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May 14, 2011

United crowned champions

A penalty from Wayne Rooney allowed Manchester United to clinch a record 19th league title following a 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

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Tomasz Kuszczak was a surprise inclusion in the Manchester United line-up, and it was his mistake that allowed Brett Emerton to fire Blackburn into the lead on 20 minutes. The Polish goalkeeper palmed Emerton's initial cross into the path of Martin Olsson, who sent the ball to the back post for Emerton to volley home.

Although United monopolised possession throughout the opening period, they pressed without finding any penetration, with Steve Kean vindicated in his decision to hold a deep defensive line. The pattern continued in the early stages of the second period, but it was Blackburn who created the first clear-cut chance, as Olsson headed against the post.

United's dominance was eventually rewarded on 72 minutes, as Rooney slotted in a penalty following Paul Robinson's foul on Javier Hernandez - although the spot-kick was shrouded in controversy, with referee Phil Dowd consulting with the linesman before giving the decision. The game petered out to a forgettable conclusion, both teams settling for the draw.

Wolves' future is in their own hands after a 3-1 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light lifted them into 16th place, on 40 points.

The Black Cats were made to pay for their early profligacy when Jody Craddock, formerly of Sunderland, volleyed Mick McCarthy's men in front after Stephen Hunt's deep cross eluded the hosts' defence. Overturning the deficit promised to be tough for Sunderland, who had no recognised striker on the pitch - but they did manage to equalise through Stephane Sessegnon. The Benin international smashed in acrobatically at the far post after Wolves allowed a corner to bounce in their area.

At half-time, McCarthy threw on England international Matt Jarvis - and he played a pivotal role as Wolves reclaimed the lead on 54 minutes, standing up a cross for Steven Fletcher to nod home after Simon Mignolet missed the ball. George Elokobi made the points safe for Wolves by thundering home a header with 20 minutes left.

Blackpool remain in 18th place despite grinding out a dramatic 4-3 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Bloomfield Road. Despite a lively start from Blackpool, it was Bolton who took the lead following a horrendous mistake from Alex Baptiste, who made a mess of clearing a free-kick, allowing Kevin Davies to pounce and fire into the top corner after six minutes. But DJ Campbell restored parity two minutes later, latching onto Gary Taylor-Fletcher's flick before calmly lofting the ball over Jussi Jaaskelainen.

And, as has been the case so often at Bloomfield Road this season, the goals kept flowing: on 19 minutes, Jason Puncheon nudged the hosts in front by slipping a fine left-footed drive into the corner from the edge of the box. Although Bolton had lost ten of their last 11 away league games heading into this one, they didn't crumble - and Matthew Taylor made it 2-2 with less than half of the opening period gone.

Campbell edged the Tangerines closer to only their third win of 2011 by netting on the stroke of half-time, sliding in to meet Charlie Adam's driven cross. With the second period not yet ten minutes old, on-loan striker Daniel Sturridge claimed his eighth goal in 11 matches for Bolton, nodding in from close range after fine work from Davies.

Blackpool's never-say-die attitude was again in evidence as they reclaimed the lead through skipper Adam, who looks set to leave the club in the summer, on 63 minutes. The Scotland international played a one-two with Taylor-Fletcher before unleashing a howitzer from 15 yards that earned Blackpool a vital three points - taking them to 39 overall - ahead of their trip to Old Trafford on the final day.

A goal from Youssouf Mulumbu earned West Bromwich Albion a 1-0 home win over Everton, who had Diniyar Bilyaletdinov sent off for a dangerous tackle on James Morrison.

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