West Ham United's James Collins challenges Manchester
United's Robin van Persie. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Robin van Persie scored the fastest goal of the Premier
League season - timed at 31 seconds - to keep leaders
Manchester United a point clear at the summit after a 1-0 home
win over West Ham United.
Second-half strikes from the recalled Mario Balotelli, his
first league goal of the season, and James Milner gave
second-placed Manchester City a 2-0 victory at Wigan
The Manchester clubs, on 33 and 32 points respectively, have
opened up a notable gap on their title rivals after 14 games,
with Chelsea seven points off the pace in third.
Boos rang out again at Stamford Bridge where new Chelsea
interim manager Rafael Benitez, brought in last week to
replace the axed Roberto Di Matteo, was left waiting for his
first goal and win after a second successive 0-0 draw -
Fulham securing a point in the west London derby.
The jeers and abuse that greeted Benitez in his first game in
charge on Sunday were notably less vocal but the Spaniard did
little to win over the doubters.
"I am a little frustrated. The team is well organised and
created chances against a team that works hard, so you can
see us going forward, but still we have to improve," Benitez
Chelsea, on a run of six games without a league win, still
leapfrogged West Bromwich Albion into third place on goal
difference after Albion's impressive start to the campaign
was checked by a 3-1 defeat at Swansea City.
Tottenham Hotspur moved up to fifth by beating Liverpool 2-1
at White Hart Lane, rising above Everton and Arsenal who drew
1-1 at Goodison Park.
Dutch striker Van Persie needed little time to make his mark
at Old Trafford, his ninth league goal of the season coming
inside a minute when his shot deflected off James Collins and
over the head of helpless goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
United have never lost a Premier League game at Old Trafford
in which they have led at the break and although they failed
to add to their advantage, West Ham huffed and puffed with no
Unbeaten City kept tabs on their rivals with a workmanlike
display at the DW Stadium - securing a sixth successive win
Balotelli, who has found opportunities limited under Roberto
Mancini this season, drifted in and out of the game until he
broke the deadlock on 69 minutes.
James Milner rifled in a second from outside the box three
minutes later but Mancini thought his side were lucky to win.
"It was important because it's always a difficult game
because they play very well and (Roberto) Martinez is a great
manager. We were lucky. I think I am lucky," he said.
At Stamford Bridge, Benitez kept faith with underperforming
Fernando Torres but the striker's league goal drought has now
extended beyond 10 hours.
The Spaniard was denied in the second half by goalline
clearance from Aaron Hughes but Fulham had their moments -
John Arne Riise wasting one glorious opportunity and also
forcing Petr Cech into a fine save.
Chelsea fans again showed their dissatisfaction at the
popular Di Matteo's sacking - chanting his name throughout
the 16th minute - his former squad number.
Wayne Routledge scored twice for Swansea as they brushed
aside West Brom, while Gareth Bale had an eventful night for
The Welshman's strong run and cross allowed Aaron Lennon to
net on seven minutes and Bale soon doubled the lead with a
freekick that deflected off the wall and past a wrongfooted
Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
Bale gifted Liverpool a lifeline 18 minutes from time - not
that he knew much about it as Lennon's goalline hack smacked
him in the face and flew in for a painful own goal.
Arsenal, who appeared jaded in a goalless draw with Aston
Villa at weekend, took just 52 seconds to make an impact at
Everton when the returning Theo Walcott shot home after
exchanging passes with Aaron Ramsey.
Marouane Fellaini's superb bending finish from around 20
metres hauled the hosts level on 28 minutes and the points
Stoke City came from a goal down to defeat Newcastle United
2-1, Jon Walters and Cameron Jerome scoring in the last 10
minutes, while improving Southampton, who have taken eight
points from their last four games, remain in the bottom three
after a 1-1 draw at home to Norwich City.
Referee Mark Clattenburg made an uneventful return to the
middle at St Mary's after he was cleared by London's
Metropolitan Police and the English FA of allegedly using
"inappropriate language" towards Chelsea's John Obi Mikel in
a game against Manchester United.
"He is an excellent referee, and probably more than the
performance, I speak for most when I say we are delighted to
see him back," said Norwich manager Chris Hughton.