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Monday, Oct. 18, 2010

United squanders lead with Rooney benched

LONDON (AP) Manchester United dropped Wayne Rooney to the bench before blowing a two-goal lead and drawing 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion, while leader Chelsea was held to a scoreless draw at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.

United didn't appear to be missing Rooney when Javier Hernandez and Nani scored in the first half.

But after the break, Chris Brunt's free kick went in off Patrice Evra before Somen Tchoyi tapped in from six meters after Edwin van der Saar dropped a cross from Brunt. Rooney played the last 20 minutes as United drew a third straight match.

"It's just explicable — it turned from a fantastic first-half performance to one where we have given the game away," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We should have punished them and scored four or five before halftime."

United was third five points behind Chelsea, which has collected just four points from its last three matches.

The North London sides both rallied to win 2-1, with Arsenal beating Birmingham and Tottenham triumphing at Fulham. Bolton also beat Stoke 2-1, while Newcastle was held to 2-2 by Wigan and Wolverhampton drew 1-1 with West Ham.

At Old Trafford, all eyes were on the star striker wrapped up on the bench as Ferguson fueled suggestions of a rift with Rooney by dropping him.

While Rooney was dealing with problems in his personal life last month, he was rested for several matches by United with the official reason being that he was struggling with an ankle injury.

But Rooney directly contradicted his manager by revealing on Tuesday that he had no fitness concerns. He had to wait until the 71st minute to come off the bench, but by that time it was already 2-2.

Grampus humiliated

NIIGATA (Kyodo) Nagoya Grampus' run at their first J. League championship hit a roadblock as the J1 leaders were thrashed 4-1 by Albirex on Sunday.

Marcio Richardes opened and closed the scoring for Albirex, who had dropped four of their last five but had never lost to Grampus at home, having won five of six.

Yuta Mikado and Hideo Oshima also netted for Niigata during the final two minutes of the first half on the rain-slick pitch at Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium.

Grampus striker Josh Kennedy scored his league-leading 15th goal of the season in the 34th minute.

Ten-man Nagoya, which had midfielder Naoshi Nakamura sent off in the 53rd minute for a second offense, saw its six-game unbeaten streak come to an end, staying on 54 points with eight matches left.

Marcio Richardes first struck in the 31st minute before Kennedy quickly leveled. But just two minutes before halftime, Mikado made it 2-1 for the hosts with a thundering diving volley and Oshima followed to double Niigata's lead.

After Nakamura was expelled, Marcio Richardes sealed the three points with his second strike in the 75th minute.

In another J1 game, Yuji Ono's first career goal ended a three-game winless slide for Yokohama F. Marinos as Kazushi Kimura's side beat nine-man Vissel Kobe at Nissan Stadium.

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