Man Utd keep Chelsea at arm’s length

London, March 17:

Wayne Rooney and Park Ji-Sung grabbed two goals each as Manchester United beat Bolton 4-1 to retain a six-point lead over Chelsea in the Premiership.

Chelsea made equally light work of Sheffield United, goals from Andriy Shev-chenko, Salomon Kalou and Michael Ballack allowing the champions to cruise to a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

With only eight games left, time is running short for Chelsea: United’s superior goal difference means they will almost certainly be champions for the first time since 2003 if they win six of their remaining matches.

At Old Trafford, Park scored two close-range efforts either side of Rooney’s superbly-taken opener as United killed the lunchtime contest in the space of 11 first-half minutes. Rooney added his second with another brilliant finish quarter of an hour from the end. Gary Speed scored for Bolton on penalty.

Cristiano Ronaldo was again outstanding creating his side’s first three goals before making way for Alan Smith, underlining why he is the favourite to win England’s player of the year awards and why Barcelona and Real Madrid are desperate to prise him away from Old Trafford.

Manchester City earned some breathing space for their manager Stuart Pearce by ending a run of five straight defeats with a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough. Pearce’s recent signing Em-ile Mpenza claimed his first goal after skipper Sylvain Distin had fired City ahead after the hour mark. The three points enabled City to climb above both Sheffield United and Wigan and gives them a nine-point cushion from the relegation zone.

Tottenham’s strong run of form continued with a 3-1 win over Watford, in which Spurs keeper Paul Robinson humiliated his rival for the England gloves, Ben Foster, by scoring with a 75-yard punt. Robinson’s effort, which landed in front of Foster and bounced over his head into the net, followed a first-half header from Jermaine Jenas.

Egyptian midfielder Hossan Ghaly added Tottenham’s third five minutes from time before Darius Henderson scored a late consolation effort for the visitors, who look doomed to an immediate return to the Championship.

Reading failed to take full advantage of Bolton’s defeat in the battle for UEFA Cup spots next season. Steve Coppell’s side could only manage a goalless draw at home to Portsmouth. Wigan and Fulham both edged a little closer to survival after an equally uninspiring goalless draw at the JJB Stadium.