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Monday, Jan. 11, 2010

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Walk in the park: Manchester United's Park Ji Sung (left) competes for the ball with Birmingham's Stephen Carr during their match on Saturday. The match ended in a draw. AP PHOTO

Controversial goal goes United's way

LONDON (AP) Manchester United profited from a contentious own goal to salvage a 1-1 draw at Birmingham but missed a chance to go top of the Premier League.

Birmingham believed that defender Scott Dann's inadvertent goal should not have been given because Wayne Rooney appeared to be in an offside position.

But the draw enabled Birmingham, which led at half time through Cameron Jerome's goal, to extend its unbeaten topflight run to a club-record 12 matches.

United ended the match with 10 men after midfielder Darren Fletcher was sent off in the closing stages for a second bookable offense.

"Birmingham are in real good form," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "They work so hard and make it difficult for you so we've got to be satisfied with a point, particularly as we've ended with 10 men."

The champions are one point behind Chelsea, which has a game in hand after its clash with Hull was one of five matches to fall victim to the deep freeze gripping the country.

Third-place Arsenal was held 2-2 by Everton in the only other weekend match to survive the coldest temperatures for more than 30 years in Britain. Both Sunday's matches, including fourth-place Tottenham's trip to Liverpool, were also postponed.

At a freezing St. Andrews, Birmingham went ahead in the 39th with its first decent chance. United failed to deal with James McFadden's corner, Lee Bowyer headed the ball back across goal and it bounced off Johnny Evans to Jerome, who slotted home from six meters for his fifth goal of the campaign.

United leveled in the 63rd amid confusion. Dann was under pressure from Park Ji Sung when he turned a low cross from Patrice Evra past Joe Hart, but the referee's assistant appeared to have been flagging for offside against Rooney.

Referee Mark Clattenburg consulted with one of his assistants before awarding the goal, leading to protests from Birmingham players and manager Alex McLeish.

Birmingham had a man advantage from the 84th after Fletcher was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Jerome having been booked just before half time for a challenge on Bowyer.

And Ferguson risked another touchline ban and fine for hitting out at the referee's "weird decisions." The 68-year-old Scot was banned for four matches — two suspended — for questioning the fitness of Alan Wiley after October's draw with Sunderland.

"I've not seen a softer sending-off for a long time. It's absolutely ridiculous, really," Ferguson said. "I've been watching Mark Clattenburg this season. He did the Arsenal-Tottenham game — you had to have someone hit with an ax before he'd book anyone in that game, and he sends a player off here."

At Emirates Stadium, Everton gave Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan his debut after his arrival earlier this week to start his 10-week loan spell. The American provided the corner that was headed home in the 12th minute by Leon Osman, who then inadvertently handed Arsenal an equalizer in the 28th.

Denilson charged down a clearance, and the ball fell to Andrei Arshavin on the edge of the penalty area. Arshavin fed Eduardo da Silva, who touched a pass back to Denilson and his low strike deflected off Osman past Tim Howard.

As snow continued to blow around the stadium, Donovan came close to restoring Everton's lead at the start of the second half.

Donovan weaved his way into the penalty area, but his curling shot drifted wide. Everton striker Louis Saha also had a long-range attempt deflected wide.

Everton, which replaced Donovan with Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in the 68th, went ahead again in the 81st when Steven Pienaar raced on to a pass from Tim Cahill and chipped goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

James Vaughan could have given Everton a two-goal cushion when clean through but Almunia saved his shot — and Tomas Rosicky leveled in stoppage time when Lucas Neill deflected his shot to wrong-foot Howard.

"We played really well and deserved a victory," Everton manager David Moyes said. "We had better chances than Arsenal and a lot of possession — we deserved more than a point."

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