Football round-up: Manchester United inch closer to EPL title

London: Manchester United surged closer to a 20th English league title on Sunday, opening an eight-point lead by beating Queens Park Rangers 2-0 while floundering neighbour Manchester City lost 1-0 at Arsenal.

Having spent most of the season in City`s shadow in the Premier League, United has eclipsed its big-spending rival to take control of the Premier League title race.

"We know what it takes to get over the finishing line first," United defender Rio Ferdinand said. "We`ve got to use all that experience to make sure we do it again."

United has six games remaining to extend its title record after its eighth successive league win.

Wayne Rooney scored the opener from the penalty spot after QPR captain Shaun Derry was sent off in the 15th minute by referee Lee Mason for pushing over Ashley Young, although there was minimal contact and the United winger appeared to be offside.

There was no disputing Paul Scholes` 68th-minute goal, with a trademark drive blasted in the net.

"You have to get momentum at this stage of the season," Ferdinand said. "That`s the most important thing, making sure you get a good run together and win all your remaining games. We`ve ticked one off today and hopefully we can keep on going."

The Red Devils have been calmness personified, even when City made top spot its own until its grip was loosened a month ago. There appears to be no way back now for Roberto Mancini`s side, which has imploded amid internal strife.

The frustrated manager even criticized one of his own players, with petulant striker Mario Balotelli earning a stinging rebuke for his second dismissal of the season.

A dangerous-looking, knee-high tackle on Alex Song had gone unpunished after 10 minutes, but Balotelli was sent off in the 90th minute when he was booked again for a second lunge on Bacary Sagna.

Mancini says he wants the FA to investigate the foul on Song, which could lead to a lengthy ban. After a stamp on Tottenham`s Scott Parker was missed by a referee in January, a four-match suspension was imposed on Balotelli by the Football Association.

"We have six games and he will not play in the next six games," Mancini said.

Asked if the Italy striker could be sold at the end of the season, his compatriot said: "Probably -- but I don`t know."

"Every time, we risk one sent off, like today," Mancini added. "But he can score also in the last minute."

But only Arsenal looked as if it would score at Emirates Stadium. It came with three minutes remaining when Mikel Arteta blasted the ball from outside the penalty area inside goalkeeper Joe Hart`s left post.

While City has won 15 of 16 home league matches and drawn the other, it has now lost five times on the road this season.

"It`s clear now that it`s very difficult," Mancini said of the title race. "In the end, if we don`t win it`s probably because they (United) did better than us."

Arsenal, meanwhile, is closer to securing its place in the Champions League having being closer to the relegation zone earlier in the season.

Arsene Wenger`s team has a two-point cushion in third over Tottenham.


Barcelona: Real Madrid`s bid for its first Spanish league title in four seasons received another setback with a 0-0 tie at home against Valencia, cutting its lead over second-place Barcelona to four points with seven games left.

After opening a 10-point lead over the three-time defending champions, Real Madrid has tied three of its last five league games. Los Blancos are at crosstown rival Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and then host last-place Sporting Gijon before the sixth "clasico" match of the season, at Barcelona on April 21 or 22.

Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita made a series of superb saves late in the match, denying Angel Di Maria deep into stoppage time.


Paris: Paris Saint-Germain won for the first time in four matches, beating visiting Marseille 2-1 on Alex`s tiebreaking goal on a header off a corner kick in the 61st minute to move even on points with first-place Montpellier in the French league.

PSG, which trails on goal difference, went ahead on Jeremy Menez`s sixth-minute goal, but Andre Ayew`s header tied the score in the 59th.

PSG entered with a loss and two ties in its previous three league games.

Montpellier, which has played one fewer game, can open a three-point lead if it wins Wednesday at Marseille.


Berlin: Raul Gonzalez scored twice and Schalke defeated Hannover 3-0 to consolidate its hold on third place in the Bundesliga as Bayer Leverkusen tied 1-1 at Hamburg.

Raul headed Jefferson Farfan`s cross in off the left post in the sixth minute, giving Schalke a lift after Thursday`s Europa League elimination by Athletic Bilbao.

The 34-year-old former Real Madrid star made it 2-0 in the 47th, accepting Farfan`s return pass on his chest, holding off a defender and then beating goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler by playing the ball with his left foot and stroking it inside the post with his right. Farfan unselfishly crossed to give Klaas-Jan Huntelaar an easy finish for his 24th goal of the season in the 63rd.

Schalke is six points behind Bayern Munich and five ahead of Borussia Moenchengladbach with five games to play. Hannover dropped three places to eighth.


Alkmaar: PSV Eindhoven beat Heracles Almelo 3-0 to lift the Dutch Cup on Sunday, just weeks after former captain Philip Cocu took over as manager.

Cocu, a former Dutch international, replaced Fred Rutten at PSV last month.

Zakaria Labyad played in Ola Toivonen for the opening goal in the 30th minute, Dries Mertens steered home a cross from Erik Pieters and Jeremain Lens sealed victory in the 62nd after capitalizing on a defensive error.


Athens: Newly crowned Greek champion Olympiakos lost 1-0 at home to Kerkyra after a late goal by Ilias Ioannou.

With two games left, Olympiakos has already clinched a 39th league title with a seven-point lead over second-place Panathinaikos, which beat visiting Panionios 3-0.

Bureau Report

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