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Monday, Oct. 17, 2011

City takes top spot as United, Liverpool tie


LONDON — Manchester City dismissed Aston Villa 4-1 on Saturday to move two points clear of city rival Manchester United at the top of the Premier League after the defending champions were held to a 1-1 draw at Liverpool.

News photo
Close shave: Manchester United's Park Ji Sung controls the ball as Liverpool's Jose Enrique gives chase on Saturday at Anfield. The teams played to a 1-1 draw. AP

Mario Balotelli scored in the first half before Adam Johnson, Vincent Kompany and James Milner added goals after the break as City improved to 22 points — two clear of United.

With injured Argentina striker Sergio Aguero missing, Balotelli scored for the fourth consecutive game with an impressive overhead bicycle kick as City shrugged off the drama surrounding Carlos Tevez's future, while Edin Dzeko was confined to the bench for the second straight match.

Stephen Warnock scored a consolation goal for Villa as City conceded for the first time this season at Eastlands, where the club knew a victory would take it top with United held in one of England's top derbies.

The capacity 45,065 crowd at Anfield included two-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who watched Liverpool play live for the first time since becoming a minority owner of the club.

James did well not to nod off in a first half when chances were sparse as United manager Alex Ferguson left Wayne Rooney out with the England striker "devastated" by a three-match Euro 2012 ban for kicking out at a Montenegro opponent in a 2-2 draw earlier this week.

Steven Gerrard — making his first start in seven months — scored from a 68th-minute free kick before Rooney and Nani came off the bench to spur United. Javier Hernandez rescued a point with his 81st-minute header.

"I didn't think they were really threatening until they scored the goal but then the game opened up and we took the chance," Ferguson said. "In the context of today the result is fair."

City leads the league with 22 points from eight matches while United has 20. Chelsea stayed third and three points behind the leaders with a 3-1 win over Everton.

Going into the game on a six-game winless run against Everton, Chelsea's nerves were settled in the 31st when Daniel Sturridge headed in Ashley Cole's cross and captain John Terry made it 2-0 before halftime with another header after Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard flapped at a cross.

Ramires tapped in the third goal in the 61st before substitute Apostolos Vellios scored with his first touch to give Everton a consolation.

Chelsea maintained a 100 percent home record since Andre Villas-Boas took over as Chelsea manager in the offseason.

"We have done nothing else than our responsibilities in winning the games that we have won at home," Villas-Boas said. "We have not done anything special.

"We just have to continue to win until we find a position of comfort at the top of the Premier League, because that's what we want."

Chelsea gets a chance to close the gap at the top when it faces QPR next weekend, with the Manchester clubs facing each other.

Liverpool has 14 points in fifth while Stoke improved to 12 points after a 2-0 win over Fulham. Villa's first defeat of the season saw it stay on 11 points, level with Norwich after its 3-1 victory over Swansea.

Bolton, meanwhile, ended a run of five straight losses and moved off the bottom of the standings after a 3-1 win at Wigan.

Also on Saturday, defender Chris Samba secured a 1-1 draw for struggling Blackburn against QPR eight minutes after Heidar Helguson had given QPR the lead.

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