Premier League Roundup, Dec. 30
Manchester United thrashed Wigan 5-0 and Arsenal beat Portsmouth
4-1 on Wednesday to diminish Chelsea’s advantage at the top of the
English Premier League going into 2010.
Wayne Rooney’s 15th goal of the season started the rout that
moved second-place United to within two points of Chelsea.
“It was an excellent performance,” United manager Alex
Ferguson said. “Rooney was absolutely fantastic; the energy he
shows and desire to win is marvelous.”
Like Rooney, Eduardo da Silva also scored first for Arsenal
in the 28th minute as the London club cemented its title
credentials at the expense of bottom-place Portsmouth, which was
fighting to prevent bankruptcy.
Arsenal is two points behind United, but has a game in hand
over Chelsea and the 18-time English champions.
“We’re up for it, the commitment is there and the talent is
there,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We’ll fight and this
team is ready to give everything.”
United, though, was targeting a fourth straight title, and a
sign of the strength of Ferguson’s squad was that he fielded a
different lineup for a 99th consecutive match.
Rooney was unstoppable against Wigan. The England striker
connected with defender Rafael Da Silva’s low cross at the near
post in the 28th and steered the ball beyond Chris Kirkland.
United quickly doubled its advantage when former Wigan winger
Antonio Valencia cut the ball back for Michael Carrick to sweep
A third came on the stroke of halftime when Darren Fletcher
found Rafael on the edge of the area and the Brazilian drilled a
low shot past Kirkland and ran across to the bench to celebrate
with twin brother Fabio.
Kirkland was forced off injured at halftime and his
replacement, Mike Pollitt, was beaten after five minutes. Valencia
skipped past Maynor Figueroa and crossed into the penalty area
where Hendry Thomas had been defending before the Wigan player
Having created three goals, Valencia piled more misery on his
former club when he lofted the ball over the onrushing Pollitt in
“The play, movement and tempo of the game was great for us,”
Ferguson said. “They kept the momentum going for us all night and
you never know how important the goal difference could be, although
Chelsea still have two more than us.”
While Arsenal chases a first league title since 2004,
Portsmouth was fighting for survival – not only in the Premier
League, but for its very existence. It emerged earlier in the day
that the cash-strapped 2008 FA Cup winners face bankruptcy unless
they can clear debts to the British government by February.
Pompey’s miserable plight was reflected in Arsenal’s opening
goal with Eduardo’s free kick taking a huge deflection off defender
Younes Kaboul to float past static goalkeeper Hermann Hreidarsson
at the right-hand post.
Samir Nasri scored another for Arsenal just before the break
after receiving the ball from Aaron Ramsey’s flick-on.
Ramsey got on the scoresheet himself in the 69th, taking the
ball off Vanden Borre and charging past Frederic Piquionne before
lashing in a left-foot shot from the edge of the box.
Nadir Belhadj pulled one back for Pompey but Alex Song’s
header from Nasri’s right-wing cross killed off the match in the
81st with Arsenal’s 51st goal of the season.