Manchester United maintained their perfect start to the Premier League season with a 3-1 win over title rivals Chelsea, while Manchester City surrendered their 100 percent record as Fulham fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 on Sunday.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side blew Chelsea away thanks to three goals in the first half from Chris Smalling, Nani and Wayne Rooney.
Fernando Torres reduced the deficit soon after halftime with only his second goal for Chelsea, but later missed an open goal and United could have won by a greater margin as Rooney wasted a second-half penalty.
United’s victory equaled a club record of 18 consecutive home wins and moved them two points clear of second-placed Manchester City at the top of the table and five ahead of third-placed Chelsea.
It was Chelsea’s first loss under new boss Andre Villas-Boas, who tasted defeat in a league game for the first time since April last year when Benfica beat his Academica de Coimbra team.
“Some of our football was fantastic, but we were very careless at times. We did OK when we got the ball to Young and Nani. They couldn’t cope with that, but they kept at us and we created problems for ourselves by giving the ball away so many times,” Ferguson said.
United, who have made their best start since 1985, took the lead in the eighth minute when Smalling was left unmarked from Ashley Young’s free-kick and the defender headed past Petr Cech, despite Chelsea’s appeals for offside.
Portugal winger Nani increased United’s advantage in the 37th minute, cutting in from the right wing before smashing a ferocious 20m strike into the top corner.
There was an element of good fortune about United’s third goal as John Terry’s attempted clearance cannoned off Nani into Rooney’s path and the England forward slotted home from close-range.
Torres gave Chelsea a glimmer of hope in the 46th minute when he flicked a fine finish over David de Gea.
They had another boost when Rooney slipped while running up to take a penalty, awarded for Jose Bosingwa’s trip on Nani, and saw his effort fly wide in an echo of the Terry spot-kick miss that helped United win the Champions League in 2008.
Torres should have pulled Chelsea to within one goal in the closing stages, but the ￡50 million (US$79 million) striker produced an early candidate for miss of the season as he rounded de Gea and somehow scuffed wide with an empty net at his mercy.
At Craven Cottage, Roberto Mancini’s City, who had won their first four matches, were forced to settle for a point after a second-half meltdown.
Sergio Aguero has been in sublime form since joining City from Atletico Madrid for a club record ￡38 million in pre-season and the Argentina forward fired the visitors into the lead when he met David Silva’s pass with a clinical finish in the 18th minute.
Aguero seemed to have put City in total command when he steered home Edin Dzeko’s flick in the 46th minute for his eighth goal of the season, but Bobby Zamora got one back for Fulham in the 55th minute with a curling shot from the edge of the area and Danny Murphy completed the fightback when his long-range shot deflected in off Vincent Kompany in the 75th minute.
“It’s incredible, we lost two points after we scored two goals and dominated the game, but I think this can be a lesson for us,” Mancini said.
At White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur routed nine-man Liverpool 4-0.
Harry Redknapp’s side took the lead in the seventh minute through Luka Modric’s superb strike.
Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam was sent off for two bookings in the 28th minute and Martin Skrtel saw red after halftime.
Jermain Defoe made it 2-0 soon after and Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor struck twice in the closing stages of the match.
The defeat was the heaviest suffered by Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish since he began his second spell in charge in January, as well as the biggest Spurs success against the Reds since 1963.
“We cannot dictate interpretation of the rules in any way, shape or form. It’s best left unsaid because it takes away from a magnificent performance by Tottenham,” Dalglish said. “The boys are upset and so they should be. The football club expects more than that.”
At the Stadium of Light, Sunderland beat Stoke City 4-0 thanks to goals from Titus Bramble, Craig Gardner, Sebastian Larsson and a Jonathan Woodgate own-goal.
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