Mon, Feb 02, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Manchester United regains league lead

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Today, Arsenal hosts Manchester City and third place Chelsea, now seven points off the lead, goes to Blackburn. Valencia passed Real Madrid in Spain

AP , LONDON, GLASGOW, MADRID, ROME, LISBON, BERLIN, AMSTERDAM

Manchester United's Quinton Fortune, right, battles for the ball with Southampton's Paul Telfer in their English Premier League match at Old Trafford, Saturday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Louis Saha scored on his debut and set up another for Paul Scholes on Saturday to fire Manchester United back to the top of the English Premier League in a 3-2 beating of Southampton.

Signed from Fulham a week ago, the French striker netted in the 18th minute with a deflected free kick and, when his 37th minute shot had been blocked by Saints 'keeper Antti Niemi, Scholes rolled in the second.

Kevin Phillips hit back with two for the visitor before Ruud van Nistelrooy netted United's third in the 60th to lift the Reds above Arsenal by a point.

United's deciding goal brought a furious response from Saints manager Gordon Strachan who said the Dutch striker was offside when the free kick was initially taken.

"[Van Nistelrooy] was interfering with play. As soon as the ball was touched he's going to towards our goal to score. You might as well forget offside now. You might as well scrap offside if that's how it's going to be.

"You can actually get four people standing round their goalkeeper now so that, when the ball comes in, they can cause havoc. It's a farce."

United needed three late saves from American goalkeeper Tim Howard to preserve the three points which take the Reds to 53 and above Arsenal by one point.

United manager Alex Ferguson was delighted with Saha's partnership with Van Nistelrooy.

The 170th Merseyside derby turned out to be a goalless thriller at Anfield with Liverpool going close several times but denied by the brilliant of Everton 'keeper Nigel Martyn.

The loss of the two points meant that Gerard Houllier's team was unable to make up much ground on fourth place Charlton which surprisingly lost at home to League Cup finalist Bolton a day after transferring talented midfielder Scott Parker to Chelsea.

Danish forward Henrik Pedersen gave Wanderers the lead after just 23 seconds at The Valley and, although Jonaton Johansson leveled, Kevin Nolan hit the winner 12 minutes from the end. The victory lifts Bolton to eighth.

Liverpool remains three points behind the Addicks and so does Newcastle, which was denied victory at Birmingham by a late strike by Stern John. Gary Speed had given the Magpies the lead at St. Andrews.

New signing Brian McBride hit the winner as Fulham hit back from going behind to a Robbie Keane penalty at Loftus Road.

After Steed Malbranque had leveled from the spot, the American striker, signed from Columbus Crew, scored the winner from close range in the 67th minute past countryman Kasey Keller in the Spurs goal.

Down at the bottom, it gets worse for Leeds which flopped badly in the second half against Middlesbrough. Boudewijn Zenden and Joseph-Desire Job put Boro in control and Michael Ricketts hit a late penalty.

With the club also in a financial crisis, Leeds now is three points adrift of the other 19 teams after its sixth loss in a row.

Wolves ground out a point in a 0-0 tie at third from last Portsmouth to continue its revival but next to last Leicester crumbled in the second half against Aston Villa and lost 5-0.

England striker Darius Vassell and lanky forward Peter Crouch each scored twice at the Walkers Stadium and Dion Dublin netted the other as Villa won on the road for just the second time this season.

There was even trouble on the field with a Leicester fan running onto the field to remonstrate with Foxes goalkeeper Ian Walker who pushed him and had to be hauled away by the referee and teammates.

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