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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 12, 2008

Premier League: United crush woeful Magpies

Manchester United took advantage of an Arsenal slip-up to power back to the top of the Barclays Premier League with a 6-0 thrashing of managerless Newcastle. Playing after the Gunners had been held 1-1 by Birmingham, United piled on the misery for Newcastle with a stirring second-half display that saw Cristiano Ronaldo notch a hat-trick. Carlos Tevez struck twice and Rio Ferdinand was also on target at Old Trafford as Newcastle, reeling after Harry Redknapp rejected the chance to become their manager, were dismantled after keeping their hosts goalless in the first half. The Magpies' woes were compounded as former Manchester United player Alan Smith was sent off in injury time for foul and abusive language. United's win took the champions top of the table on goal difference after Arsenal failed to cash in on a controversial Emmanuel Adebayor penalty at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal dominated the early stages but could find no way past the Blues until Stephen Kelly was adjudged by referee Phil Dowd to have fouled Eduardo in the box in the 21st minute - and Adebayor slotted in the resulting spot-kick. The Gunners could not hold their lead, though, Garry O'Connor's header from a corner levelling the match only three minutes after the break - and giving Manchester United the chance to usurp the Londoners at the top of the table should they beat Newcastle in today's evening kick-off. Juliano Belletti provided Chelsea with the impetus they needed at home to Tottenham - with an outstanding strike after 19 minutes as the third-placed Blues won 2-0 to narrow the gap on United, for a couple of hours at least. Dimitar Berbatov gave Chelsea a scare with a second-half free-kick which just cleared the bar - but Avram Grant's men made sure when the in-form Shaun Wright-Phillips scored a second goal in the 80th minute. Liverpool dropped two costly points at the Riverside Stadium, where a scrappy 26th-minute goal from George Boateng gave Middlesbrough a surprise 1-0 lead. Stewart Downing then hit the post for the hosts in the second half, but the Reds rescued a draw when Fernando Torres' right-footed drive from 25 yards flew into the top corner 19 minutes from time. Simon Davies got struggling Fulham off to a flying start in pursuit of an elusive away win, with a goal direct from a free-kick to put the Cottagers 1-0 up at West Ham after just eight minutes. But Roy Hodgson's team could not see the job through, Dean Ashton equalising shortly before the half-hour and Anton Ferdinand giving the Hammers the points in the 69th minute. Manchester City are another team who have found it relatively tough away from home for much of this season - and sure enough they lost 1-0 at Goodison Park. The winner came from the predictable source of a Mikel Arteta corner, Joleon Lescott staying up to hit the target with a 31st-minute header on the end of the Spanish winger's delivery as Everton finished the day level on points with their illustrious neighbours Liverpool. Aston Villa were indebted to John Carew, who struck in the 22nd minute to set them on their way to a 3-1 victory at home to Reading - and then made sure with his second goal in the 88th. Royals goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was a touch fortunate to escape with a yellow card for a scything challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor at the start of the second half. But Martin Laursen doubled the lead soon afterwards with a 55th-minute header from a corner, and James Harper's 90th-minute strike for the visitors was mere consolation. New-look Derby had an opportunity to vindicate some of Paul Jewell's transfer-window signings. But none of the bottom club's players managed to get on the scoresheet in a 1-0 defeat at home to their new manager's old club Wigan. The Rams were reduced to 10 men when Claude Davis was sent off midway through the second half for a second bookable offence - and Antoine Sibierski administered the telling blow with the winner eight minutes from time.

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