Man United's title charge stalled by draw at West Ham

Associated Press
4/17/2013 5:52:13 PM
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LONDON -- There is little doubt Manchester United will collect a record-extending 20th English league title, although the coronation will be delayed.

The Premier League leaders had to twice come from behind to draw 2-2 at West Ham on Wednesday as second-place Manchester City beat Wigan 1-0 to cut the gap to 13 points.

Thanks to Robin van Persie grabbing the second equalizer at Upton Park, United only needs to collect six points from last five matches to take the trophy off its neighbour.

"We've got a nice cushion with our lead," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "But we don't want to make any mistakes."

Chelsea, meanwhile, rose to third after captain John Terry scored twice in a 3-0 victory at Fulham. Arsenal is a point back in fourth with a game in hand in the last Champions League qualification spot.

It's the race for the top four that is providing the intrigue in the closing weeks of the season, with the fight for the title long since over.

United has enough points to ensure a record of only one win in three matches hasn't made an impact in the standings.

Ricardo Vaz Te put West Ham in front in the 16th minute, completing a counterattack that Mohamed Diame started by charging with the ball from inside his own half before releasing Matt Jarvis on the left flank.

After reaching the byline, Jarvis centred the ball for Carroll to connect with a downward header and Vaz Te to find the final touch, nodding into the net from close range.

But United levelled 15 minutes later after Shinji Kagawa worked his way down the left flank and knocked the ball back to Antonio Valencia, who had the simple task of tapping in his first goal for a year.

West Ham regained the lead in the 55th when Vaz Te flicked the ball to Guy Demel, whose pass allowed Diame to turn and lose his marker before curling the ball into the net.

Van Persie came close twice before pulling United level again in the 77th, sending the rebound into the net after Kagawa's strike came off both posts.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce thought Van Persie was offside.

"Andy Carroll has a shot two minutes in and his flag went straight up, so I don't know what's going on," Allardyce said. "This has taken a famous victory away from us today. To draw this game by a default goal from Manchester United is difficult to swallow.

"A fantastic performance by the team -- they get rubbished for some of the football they play, and that's a disgrace as well."

In Manchester, City's only goal came when Carlos Tevez weaved his way into the penalty area and unleashed a shot into the roof of the net in the 83rd.

"Fantastic goal, he played really well," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "He fights."

Wigan is still fighting for Premier League survival. City's opponents in the FA Cup final next month are three points from safety having played a game fewer than Aston Villa.

"We didn't take the chances, it is as simple as that," Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said. "I thought we were magnificent from start to finish."

At Craven Cottage, Terry scored twice but the opener from fellow defender David Luiz eclipsed it for quality.

Eden Hazard squared to Luiz, who took a touch before sending the ball swerving into the net on the half-hour from 35 metres.

Terry headed in his first before halftime from Juan Mata's cross, and the captain found the net again in the 71st, helping Fernando Torres' header from Mata's corner find the target.

But the 32-year-old Terry, an unused substitute in Sunday's FA Cup semifinal loss to City, could find himself back on the bench for Sunday's trip to manager Rafa Benitez's former club, Liverpool.

"I'm really pleased with his performance but at the end of the day the team has to be winning," Benitez said.

"We have been playing two games a week for four or five months, so it's not easy keeping the players focused, concentrated and not tired."

Phil Jones, Kevin Nolan  (Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)


(Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
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