Man U strengthens top spot, Man City beats Newcastle 3-1

Manchester United consolidated its Premier League lead by beating Sunderland 2-0 Sunday thanks to two goals by Dimitar Berbatov, while Carlos Tevez’s pair helped Manchester City move to second provisionally with a 3-1 win at Newcastle.

Fulham’s Clint Dempsey

Fulham’s Clint Dempsey

LONDON — Manchester United consolidated its Premier League lead by beating Sunderland 2-0 Sunday thanks to two goals by Dimitar Berbatov, while Carlos Tevez’s pair helped Manchester City move to second provisionally with a 3-1 win at Newcastle.

Berbatov headed home a cross by strike partner Wayne Rooney in the fifth minute and saw a shot deflected in off Anton Ferdinand in the 57th for a league-high 13th of the season. Unbeaten United stayed two points clear of cross-town rival City but with two games still in hand.

City overtook Arsenal in the standings as Gareth Barry’s opener and Tevez’s double helped Roberto Mancini’s side to victory at St. James’ Park. Arsenal plays fourth-place Chelsea on Monday.

Wolverhampton lost 2-1 to Wigan to go bottom, with West Ham climbing off the foot of the table thanks to a 3-1 victory at Fulham — only its third win of the league season.

Two games — Blackpool-Liverpool and Everton-Birmingham — were postponed by the freezing conditions sweeping through Britain.

United, which has only lost once this season in all competitions, dominated the first half against injury-ravaged Sunderland but only had Berbatov’s early strike to show for it.

Ryan Giggs released Rooney on the edge of the penalty area and the England striker chipped the ball to the far post where Berbatov squeezed a downward header past Craig Gordon.

Rooney, without a goal from open play since March for United, chipped wide and both Berbatov and Anderson rattled the woodwork as the Red Devils threatened to add more goals.

The second finally arrived when Berbatov, having been fed by Anderson, unleashed a shot that Ferdinand inadvertently diverted into his own net. The Bulgaria striker could have claimed his third hat trick of the season in the 70th but Gordon blocked a volley struck on the turn.

“We are coming into good form,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “We were solid at the back which is a good sign for us.”

City missed the chance to go top of the standings at Christmas for the first time in 81 years when it lost 2-1 to Everton on Monday, but it got back on track against Newcastle.

Tevez, as usual, was at the centre of everything City did, six days after withdrawing his transfer request following a fallout with the club.

The Argentina striker played in Barry to score after only 72 seconds and was then on the end of a cross by James Milner in the fifth minute to make it 2-0.

Andy Carroll, who was dangerous all match, pulled a goal back for the Magpies in the 72nd by heading in Joey Barton’s corner but Tevez restored the two-goal margin in the 81st with a shot that took a deflection off Fabricio Coloccini. It was his 12th goal of the campaign, putting him second in the scorers’ chart ahead of Carroll.

“I am happy because Carlos scored two goals and I am happy for all the players because they played very well,” City manager Roberto Mancini said.

Rafael van der Vaart scored in either half as Tottenham, which played more than an hour with 10 men following the sending-off of Jermain Defoe, beat Aston Villa 2-1 to stay fifth.

At the other end of the table, Carlton Cole scored in each half as West Ham won at Craven Cottage to climb off the bottom and level on points with Fulham, which dropped into the relegation zone.

In the other game, Robert Huth’s header and a late goal from Marc Wilson gave Stoke a 2-0 win at Blackburn.

Aaron Hughes had put Fulham ahead but Cole’s brace and a goal by Frederic Piquionne earned the Hammers victory.

Wolverhampton was left anchored to the bottom after a listless display against Wigan, which scored in the opening 20 minutes through Hugo Rodallega and Tom Cleverley. Steven Fletcher got Wolves’ consolation in the 87th.

The result put some early pressure on Rovers manager Steve Kean, who was told last week he’ll be in charge to the end of the season after the popular Sam Allardyce was fired by the club’s new owners, Indian poultry company Venky’s.

The Netherlands playmaker opened the scoring in the 23rd, four minutes before Defoe was red-carded for elbowing James Collins, and doubled the lead in the 67th with his eighth of the season. Marc Albrighton scored a late consolation for struggling Villa.

Sunderland was leapfrogged by Bolton, which won 2-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion despite being under pressure for much of the game.

Matt Taylor and Sweden striker Johan Elmander, with his ninth of the season, got the goals for Bolton. Peter Odemwingie was guilty of a host of misses for the visitors.

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