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Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012
Van Persie's hat trick lifts United to victory
LONDON — Robin van Persie made up for an embarrassing failure from the penalty spot by grabbing a hat trick with two late goals in Manchester United's dramatic 3-2 win at Southampton on Sunday, earning the English giants a second straight win in the Premier League.
In a fitting way to mark United manager Alex Ferguson's 1,000th league game in charge, Van Persie equalized in the 87th minute before heading home a corner in the second minute of injury time for his fourth goal since joining from Arsenal for £24 million ($38 million) in the offseason.
The Gunners showed earlier there is life after Van Persie when new signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla scored their first goals for the club in a 2-0 win over struggling Liverpool.
The loss leaves Liverpool rooted in the bottom three after the club's worst start to a season in 50 years, compounding its woes after a failure to add some much-needed signings to the squad on Friday's transfer deadline day.
In the day's other match, Aston Villa earned its first point of the campaign with a 1-1 draw at Newcastle, only being denied victory because of Hatem Ben Arfa's stunning second-half equalizer.
Van Persie's late show, which took him to 100 Premier League goals in 197 games, will have come as a mighty relief for the Netherlands striker, after his impudent chipped penalty was clawed away by goalkeeper Kelvin Davis in the 68th minute.
The score was 2-1 to Southampton at the time and United looked headed for a second loss in three games before Van Persie's last-gasp intervention.
"I don't know what I was thinking with the penalty. I was going to hit it hard but at the last second I changed my mind," Van Persie said. "I'm quite disappointed about it. I ask certain standards from my game and at 2-1 down you cannot take a penalty like that."
Ferguson, famous for what the British media calls the "hairdryer treatment" in the dressing room when his team or player underperforms, was all smiles after the match despite Van Persie's error of judgment.
"I was surprised because every time I've seen him take a penalty he usually rattles it into the corners, so I was confident," Ferguson said. "But he made up for it."
United rose to fifth place on six points, one behind neighbor and reigning champion Manchester City and three behind early leader Chelsea.
Arsenal is in eighth place, a point further back than United.
Ronaldo not happy
MADRID — Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice before injuring his leg to steer Real Madrid to a 3-0 home win over Granada on Sunday, the defending champions' first victory after three rounds of the Spanish season.
Barcelona, meanwhile, edged out Valencia 1-0 thanks to Adriano's first-half screamer to remain perfect after three games and lead the standings.
Madrid displayed little of the attacking flair it unleashed to topple Barcelona in the Spanish Supercup earlier this week, but Ronaldo's first league goals this season proved more than enough against the modest talents of Granada.
Ronaldo scored in the 26th and 54th minutes before leaving the pitch grimacing and favoring his left leg following a tackle by Borja Gomez that cost the Granada defender a second booking.
The Portugal striker didn't celebrate his goals.
"I am a little sad. When I don't score goals I am not happy," Ronaldo said, enigmatically adding that he was displeased for "professional" reasons with "people inside the club."
With Granada down a man, Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 76th to seal the much-needed win. Madrid had only one point after the first two rounds. It trails Barcelona by five points.
"Ronaldo is an important player for us, he is our goal-scorer," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. "I hope he takes advantage of (this week's) international break and gets better soon."
Also Sunday, Athletic Bilbao beat Valladolid 2-0 for the Basques' first win of the season. Sevilla drew 0-0 at Rayo Vallecano, and 10-man Levante came from behind to win 3-2 against visiting Espanyol.