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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Premier League: Reading stun Reds, United stroll

LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Reading ended Liverpool's unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a shock 3-1 win over Rafa Benitez's team at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

The result left fourth-placed Liverpool seven points behind leaders Arsenal while Manchester United and Chelsea maintained their title challenges with home wins over Derby County and Sunderland respectively.

United beat bottom club Derby 4-1 at Old Trafford where Ryan Giggs scored his 100th league goal. Chelsea overcame Sunderland 2-0 to extend their unbeaten home league record to 71 matches.

Arsenal, who visit Middlesbrough on Sunday, have 37 points from 15 matches. United have 36 from 16, Chelsea 34 from 16 and Liverpool 30 from 15.

Fifth-placed Portsmouth, who won 3-1 at Aston Villa, are also on 30 points alongside Manchester City, who play at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Mid-table Reading's victory was their first against one of the so-called 'Big Four' clubs since gaining promotion in 2005-06.

They took the lead with a controversial 17th-minute penalty from Stephen Hunt after Jamie Carragher clearly fouled Ivar Ingimarsson outside the box.

Stephen Gerrard equalised for Liverpool in the 28th but a goal from Kevin Doyle and a fine individual effort by James Harper in the 67th gave Reading the points.

Liverpool manager Benitez complained that Reading should not have been awarded their penalty.

'I think it was outside the area. Why was it not a yellow card? If it was a penalty, it should have been a yellow card,' he told Setanta.

'It was a strange game. We have to think about the positives - no injuries.'

Earlier, United dominated against Derby but had to wait until the 40th minute to take the lead.

Derby keeper Stephen Bywater could only parry a Cristiano Ronaldo shot for Giggs to tap in his landmark goal.

Carlos Tevez scored twice to put United 3-0 ahead before Steve Howard bagged Derby's first away goal of the season after 76 minutes.

Ronaldo completed the scoring with a last-minute penalty for the home side.

Chelsea were also made to work hard against struggling Sunderland but there was never much doubt about the outcome after Andriy Shevchenko headed the Londoners in front after 23 minutes.

Neither side created much in terrible conditions at Stamford Bridge before Chelsea made sure of the points when Frank Lampard converted a penalty after Danny Higginbotham had pulled Alex's shirt.

Sunderland's Liam Miller was sent off with two minutes left for pushing Claudio Pizarro in the face.

Yakubu Aiyegbeni grabbed a second half hat-trick as Everton swept past Fulham 3-0.

Defender Habib Beye's late winner helped relieve the pressure on Newcastle United manager Sam Allardyce as his side beat Birmingham City 2-1 in a match played in snow and sleet at St James' Park.