Man United close in on Liverpool

London, January 15:

Manchester United moved to within two points of Premier League leaders Liverpool on Wednesday after the champions beat Wigan 1-0 at Old Trafford.

Steve Bruce’s side rode into the Theatre of Dreams on the back of a run of six wins in their previous seven league matches. But United needed less than a minute to puncture the visitors confidence.

Dimitar Berbatov’s superb pass sent Cristiano Ronaldo away on the right flank and the World Player of the Year’s low cross was flicked on by Michael Carrick to leave Wayne Rooney with a simple tap in. That was to prove enough to secure all three points but another hugely positive evening for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was marred by the sight of Rooney limping off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury only seven minutes after he had scored the decisive goal.

The victory means Manchester United will go top of the standing for the first time this season if they can beat Bolton on Saturday. Leaders Liverpool do not play their next match until Monday’s Merseyside derby clash with Everton at Anfield.

FA Cup

LONDON: Chelsea flirted with FA Cup humiliation before coming from behind to beat Southend 4-1 in a third round replay that epitomised the best traditions of the world’s oldest knockout competition.

Having been braced for a backlash from Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Manchester United on Sunday, League One’s Southend stunned the visitors by taking the lead through captain Adam Barrett’s 16th-minute header. Michael Ballack’s goal got Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side back on level terms just before the break and Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka found the net before Frank Lampard completed a win.

In Wednesday’s other replays, a second string Hull knocked out Newcastle, for whom Michael Owen squandered three superb chances.

Hull’s Daniel Cousin, in contrast, needed only one chance to send his side into a fourth round meeting with Millwall by converting a Richard Garcia cross 10 minutes from time. Crystal Palace won their battle with fellow Championship side Leicester 2-1.

Spanish Cup

MADRID: An under-strength Barcelona side was still too good for Atletico Madrid as they inflicted a fourth successive defeat on their opponents with a 2-1 victory and a place in the Spanish Cup quarter-finals here on Wednesday. Barcelona won 5-2 on aggregate.

Barcelona — who were without six first choice players such as Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi as Josep Guardiola opted to either rest them or put them on the bench — scored through Bojan Krkic and Eidur Gudjohnsen.

Atletico had been briefly given some hope of overturning their 3-1 deficit from the first leg when Florent Sinama-Pongolle gave them the lead in the 24th minute.

Holders Valencia also progressed, but they were taken to extra-time by Racing Santander. However extra-time goals by Vicente and Joaquin earned Valencia their place in the last eight.