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Monday, March 8, 2010

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Three's a crowd: Wolverhampton Wanderers players David Jones (left) and Karl Henry (right) chase the ball along with Manchester United's Antonio Valencia on Saturday in Wolverhampton, England. United beat Wolves 1-0. AP PHOTO

United jumps back into first

LONDON (AP) Manchester United went top of the Premier League by winning 1-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers and cash-strapped Portsmouth beat Birmingham 2-0 to reach the F.A. Cup semifinals on Saturday.

Paul Scholes scored the only goal after 73 minutes at Molineux as United overcame the loss of 28-goal Wayne Rooney, who was sidelined with a knee injury, and moved two points ahead of Chelsea, which was to play in the F.A. Cup on Sunday, and Arsenal, which beat next-to-last Burnley 3-1. Chelsea has a game in hand on both.

The Wolves defense failed to clear a cross from Nani and Scholes moved the ball into space inside a crowded area and beat goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann with an angled shot for his 100th Premier League goal.

Wolves striker Sam Vokes squandered a golden chance to equalize in stoppage time when he was found unmarked in front of goal but lifted the ball over the bar from six meters.

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas fired home Samir Nasri's cross in the 34th minute for his 17th league and cup goal of the season but he went off with what appeared to be a right hamstring injury before halftime.

"How big the damage is we don't know yet because it's too early," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose team faces FC Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday and has to overturn a 2-1 deficit. "We'll see tomorrow and Monday. We will have to make a late decision if he plays on Tuesday certainly."

David Nugent equalized from Leon Cort's pass but Theo Walcott regained Arsenal's lead in the 60th minute for his first goal in 18 appearances, and Andrey Arshavin added the third in injury time.

Man United has 63 points from 29 games, Chelsea has 61 from 28 and Arsenal 61 from 29.

In Saturday's other Premier League game, Bolton won 2-1 at West Ham to improve its chances of avoiding relegation and push the home side deeper into trouble.

Kevin Davies headed the first from close range and provided the cross for Jack Wilshere to score his first goal for Bolton since his loan move from Arsenal. Alessandro Diamanti's reply for West Ham came only two minutes from the end. The victory moved Bolton up to 13th and five points above the relegation zone while West Ham is only three points away from danger.

In F.A. Cup action, Frederic Piquionne scored twice in four minutes to give Portsmouth victory over Birmingham as the club reached the last four two years after winning soccer's oldest domestic cup competition.

But the visitors were unhappy that referee Steve Bennett ruled out a goal which TV replays showed crossed the line. By coincidence, it happened on the day that the International Football Association Board ruled out any more experiments with goal-line technology to decide such incidents.

Portsmouth, which is in administration and last in the Premier League standings, was 2-0 ahead when Liam Ridgewell's 81st-minute close-range header for Birmingham crossed the line before goalkeeper David James blocked it. But Bennett ruled it was not a goal.

"We should have had a lifeline with a perfectly legitimate goal but unfortunately it wasn't to be," said Birmingham manager Alex McLeish. "It would have given us a lifeline and I wouldn't bet against my team coming back if we got that goal.

"You would expect an official at this level to see that. They do the fitness tests and part of that is the vision side of things. It's a shame the guy missed that, I'm sure he will be hurting about it."

Fulham and Tottenham fought out a 0-0 draw at Craven Cottage in a quarterfinal of few clear-cut chances. Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka almost turned a cross into his own net with a minute to go.

Real goes top

MADRID (AP) An injury-time winner by Rafael Van der Vaart gave Real Madrid a 3-2 win against Sevilla and the lead in the Spanish League on Saturday after 10-man Barcelona drew 2-2 with Almeria.

Madrid and Barcelona both have 62 points after 25 games, with the former ahead on goal difference. Valencia is third on 46 points and Sevilla fourth on 44.

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