United seize top spot, Spurs hit five goals

Monday, 13 February 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Manchester United went top of the Premier League on Saturday after a 2-1 win over Liverpool, with the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra racism row reigniting, while Tottenham Hotspur beat Newcastle United 5-0.

With closest rivals Manchester City not playing until Sunday, Manchester United made the most of the opportunity to leapfrog their neighbours on a day when Arsenal also capitalised on another Chelsea slip-up to climb to fourth.

Manchester United’s victory in the north-west derby at Old Trafford, which arrived courtesy of two Wayne Rooney goals, was marred by Liverpool striker Suarez’s refusal to shake hands with home defender Evra before the match.

It was the first time the two players had met since Suarez, who scored a late consolation goal for the visitors, was banned for eight matches for racially abusing the United defender in October’s reverse fixture at Anfield.

The snub had United manager Alex Ferguson branding Suarez a “disgrace to Liverpool” who should never play for the club again.

While all the focus in that game was on the escalation of the controversy, with Evra also criticised by his manager for his wild celebrations right in front of Suarez after the final whistle, it was all about the football at White Hart Lane.

Emmanuel Adebayor scored one goal and set up four as Tottenham thumped Newcastle to strengthen their grip on third place and underline why their manager Harry Redknapp is favourite for the vacant England job.

Spurs were two up after six minutes and had established a four-goal lead by halftime, with new signing Louis Saha on target twice and Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Niko Kranjcar also netting.

Adebayor then struck midway through the second half, volleying in a Saha header as Spurs chalked up 53 points from 25 games, five behind Manchester United who are a point above City ahead of the latter’s game at Aston Villa on Sunday.

Home fans sang “There’s only one Harry Redknapp” throughout, hoping he chooses to stay at the club rather than take over as England boss, a post he is widely tipped to fill after Fabio Capello’s resignation this week.

Redknapp said his mind was on Spurs and he was not planning to abandon them while things were going so well.

“If it ever happened and you got the offer (of the England job) you would have to consider what you feel is the right thing to do,” he told ESPN.

“But at the moment I am focusing purely on Tottenham ... I’m not just going to leave them in the lurch. It’s not fair, we’re going well ... I’ve just got to keep doing the job here.”

While wins like this one will raise Redknapp’s stock even further, defeats like Chelsea’s 2-0 reverse at Everton are doing the opposite for manager Andre Villas-Boas.

The pressure is piling on the young Portuguese whose training sessions have been closely monitored by Russian owner Roman Abramovich this week.

Villas-Boas shouldered full responsibility for a result that dropped Chelsea out of the Champions League qualifying spots.

A goal in each half from Everton pair Steven Pienaar and Denis Stracqualursi means the west London team have now won only two of their last 10 league games.

“Today was our worst game of the season, the worst in every sense of the word,” Villas-Boas told the club’s website (www.chelseafc.com).

“Full responsibility for myself as the manager for what happened, maybe the preparation for the game wasn’t up to the level that could have helped the players in a different way.”

Arsenal’s day looked to be heading the same way when they went behind to a 70th-minute James McClean goal at Sunderland.

The visitors pulled level five minutes later as Aaron Ramsey, who came on for Per Mertesacker when the Germany defender sustained ankle ligament damage, picked up the ball on the edge of the box and shot home.

Thierry Henry also came off the bench and he volleyed a stoppage-time winner in his final league game before the club’s record goalscorer returns to the New York Red Bulls at the end of his short-term loan back at the north London team.

Victory lifted Arsenal above Chelsea on goal difference with 43 points.

At the other end of the table Blackburn Rovers stayed in the relegation zone on goal difference despite a 3-2 win at home to Queens Park Rangers.

In another game between two struggling sides, Wigan Athletic got the better of local rivals Bolton Wanderers with a 2-1 victory at the Reebok stadium.

Wigan stay bottom with 19 points but made up some ground on the other relegation battlers with second-from-bottom Bolton on 20 and Blackburn, QPR and Wolverhampton Wanderers on 21.

Norwich City rose to eighth after two goals from Grant Holt helped them to a 3-2 win at fellow promoted side Swansea City while Fulham beat Stoke City 2-1 in a mid-table meeting.