United start new year with a bang

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iol pic sport Manchester United REUTERS Wigan Athletic's Franco Di Santo (C) challenges Manchester United's Ashley Young during their English Premier League soccer match at the DW Stadium in Wigan, northern England.

London - Manchester United kept a firm grip on the Premier League title race by sweeping to a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on the first day of 2013 to maintain their seven-point lead.

Champions Manchester City remain United’s nearest rivals after a 3-0 success at home to Stoke City, while Tottenham Hotspur climbed to third by coming from behind to defeat second-bottom Reading 3-1 at White Hart Lane.

Javier Hernandez had already had a goal ruled out for offside at the DW Stadium when he put United 1-0 up against Wigan by tapping in after Ali Al Habsi saved from Patrice Evra in the 35th minute.

Robin van Persie got off the mark for the New Year eight minutes later, collecting a pass from Hernandez and sending Ivan Ramis to the turf with a dummy before curling the ball inside the right-hand post.

Hernandez added a third in the 63rd minute, swivelling to dispatch a half-volley when a Van Persie free-kick arrived at his feet, before the Dutchman completed a brace of his own in the 88th minute with his 16th league goal.

City dominated the early stages at home to Stoke, who had gone into the game looking to protect a 10-match unbeaten run.

Deadlock

Pablo Zabeleta broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time, rolling the ball into an empty net after Asmir Begovic touched away James Milner’s low cross with his foot.

Sergio Aguero was the creator of City’s second in the 56th minute, with a low drive that was parried by Begovic only for Edin Dzeko to turn the loose ball home.

Aguero scored a 74th-minute penalty after Steven Nzonzi was adjudged to have tripped David Silva, but the Argentinian had to leave the fray moments later after appearing to sustain a hamstring injury.

Tottenham fell behind in the fourth minute against Reading when Pavel Pogrebnyak headed the visitors in front, but Michael Dawson’s header meant the hosts were level within five minutes.

Spurs were dominant from then on, Emmanuel Adebayor putting them in front with a powerful 51st-minute header before Clint Dempsey’s deflected strike made it 3-1.

Victory took Spurs a point clear of Chelsea, who have two games in hand and host bottom club Queens Park Rangers today. Aston Villa drew 2-2 at Swansea City, who equalised through Danny Graham in injury time. Christian Benteke had put Villa ahead with an 84th-minute penalty, after Wayne Routledge’s ninth-minute opener for the hosts had been cancelled out by Andreas Weimann. West Ham United were also on the up, beating Norwich City 2-1 through goals from Mark Noble and Joey O’Brien to climb to 11th. Earlier, Fulham shook off their slumbers from 2012 to win 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion and record their second win in 13 matches.

Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov scored the first goal of 2013 at the Hawthorns, with Alex Kacaniklic netting a 58th-minute winner after Romelu Lukaku equalised early in the second half.

In yesterday’s late game, Southampton drew 1-1 with Arsenal. - Sapa-AFP


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