Manchester United stay atop as Chelsea hit Villa for seven

LONDON: Champions Manchester United restored their one-point lead at the top of the English Premier League with a 4-0 win at Bolton, responding perfectly to Chelsea’s 7-1 mauling of Aston Villa on Saturday.

It took United, without injured star striker Wayne Rooney, 38 minutes to go ahead through a Jlloyd Samuel own goal at the Reebok Stadium. And it wasn’t until 21 minutes from time that United added a second when Dimitar Berbatov scored the first of his two goals before substitute Darron Gibson added a fourth in the 82nd minute. But, either side of Samuel’s own-goal, United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made important saves from Johan Elmander and Fabrice Muamba.

Earlier, Frank Lampard took his goal tally for the season to 21 as Chelsea briefly deposed United at the top with a 7-1 thrashing of Villa. Arsenal stayed third after a 1-1 draw away to Birmingham. Samir Nasri’s goal nine minutes from time appeared to have sealed victory for Arsenal only for Kevin Phillips to equalise in the closing moments.

Fourth-placed Tottenham maintained their bid for Champions League football with a 2-0 win at home to Portsmouth that pushed the visitors to the brink of relegation. Elsewhere, Stoke piled the pressure on West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola with a 1-0 win at Upton Park thanks to striker Ricardo Fuller’s 69th-minute goal. Their sixth straight loss leaves the Hammers above the relegation zone solely on goal difference after fellow strugglers Hull won 2-0 at home to Fulham. Meanwhile Wolves and Everton shared the points in a goalless draw.

At Stamford Bridge, Lampard gave Chelsea a 15th-minute lead but Villa equalised when John Carew turned in Ashley Young’s cross in the 29th minute. Lampard restored Chelsea’s lead a minute before half-time with a penalty after James Collins tripped Yuri Zhirkov.

Malouda then made sure of the points when he turned in a cross from Zhirkov in the 57th minute. Lampard had his hat-trick when he scored his second penalty following a foul on Zhirkov by Richard Dunne. Villa conceded another when Malouda scored after being played in by Lampard. Salomon Kalou made it 6-1 and there was still time for Lampard to score his fourth.

In the match between Tottenham and Portsmouth, former Pompey striker Peter Crouch opened the scoring in the 27th minute when he headed past fellow England international David James. Spurs doubled their lead four minutes before the break through another Pompey old boy, Niko Kranjcar. Defeat nudged Portsmouth nearer relegation.

Hull’s Jimmy Bullard scored against his old club Fulham from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after Jozy Altidore was brought down by Chris Smalling. The Tigers made it

2-0 three minutes after the break when Craig Fagan looped a header over Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Spanish La Liga

Madrid: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his third goal in a week, and 15th of the season, as Barcelona won 1-0 at Real Mallorca on Saturday to nudge Real Madrid off the top of the La Liga table.

Club record signing Ibrahimovic had an easy tap-in on 62 minutes as Barcelona became only the second team to win at Mallorca this season and move three points ahead of Real Madrid.

The win also boosts Barcelona morale further for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg showdown at Arsenal.

Third-placed Valencia could not capitalise on Mallorca’s defeat falling to a 3-0 loss at struggling Real Zaragoza although they stay six points clear of Mallorca in fourth. Valencia were reduced to 10 men when Nikola Zigic picked up a silly second booking for a late lunge close to half-time making things worse after Carlos Diogo had fired Zaragoza ahead. Javier Arizmendi added a second after the interval and Jiri Jarosik completed the scoring as Zaragoza moved four points clear of the drop zone.

Tenerife earned a point with an 85th minute penalty from Alejandro Alfaro for a 1-1 draw at Malaga. Antonio Apono had headed Malaga into a 66th-minute lead but Tenerife levelled the scores with Alfaro’s late penalty to move above Valladolid into 18th spot.