Robin van Persie scored in injury time as Manchester United beat defending champion Manchester City 3-2 yesterday to move six points clear of its rival atop the Premier League.
Wayne Rooney struck twice to move to 150 goals in English soccer’s top league as United established a 2-0 halftime lead. City rallied with efforts from Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta at its Etihad Stadium before Dutch striker Van Persie sealed victory for the visitors.
“It was a fantastic game, you couldn’t take your eyes off it,” United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports.
Amid angry scenes, United defender Rio Ferdinand was hit by an object thrown from the crowd as he celebrated the winning goal. He sustained a cut over an eye.
Everton rallied to beat Tottenham 2-1, while Liverpool had a 3-2 comeback win at West Ham in the day’s other games.
United has 39 points and City is on 33, with Chelsea four points further back. Everton, Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion have 26 points.
City came into the match unbeaten in the league this season. The club hadn’t lost a home game in the competition since December 2010 against Everton.
The hosts dominated the early stages and tested United’s goalkeeper for the first time on six minutes from a long-range Mario Balotelli free kick. The ball stayed low and went under the defensive wall, forcing David de Gea to turn it wide for a corner.
Five minutes later, Balotelli fired a shot high over following a move involving David Silva and Gael Clichy.
After another City attack in the 16th minute, United broke quickly with Ashley Young carrying the ball forward. The England winger passed to Rooney, who turned past Zabaleta before hitting a shot into the bottom corner of the net. Goalkeeper Joe Hart stood motionless as the effort trickled past him.
City was forced into a defensive change midway through the first half with captain Vincent Kompany replaced by Kolo Toure.
United started to take control and Hart had to advance quickly from his goal to kick clear as Young chased a long pass.
The home team had a chance at the other end moments later, although Sergio Aguero’s shot was tame after he had beaten several challenges to break into the penalty area.
The 27-year-old Rooney doubled United’s lead after 29 minutes. The England forward struck a low shot past Hart from a pass by Rafael da Silva.
United center-back Jonny Evans was replaced by Chris Smalling early in the second half, with City’s Balotelli taken off for Carlos Tevez seconds after giving the ball away with a back-heel.
Van Persie hit the bar after 59 minutes and Young was adjudged to be offside when he put the rebound into the net. Within a minute City had a goal back.
Tevez tested De Gea with a close-range shot and the goalkeeper stopped a follow-up effort by Silva. Tevez kept the move alive and passed to Yaya Toure 15 yards from goal. The Ivory Coast midfielder placed his shot into the far corner of the net.
Silva came close for City with 11 minutes remaining when he hit a shot from a tight angle that hit De Gea on the shoulder then deflected against a post.
With only four minutes left City appeared to have rallied for a point when fullback Zabaleta scored at a corner. Instead, United sealed the win from a 25-yard free kick which hit City’s Samir Nasri in the wall and beat the diving Hart.
“We should have been out of sight with the chances we had,” Ferguson said. “But you have to give credit to City, they keep going and they score late goals and they have done it against us again. Fortunately we got the last one.”
City released a statement saying it apologized to Ferdinand after he was hit by an object following Van Persie’s goal. The club said it “unreservedly condemns the actions which led to his being injured.”
The day’s other matches also involved late drama. At Goodison Park, a 76th-minute goal from Clint Dempsey looked to have given visiting Tottenham a win before Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic scored in the final minute and injury time respectively.
Glen Johnson and Joe Cole, who both started their careers at West Ham, scored in Liverpool’s win at Upton Park. The team’s winner came from an own goal by Hammers defender James Collins.
West Ham’s goals came from a Mark Noble penalty and a Steven Gerrard own goal.
Liverpool and West Ham both have 22 points, with the Reds ahead on goal difference in 10th spot.
Two days ago, Chelsea beat Sunderland 3-1, Arsenal defeated West Brom 2-0, and Southampton won 1-0 against Reading to climb out of the relegation positions.
Last-place Queens Park Rangers tied 2-2 at Wigan, the match between Aston Villa and Stoke was scoreless, and Norwich beat Swansea 4-3. Fulham hosts Newcastle today.
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