoke City 20 6 11 3 21 17 29
9. Swansea City 20 7 7 6 29 24 28
10. Liverpool 19 6 7 6 28 26 25
11. Norwich City 20 6 7 7 23 32 25
12. West Ham 19 6 5 8 22 23 23
13. Sunderland 20 5 7 8 21 26 22
14. Fulham 20 5 6 9 30 36 21
15. Newcastle 19 5 5 9 23 30 20
16. Wigan Athletic 20 5 3 12 22 35 18
17. Aston Villa 20 4 6 10 15 39 18
18. Southampton 19 4 5 10 26 37 17
19. Reading 20 2 7 11 22 37 13
20. QPR 19 1 7 11 16 33 10


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