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Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010

Spurs stay in top four as Liverpool falters

LONDON (AP) Tottenham stayed fourth with a 2-0 victory over Fulham as Liverpool's bid to rejoin the English Premier League's elite group faltered further with a 0-0 draw at Wolverhampton on Tuesday.

Peter Crouch and David Bentley scored to deliver Tottenham's first league win in a month. While Liverpool did move up to fifth with the draw, Manchester City is a place behind and level on points with two games in hand.

"It's important for us that the teams around us are dropping points and we keep picking up points," Crouch said.

The point for Wolves against Liverpool moved them out of the relegation zone along with Bolton, whose new manager Owen Coyle masterminded a 1-0 win over former club Burnley. Portsmouth remained lodged to the bottom after drawing 1-1 with West Ham.

The focus returns to the title race on Wednesday when second-place Arsenal goes to Aston Villa and Chelsea hosts in-form Birmingham, while leader Manchester United is playing Man City in the semifinals of the League Cup.

At the start of the match at White Hart Lane, Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer had to be instantly alert as Spurs came close three times inside two minutes through Tom Huddlestone, Jermain Defoe and Crouch.

Schwarzer was finally beaten in the 27th minute when Crouch slipped the ball in from close range. The instigator was out-of-favor midfielder Bentley whose cross from the right was clipped over Bjorn Helge Riise by Luka Modric from the byline. Modric then volleyed to Crouch, who found the net despite pressure from Schwarzer.

Bentley, in a rare league start, put Tottenham further ahead on the hour with his first goal in five months from a free kick that deflected off Riise's head.

The victory enabled Spurs to move further clear of Liverpool in the race for the four Champions League spots.

On a freezing night in Wolverhampton, Liverpool couldn't find a way past Wolves despite captain Steven Gerrard returning from a two-match injury absence and new midfielder Maxi Rodriguez making a first start.

What the Reds lacked was the cutting edge provided by striker Fernando Torres, who was injured.

Liverpool dominated the first half but found the home side difficult to break down and the closest the visitors came after the break was Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt striking speculatively from distance.

"We didn't create clear chances and the final pass in the final third was the difference," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "In the second half they were pushing harder and we had to defend, but we still had some good counterattacks. Again the final pass was the difference. If you analyze the game, then the result is fair."

United signs Smalling

MANCHESTER , England (AP) Manchester United agreed to sign Fulham's Chris Smalling on Tuesday and the defender will join the English Premier League champion at the start of next season.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said Smalling was due to undergo a medical at United on Wednesday, although personal terms and a fee have already been accepted.

The 20-year-old Smalling has made only six starts for Fulham since joining from non-league side Maidstone in June 2008, but he has already played for England Under-21s.

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