Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the penalty spot as Manchester United beat Everton 1-0 on Saturday to open up a five-point gap at the top of the Premier League.
The English, European and world champions’ victory at Old Trafford added to the pressure on title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool, second and third respectively, ahead of their meeting at Anfield. Ronaldo struck the decisive blow a minute before halftime after England midfielder Michael Carrick was adjudged to have been tripped in the box by Mikel Arteta.
During the course of the match United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar set a new English league record for most minutes without conceding a goal. The 38-year-old Dutch international has now not been beaten for 1,121 minutes — a run of 12 straight clean sheets.
“Edwin van der Sar brings absolute calm and assurance to the players,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “I couldn’t believe it when I read in the paper that the last goal we conceded was at Arsenal in November. Over the last 12 games we’ve repeatedly had to change the back four, which says a lot about everyone who has come in and done their job. But you have to give great credit to Edwin.”
Aston Villa missed the chance to go second after being held to a goalless draw by Wigan Athletic.
“We’ve hit the post a couple of times and had some goal-line clearances,” Villa boss Martin O’Neill said. “I felt that one of them was going to be forced over the line, but it wasn’t to be.”
Villa stayed fourth though and five points clear of Arsenal after the Gunners, now 10 points adrift of United, were also held to a 0-0 stalemate in a London derby with West Ham United.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left to lament more lost points at home to the Hammers following the 1-1 result at Everton in midweek.
“We tried until the end, but it didn’t come off. We just lacked a little sharpness and creativity to get away with the three points,” Wenger said.
At the other end of the table, 10-man Stoke City climbed out of the bottom three with a 1-0 win at home to cash-rich Manchester City.
James Beattie’s header on the stroke of halftime secured the points for Tony Pulis’ men after Rory Delap was sent-off at the Britannia Stadium following a clash with Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Bolton Wanderers, who for the second time in a week threatened to throw away a 2-0 lead, moved further away from the relegation zone with a 3-2 win over fellow strugglers Tottenham Hotspur.
French defender Sebastien Puygrenier put the home side in front at the Reebok Stadium when he headed in Mark Davies’ 31st minute free-kick. Then Bolton doubled their lead in the 64th minute when striker Kevin Davies shot into the far corner from a Gary Cahill flick-on.
However, that was merely the cue for Darren Bent to bring the Londoners back into the game. Pascal Chimbonda, in his first game for Spurs since returning from Wigan, cut the ball back for Bent to score from close range in the 73rd minute. Two minutes later the England striker was on target again when a Wilson Palacios shot was parried into his path by Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
However, Davies secured victory by heading in his second goal three minutes from time.
West Bromwich Albion remained bottom despite twice coming from behind in a 2-2 draw with Hull City.
Hull went ahead just before halftime through Bernard Mendy. But Jay Simpson, on loan from Arsenal, drew the Baggies level with his first Premier League goal in the 53rd minute. Mendy then set up Craig Fagan for Hull’s second, before West Brom equalized from the penalty spot through Chris Brunt.