WRAPUP 2-Soccer-United beat Chelsea to march on as City stumble

Reuters

Sun, 18 Sep 19:04:00 2011

* United make it five out of five

* Adam and Skrtel sent off for Liverpool

* City draw despite Aguero double

* Adebayor scores twice for Spurs

Free-scoring Manchester United's rip-roaring start to the Premier League season continued with a 3-1 defeat of Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday after rivals Manchester City threw away a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at Fulham.

Goals from Chris Smalling, Nani and Wayne Rooney mean Alex Ferguson's side boast the only 100 percent record in the Premier League after five games and lead the table by two points from City, who were left kicking themselves.

Liverpool's top-four ambitions were exposed in a 4-0 mauling at Tottenham Hotspur where they had Charlie Adam and Martin Skrtel sent off in their worst league defeat since 2003.

Sunderland were also 4-0 winners at home to Stoke City.

United have made their best start to a league season for 26 years and have now beaten Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea at Old Trafford, scoring 14 goals in the process and accumulating a plus 17 goal difference overall.

Yet despite leading 3-0 at halftime it was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested and Fernando Torres, who finally doubled his Chelsea goal tally with his side's reply, could have made it a nervy finale had the Spaniard not inexplicably blazed wide late on with the goal gaping.

"For neutrals it was a very open game," United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports. "Usually it's a very tight affair with Chelsea but we gave the ball away so many times and they kept counter-attacking.

"Some of the footbal was fantastic but we were very careless," added the Scot, who branded a tackle by Chelsea left back Ashley Cole on Javier Hernandez which left the Mexican with a numb leg as "shocking".

United took the lead after eight minutes when the unmarked and possibly offside Smalling met a curling delivery from Ashley Young to power a header past Petr Cech.

Torres, who gave one of his most lively displays since arriving from Liverpool in January, missed a chance to level and team mate Ramires also gave United a let-off when he shot straight at United keeper David De Gea.

Nani punished Chelsea in spectacular style when the Portuguese cut in from the right after 37 minutes and arrowed an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

It looked all over for Chelsea just before the interval when Nani blocked skipper John Terry's attempted clearance and the ball fell invitingly for the grateful Rooney to fire his ninth league goal of the season.

Torres cut the deficit immediately after the break when he ran on to Nicolas Anelka's through ball and expertly flicked the ball over De Gea with the outside of his right foot.

Rooney wasted the chance to make it 4-1 when he slipped while taking a spot kick after Nani had been fouled in the area trying to reach a rebound after he had rattled the crossbar.

Chelsea, previously unbeaten under new coach Andre Villas-Boas, were always in the game and troubled Torres was left shaking his head when he rounded De Gea with eight minutes left but somehow failed to find the back of the net.

AGUERO GOALS

Earlier Roberto Mancini's City side, who had matched United step for step this season, seemed set to make it five wins from five as two Sergio Aguero goals put them in charge at Craven Cottage but Fulham had other ideas and hit back through Bobby Zamora and Danny Murphy.

Aguero took his Manchester City goal tally to eight since joining from Atletico Madrid -- firing the visitors ahead from a David Silva pass after 18 minutes and then pouncing again immediately after the halftime interval.

Fulham replied when Zamora curled in a shot and Martin Jol's side earned a share of the points in the 75th minute when Murphy's shot deflected into the net off Vincent Kompany.

"It's incredible, we lost two points after we scored two goals and dominated the game, but I think this can be a lesson for us. When we have the chances we should score," Mancini told the BBC.

Tottenham cashed in on a woeful Liverpool display with Emmanuel Adebayor scoring twice and Luka Modric and Jermain Defoe getting one apiece at White Hart Lane.

Liverpool collected seven points from their opening three games but defeat at Stoke City last weekend halted their progress and Sunday's poor display will raise questions about their ability to challenge for a top-four finish after another average season last term.

Kenny Dalglish's side began sluggishly and fell behind when Modric produced a moment of pure class, smashing a right-foot shot into the top corner of the net after the ball came back off Defoe on the edge of the area.

Big-spending Liverpool's afternoon took a turn for the worse when Adam, who had already been cautioned, caught Scott Parker with a lunge and was shown a red card after 28 minutes.

Tottenham failed to turn their domination into more goals until Skrtel was dismissed in the 63rd minute for a foul on Gareth Bale having already been booked.

After that it was one-way traffic with Defoe lashing a low shot past Pepe Reina and two minutes later Adebayor displayed clever feet to side-foot home after Reina failed to gather Defoe's low shot.

The Togo striker, who used to score regularly for Arsenal against Tottenham before moving to Manchester City, then further endeared himself to the White Hart Lane faithful with a powerful second goal from close range in stoppage time.

 

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