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United go clear in England

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

United go clear in England
(PA) Tuesday 4 January 2011

Manchester United went three points clear at the top of the English Premier League table after a 2-1 win over Stoke on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Fulham climbed out of the relegation zone with a 3-0 win at home to West Bromwich Albion while Birmingham also exited the bottom three following a 2-1 victory away to Blackpool.

Javier Hernandez, who scored United's winner in a 2-1 win away to West Brom last time out, broke the deadlock in the 27th minute at Old Trafford with a stylish flick behind his legs from Nani's cross.

However, Stoke were level five minutes after half-time when Dean Whitehead scored their first goal at Old Trafford since 1980 after rising unmarked to head in Tuncay's cross. But just after the hour mark United, the only unbeaten side in English football's top flight this season, regained the lead thanks to Nani's sublime left-footed curler from 20 yards out.

Second-placed Manchester City will go level on points again with United, who presently have a game in hand, if they beat Arsenal on Wednesday. Victory for the Gunners, currently third, would see them leapfrog City and leave Arsenal two points behind United.

Fulham scored on the stroke of half-time when Simon Davies's long-range shot went through the hands of former England goalkeeper Scott Carson, who ought to have saved the strike. The hosts doubled their lead at Craven Cottage when United States midfielder Clint Dempsey headed in Davies's corner in the 56th minute.

And nine minutes later a Davies corner also led to Fulham's third goal, with Norwegian defender Brede Hangeland heading home on this occasion. Albion's fifth defeat in a row left them just two points above the relegation zone.

Birmingham left it it late against Blackpool, Scott Dann scoring their winner in the 89th minute when he he got on the end of Roger Johnson's nod-down from Jean Beausejour's centre.

Alexander Hleb opened the scoring for Birmingham in the 24th minute at Bloomfield Road after intercepting a pass out of defence by the Tangerines' Stephen Crainey before finishing calmly. Blackpool though were level when former Birmingham forward DJ Campbell volleyed home in the 68th minute.

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