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Friday, Dec. 28, 2012

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Compliments of the season: Aston Villa's Karim El Ahmadi (rear) tackles Tottenham's Mousa Dembele during Spurs' 4-0 win at Villa Park on Wednesday. AFP-JIJI

United beats Newcastle to open up seven-point lead at top

AP

MANCHESTER, England — Javier Hernandez sent Manchester United seven points clear at the Premier League summit by pouncing in the 90th minute to clinch a 4-3 victory over Newcastle as second-place Manchester City lost at Sunderland on Wednesday.

At the season's halfway point, United had to come from behind three times in a tumultuous, incident-filled match at Old Trafford before Hernandez buried the decisive goal.

"Once again they have proved their courage, never gave in — down three times and came back three times, and eventually deserved to win the game," United manager Alex Ferguson said.

"Never mind where we are at this moment in time, this was a championship performance."

As United bounced back from Sunday's draw at Swansea, City's three-match winning run came to an end after its former winger, Adam Johnson, gave Sunderland a 1-0 victory over the champions.

Chelsea is now only four points behind City with a game in hand after Juan Mata clinched a 1-0 victory at Norwich.

Tottenham, Everton and West Bromwich Albion are all two points behind Chelsea.

Tottenham moved into the fourth Champions League spot as Gareth Bale scored a second-half hat trick in a 4-0 rout of Aston Villa. Everton beat Wigan 2-1 and West Brom won by the same score at Queens Park Rangers, which sunk back to the bottom.

Reading moved ahead of QPR on goal difference by holding Swansea 0-0, while Southampton remained out the drop zone ahead of Wigan by drawing 1-1 at Fulham.

Newcastle looked like producing its first win at Old Trafford since 1972, but United's fighting spirit can rarely be suppressed.

United's defense was breached after just four minutes after Michael Carrick gave away possession inside his own half, and goalkeeper David De Gea then parried Demba Ba's strike only for James Perch to put Newcastle in front.

Evans leveled for United in the 25th, sliding the ball into an empty net after Hernandez's shot from Robin van Persie's free kick was only half-blocked by goalkeeper Tim Krul.

But Evans then scored at the other end three minutes later, inadvertently turning a shot from former United teammate Danny Simpson into the net.

United pulled level again in the 58th, with Patrice Evra's low shot ending up in the bottom corner of the net.

Newcastle, though, was back in front 10 minutes later after Papiss Cisse latched onto a cross from former United winger Gabriel Obertan.

The lead didn't last long, with Van Persie netting his 16th goal of the season in all competitions in the 71st after seeing an initial shot saved.

Hernandez, who was playing due to Wayne Rooney's injury, was denied by Krul before finally connecting with Carrick's cross and sending a half-volley into the net.

While United recovered despite the efforts of its former players in the Newcastle team, crosstown rival City was sunk by an old boy.

Johnson, who was offloaded in the offseason after winning the title with City, managed to leave Joe Hart red faced as his strike was deflected into the net by the goalkeeper in the 53rd.

"Last year we didn't win here and we won the title," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "It's important that our strikers start scoring more goals, sometimes we take one touch too many."



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