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Mar 11, 2012

Rooney sends Utd top, Swans stun City

Manchester United returned to the top of the Premier League table on Sunday after they strolled past ten-man West Brom and rivals Manchester City were surprisingly sunk by Swansea.

• Premier League gallery Photo Gallery
• Jolly: United on familiar ground
• Team of the Week

Manchester City failed a major test of their title credentials as they were beaten 1-0 by Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea should have been ahead after five minutes when they were awarded a penalty - but Scott Sinclair's effort was kept out brilliantly by a sprawling Joe Hart, who gave away the spot-kick by bringing down Wayne Routledge. City failed to respond to that scare, and did not register a shot on goal until the 23rd minute. Roberto Mancini, clearly irritated, took decisive action shortly before the break, making a tactical switch by hauling off Gareth Barry in favour of Sergio Aguero.

Mancini's tweak had no effect on the pattern of the match early in the second period, with Swansea keeping the ball shrewdly and hunting it down in a frenzied manner when possession was squandered. Chances were few and far between, yet it was the hosts who looked the more comfortable generally. City's simmering sense of frustration was tangible: as the match wore on, both Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli were involved in minor skirmishes on the field.

And with seven minutes remaining, the hosts found the goal they deserved. Wayne Routledge pounced on Stefan Savic's wayward pass, before crossing for an unmarked Luke Moore to nod in. City thought they had escaped when Micah Richards put the ball in the net in stoppage time - only for the assistant referee to rule it offside, relegating the Etihad outfit to second place.

Manchester United leapfrogged their great rivals thanks to a comfortable 2-0 triumph over West Brom at Old Trafford, sealed via a Wayne Rooney brace.

An attacking Manchester United side - Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck all in the starting XI - were nearly caught napping twice inside the opening 20 minutes, with West Brom left to rue the fact the chances fell to midfielder Keith Andrews. But United found a foothold as the half wore on, with Ashley Young at the heart of their best moves, and edged ahead on 36 minutes when Rooney got on the end of Hernandez's volleyed cross.

Hernandez and Welbeck were both unlucky not to double United's lead, before Baggies defender Jonas Olsson was given a second yellow card for a trip on the Mexico international. Soon after Olsson's dismissal, United killed the game off: Andrews brought down the influential Young in the box, and Rooney stroked the penalty home to send his side to the summit.

In the Sunday's final game Wigan remained rooted to the foot of the table after missing a hatful of chances in a 1-1 draw against Norwich at Carrow Road. A big win could have lifted the Latics out of the bottom three but instead they had to come from behind, with Victor Moses cancelling out Wes Hoolahan's opener.

Hoolahan struck after just ten minutes thanks to an error from Ali Al-Habsi. The Wigan keeper's poor clearance allowed Norwich a throw-in, which they took quickly, crossing immediately for Hoolahan to convert.

Norwich were by no means comfortable though, and Wigan almost levelled in fortunate circumstances when Emmerson Boyce's cross drifted onto John Ruddy's bar. Ruddy was then called into action early in the second half to deny James McCarthy when clean through.

An equaliser was the least Wigan deserved, and they got it thanks to a brilliant Shaun Maloney pass that allowed Moses to ride one tackle before rounding Ruddy. Substitute Mohamed Diame then should have won it with five minutes remaining, although Wigan were grateful to a world class Al-Habsi save at the other end as both teams pushed for a winner.


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