English Premier League Roundup, Feb. 1
A brace from Wayne Rooney in a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa kept Manchester United five points clear at the top of the Premier League, but Arsenal and Chelsea stayed in touch with the unbeaten leaders with come-from-behind victories on Tuesday.
Rooney scored with virtually the first and last kicks of the first half at Old Trafford to help United to a convincing win that equaled the club's record of 29 straight league matches without defeat.
Second-place Arsenal came from behind to beat Everton 2-1 at home thanks to goals by Andrey Arshavin and Laurent Koscielny.
Chelsea produced an attacking masterclass in the absence of new record signing Fernando Torres to beat Sunderland 4-2 away, moving one point adrift of third-place Manchester City, which will have played a game more after it visits Birmingham on Wednesday.
Wigan remained in the relegation zone after being held 2-2 by West Bromwich Albion in Tuesday's other game.
It was only Rooney's fourth and fifth league goals in a disappointing season for the England striker, who has struggled to reproduce the form of last season.
"Goals always help strikers," United manager Alex Ferguson said of Rooney. "He's always had a great appetite to play ... and he's got his rewards eventually."
Rooney latched onto United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar's long clearance to control beautifully and strike a 20-yard shot into the net to open the scoring after just 48 seconds.
His second came just before halftime, slotting home from eight meters after Nani had crossed the ball across the penalty area.
England striker Darren Bent pulled a goal back for Villa in the 58th, his second since joining the midtable club from Sunderland this month, but Serbia ceter back Nemanja Vidic regained United's two-goal cushion with a powerful volley five minutes later.
French center back Koscielny completed Arsenal's comeback at Emirates Stadium, heading in the winner in the 76th minute to keep the Gunners firmly in the title race.
Arshavin had equalized in the 70th, eight minutes after coming on as a substitute for Tomas Rosicky, to cancel out a contentious opener scored by Everton striker Louis Saha.
Replays showed Saha was offside when he ran onto a pass from Seamus Coleman that came off Koscielny before reaching the France striker.
"We were not sharp until Everton scored," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "It was more a victory of a team with a fantastic spirit and a never-say-die attitude. I'm very happy because this is maybe the aspect of the team that has been questioned the most."
Torres was unable to play for Chelsea as he wasn't registered in time following his British-record 50 million pounds ($81 million) move to the London club from Liverpool on Monday.
But the defending champions didn't struggle for goals without the Spain striker at the Stadium of Light, with Frank Lampard's penalty and Salomon Kalou's tidy finish overturning a fourth-minute lead given to Sunderland by Phil Bardsley.
Kieran Richardson's free kick in the 26th brought the home side level but second-half goals by John Terry and Nicolas Anelka saw Chelsea home.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said his side's return to form could have come too late to retain the title.
"If Manchester United continue their run, it's difficult to close the gap," said Ancelotti, after Chelsea's third win in a row.
Substitute Marc-Antoine Fortune scored West Brom's equalizer against Wigan in the 79th minute, preventing the visitors climbing out of the bottom three.
Peter Odemwingie put West Brom ahead but Charles N'Zogbia's deflected free kick made it 1-1 and Ben Watson's hopeful cross into the box found the corner to give Wigan the lead.