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Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012

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On the move: Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa competes against Newcastle's Cheick Tiote during their match on Sunday in Newcastle, England. United won 3-0. AFP-JIJI

United, Spurs win comfortably to keep pressure on Chelsea

AP

LONDON — Manchester United relied on early goals from its much-maligned defense and a stunning strike from Tom Cleverley to secure an impressive 3-0 win at Newcastle on Sunday, keeping the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.

Tottenham is just a point behind second-place United after beating Aston Villa 2-0 for a fourth straight win, but the misery continues for Liverpool courtesy of a frustrating 0-0 home draw with Stoke.

Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra scored headers from corners for United in the opening 15 minutes and could then celebrate a rare clean sheet this season after Cleverley's long-range curler in the 71st made the game safe at St. James' Park.

"We came here, defended brilliantly. We fully deserved the victory," said England striker Wayne Rooney, who starred in his role as an attacking midfielder for United. "The first six games of the season we haven't defended well enough — not just the back four, the whole team, and today we were brilliant against a physical team."

United is level on points with Manchester City and four behind Chelsea after seven games, with the standings starting to take shape and the likely title contenders back among the frontrunners.

Tottenham can be included among them, with goals by Steven Caulker and Aaron Lennon moving the team to fifth — level on points with fourth-place Everton.

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas dropped goalkeeper Brad Friedel to the bench to end the American veteran's record run of 310 Premier League starts in a row, dating back to May 2004. His replacement, summer signing Hugo Lloris, barely had a save to make at White Hart Lane on his league debut.

"Obviously Brad was disappointed but as a great professional, he ended up accepting the decision," Villas-Boas said. "We respect his performances and I'm sure he will be back in the team as soon as possible."

Liverpool remains languishing in the wrong half of the table after failing to break down a stubborn, physical Stoke backline at Anfield, although the hosts struck the post twice through Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel.

In Sunday's other match, Jose Fonte scored a late equalizer — his second goal of the game — to earn Southampton a 2-2 draw against Fulham and lift the team out of the bottom three.

Barca, Madrid draw

AP

BARCELONA — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dueled each other to an entertaining stalemate on Sunday, with both superstars scoring twice as Barcelona drew 2-2 with Real Madrid to keep an eight-point lead over its archrival intact.

The result ended Barcelona's perfect start to the league campaign as it dropped points for the first time in seven games, but provided yet another memorable chapter in the rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, the two biggest names in soccer.

"It should be prohibited to say which is the best in the world," Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said. "They are both from another planet."

Ronaldo put Madrid ahead at the Nou Camp in the 23rd from a pass by Karim Benzema to extend his scoring streak in "clasico" matches to six.

Then it was Messi's turn, as he took advantage of a defensive slip to level for Barcelona in the 31st, before adding a second goal in the 61st with a perfect free kick from almost 25 meters out.

But as Barcelona looked to seal the result, Mesut Ozil unlocked Barcelona's makeshift defensive line to set up Ronaldo to respond five minutes later and split the points.



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