Mon, Feb 26, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Man United open up nine point lead

BIG GAP Cristiano Ronaldo's late goal earned the Red Devils the points, while at the bottom Charlton condemned West Ham to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat


Charlton Athletic's Jerome Thomas, second from left, shoots past West Ham United goalkeeper Robert Green to score the fourth goal during their English Premier League match at the Valley, London, on Saturday.


Manchester United moved nine points clear of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League on Saturday after Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 88th minute to earn a 2-1 win at Fulham.

Ryan Giggs equalized for United midway through the first half after Brian McBride had put the home side ahead. Ronaldo then ran at the Fulham defense and hit a deflected shot into the net.

"It's significant winning, the way we played today," Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said. "Fulham will feel very aggrieved at not winning the match."

United leads the league with 69 points, while defending champion Chelsea isn't in league action this weekend because it faced Arsenal in yesterday's League Cup final.

Also on Saturday, striker Robbie Fowler scored two penalties in Liverpool's 4-0 win over Sheffield United and Charlton beat fellow struggler West Ham 4-0. Middlesbrough defeated Reading 2-1 and Everton beat bottom club Watford 3-0.

McBride scored his 12th goal of the season in the 17th. United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, a former Fulham player, blocked midfielder Simon Davies and the ball ran to McBride, who hit a diagonal shot through defender Nemanja Vidic's legs and into the net.

Wayne Rooney set up Giggs in the 29th and the winger volleyed into the net with the top of his foot for his second goal in five days. Giggs also scored in Tuesday's 1-0 Champions League win at Lille.

Fulham's Tomas Radzinski hit the crossbar with a header and Van der Sar stopped three shots from Davies and one by McBride.

Ronaldo hit his 16th goal of the season into the bottom corner off Fulham defender Philippe Christanval.

"That's the most difficult game I've had all season," Ferguson said.

Fulham manager Chris Coleman was angry his side were denied a penalty -- and possible equalizer -- by referee Peter Walton when Van der Sar appeared to bring down Heider Helguson after Ronaldo's goal.

"The referee has no excuses, he was in the perfect position," Coleman said. "There is only one way to put it and that is that he lost his nerve."

Fowler scored penalties in the 20th and 25th minutes -- both given for fouls on captain Steven Gerrard.

Fowler took the first kick after Sheffield United defender Rob Kozluk brought down Gerrard, because striker Peter Crouch had earlier been taken off the pitch with a bloodied head after a tackle from Rob Hulse. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said Crouch had broken his nose.

Gerrard had his shirt pulled back by Nick Montgomery to earn Liverpool's second kick and Fowler scored his third goal of the season.

Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock said he approached Gerrard at halftime to tell him he was disappointed in how he earned the penalties.

"When you see the replay and you see Gerrard's eyes you will know he thinks he has won a penalty," Warnock said. "Some referees would see that Steven Gerrard used everything he had to get the penalty."

Sami Hyypia scored in the 70th from close range, with Gerrard making it 4-0 in the 73rd.

West Ham manager Alan Curbishley didn't enjoy his return to Charlton, where he spent 15 years before quitting in the offseason.

Jerome Thomas scored twice, with Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent each adding another at The Valley.

While Curbishley left Charlton in the offseason, current Charlton manager Alan Pardew was in charge of West Ham until December. Curbishley took over at West Ham and, later that month, Pardew was signed by Charlton.

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