United go top as Chelsea, Arsenal, Villa all win

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta    

Manchester United leapfrogged Liverpool to move up to the summit of the Premier League this afternoon following a spirited display against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.

The champions were far from their best and left it very late against a Bolton side who’ll feel they deserved something from the game. Dimitar Berbatov headed Carlos Teves’ low cross home in the 90th minute to the despair of the home crowd at the Reebok. It may have been an average game but Berbatov’s goal was a big, big moment for United and they now know they can go at least four points clear at the top if they win their game in hand.

And down in London the relief at Stamford Bridge was tangible when Frank Lampard smashed home an injury-time winner for Chelsea. The Blues found themselves 1-0 down to Stoke City and looked as if they would drop valuable points until Juliano Belletti headed in a Di Santo cross with 88 minutes on the clock. Lampard then dealt Stoke the killer-blow moments later.

Stoke, like Bolton, will feel hard done by – but credit has to be given to Chelsea’s character to bounce back following their demoralising 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford last Sunday. They now find themselves two points behind United, but are a game ahead.

Arsene Wenger will be pleased with his side’s display against Hull City in the late kick-off at the KC Stadium; and especially with striker Robin van Persie who was in scintillating form and assisted each one of Arsenal’s three goals.

Emmanuel Adebayor put the Gunners ahead in the first half only for Daniel Cousin to equalise on 65 minutes. But it was Arsenal who had the final word and Samir Nasri continued his great first season in England with a cool left-foot finish across Boaz Myhill who could only stand and watch as the ball nestled in the bottom corner. Substitute Nicklas Bendtner then finished well to wrap up the 3-1 win.

And fourth-place hopefuls Aston Villa sealed a vital late win at the Stadium of Light. Gareth Barry steered home a 80th minute penalty to give Villa all three points, despite being down to ten men following Ashley Young’s dismissal on 72. Sunderland took the lead early on through Danny Collins, but Villa fought back with James Milner equalising after 60 minutes, and after referee Mike Dean awarded a controversial penalty when Paul McShane was ajudged to have brought down Agbonlahor, Barry finished emphatically.

So Villa’s Champions League dream continues on an afternoon where the significance of the final moments of a football match has been dramatically amplified for all to see.

Late goals can not only win you games, late goals can win you titles.

[Liverpool can move back up to the number one spot when they play Everton in the Merseyside derby on Monday night at 20:00.]

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