Rooney claims title now United's to lose

A controversial penalty and sensational second-half fightback helped Man United beat Tottenham and retain their grip on top spot in the Premier League.

updated: April 26, 2009 07:20 IST
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Wayne Rooney claimed a third Premier League title was Manchester United's to throw away after his man-of-match display helped the champions mount a second-half rally to beat Tottenham 5-2 on Saturday.

Trailing 2-0 at the interval, the champions built on a controversial penalty decision to sink Spurs and reclaim a three-point lead over Liverpool, who had beaten Hull 3-1 earlier in the day.

With the added advantage of a game in hand, United now know that, even if their closest rivals keep winning, ten points from their final five games will be enough to equal Liverpool's record of 18 English league titles.

"We are in a great position now, we have to make sure we take advantage," said Rooney. "With fives games left it is only ours to throw away."

The evening had looked like ending very differently after the lively Aaron Lennon set up Darren Bent and then Luka Modric for Spurs' first-half goals.

United looked unstoppable by the end but their comeback was launched by a disputed penalty, Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes having got his fingers to the ball before his dive floored Michael Carrick.

Cristiano Ronaldo converted the resulting spot-kick and United added another three in the space of 15 minutes.

Rooney fired in an equaliser that Gomes might have saved then delivered the cross which saw Ronaldo claim his second with a diving header. Rooney then claimed his second before Dimitar Berbatov bundled in the fifth against his former club.

Ronaldo claimed United would have won without the help of the disputed penalty.

"The boss said at half-time that if we score one goal we would score three or four and this is what happened," the Portuguese winger said.

Ferguson admitted that the penalty decision could have gone the other way and that his "too slow and casual" side had deserved to be trailing at the interval.

"We have got a break today but that does not deflect from a fantastic second half performance," the Scot said. "After we got the goal we were absolutely electric."

Liverpool had done their job with a comfortable win at Hull, Xabi Alonso's first-half strike and a second-half double from Dirk Kuyt on his 100th Premier League appearance prompting Reds boss Rafael Benitez to argue that the title race was still alive.

"Nothing is over," the Spaniard said. "This was a good win because Hull made it hard for us but all we can do is keep winning and see what happens."

Chelsea left big guns Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba on the bench for their trip to West Ham with one eye on Tuesday's trip to Barcelona for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

But they still had sufficient quality to overcome their London rivals 1-0. Petr Cech's penalty save from Mark Noble sealed the points after Salomon Kalou's 55th-minute strike.

Manchester City gave their chances of securing a European place for next season a boost with a 2-1 win at Everton.

Goals from Robinho and midfielder Stephen Ireland gave Mark Hughes's side only their second away win of the campaign and lifted them into within three points of seventh place and a place in next season's Europa League.

Fulham leapfrogged West Ham into seventh place after leaving Stoke City sweating over their top flight status with a 1-0 win at Craven Cottage, thanks to Norwegian forward Erik Nevland first-half strike.

Bolton's meeting with Aston Villa ended in a 1-1 draw after Tamir Cohen cancelled out Ashley Young's first-half strike for Villa.

Sunderland squandered a golden opportunity to pull clear of the drop zone when they crashed to a 3-0 defeat at bottom side West Brom, for whom Jonas Olsson, Chris Brunt and Juan Carlos Menseguez hit the net.