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Monday, Oct. 4, 2010

United stumbles again with Sunderland draw

LONDON (AP) Manchester United's troubles on the road persisted with a 0-0 draw at Sunderland coming after its dressing room was flooded by a sewage pipe before kickoff on Saturday.

News photo
All tied up: United's Rio Ferdinand heads the ball in front of Sunderland's Darren Bent during their match on Saturday. AP PHOTO

It could have been a worse day for United, which has drawn all four away matches this season, had it not been for solid defending and several crucial saves from goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

"We had to defend very well and the pleasing thing for me is that the back four were fantastic," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We've had difficult away games but the consistency of not losing is something we can take . . .

"It's always more difficult for a team that plays in Europe to then play on Saturday."

But Tottenham, which also won in the Champions League on Wednesday, returned to domestic action by coming from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1, with Rafael van der Vaart scoring twice.

Two records fell at St. Andrews, with Everton recording its first win of the season at Birmingham, whose 2-0 loss ended a 13-month unbeaten run at home.

Fulham drew 1-1 at West Ham after American forward Clint Dempsey beat Hammers goalkeeper Robert Green with a left-footed volley in their first meeting since the Englishman's howler at the World Cup.

Stoke leaped up the standings with a 1-0 victory over Blackburn, Wigan climbed out of the relegation zone by beating Wolverhampton 2-0, and West Bromwich held Bolton to 1-1.

The match at the Stadium of Light was delayed for 20 minutes after Man United was forced to move dressing rooms due to the pipe bursting.

The disruption seemed to affect United, which began on the back foot. Steed Malbranque could have put Sunderland ahead from close range after 16 minutes but was thwarted by Van der Sar's low save.

Nedum Onuoha had a shot cleared off United's goal line and Bolo Zenden's fierce 20-meter shot hit the post.

United striker Dimitar Berbatov, who came on for Michael Owen, had a goal rightly disallowed for offside. Sunderland nearly went ahead when Malbranque's shot deflected up off Rio Ferdinand but it looped just over the crossbar.

Instead of joining Chelsea on 15 points, United remains two adrift.

Sunderland has already drawn against Arsenal and Liverpool and beaten Manchester City at home this season.

"You have to give credit to Sunderland, their home record is fantastic," Ferguson said.

At White Hart Lane, Van der Vaart showed again why he could be the bargain buy of the summer transfer window.

The £8 million ($12 million) Dutch deadline-day recruit scored in first-half stoppage time and in the 75th minute for Tottenham after Marc Albrighton's first goal for Villa gave the visitors an early lead.

Van der Vaart, whose goals were both set up by headers from Peter Crouch, has scored four goals in three home matches since joining from Real Madrid.

"He's started well, he's going well, he's going great," Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. "He's always looking to get on the ball and he's always looking to score. He's got that knack of scoring goals."



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