Mar 16, 2007

United ride their luck closer to title finishing line

LONDON AFP) - Manchester United have taken a huge step towards reclaiming the Premiership title after an unlikely stoppage-time winner over Liverpool allowed them to preserve their nine-point lead over Chelsea at the top of the table. Chelsea minimised the impact of United's win by beating Portsmouth 2-0 on Saturday evening. But even though the champions have a game in hand, time is rapidly running out for them to close the gap.

United's 1-0 win was secured when John O'Shea smashed in a rebound after Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina had spilled a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick at the end of a match in which the visitors were, for long periods, on the back foot.

After Ronaldo's late winner at Fulham last weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson's side have now secured two wins from contests in which - even their own manager admits - they deserved to drop points.

"You need that bit of luck to win a championship and that is what we have had in the last two weeks," said Ferguson.

"Without question this is a massive result for us. We were very lucky. Liverpool upset our rhythm a bit and we had a lot of narrow escapes."

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho however declined to repeat the assertion he made last week that United had enjoyed a huge amount of luck this season -- a claim that provoked Ferguson to tell him to "button his lip".

Mourinho admitted: "Of course it is not just luck that they have won so many points. The manager and the players deserve big respect."

Didier Drogba's 29th goal of the season gave Chelsea a first-half lead at Portsmouth.

But they had reason to be grateful to goalkeeper Petr Cech, who produced two superb saves to deny Pompey an equaliser before Salomon Kalou made the points safe, prompting Mourinho to suggest that the head injury Cech suffered earlier this season could end up costing his side a third straight title.

"How many points would Chelsea have if Petr had not been out for four months?" he said.

Arsenal, who must overturn a 1-0 deficit against PSV Eindhoven to stay in the Champions League%2

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