Sunderland thwart Manchester United title hopes
London: Manchester United`s faltering away form continued to blight their Premier League title challenge when they were held to a 0-0 draw at Sunderland on Saturday.
The match started 20 minutes late after a burst pipe damaged their dressing room causing part of the ceiling to collapse.
But there was nothing so destructive about the United attack, as a well-disciplined home defence held them to a fourth successive away draw in the league this season.
Chelsea, who host Arsenal on Sunday, are top with 15 points, followed by United on 13 and Arsenal on 11. United have dropped eight points in their opening four matches on their travels.
Tottenham Hotspur are fifth on 11 points after coming from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1, Everton got their first win this season with a 2-0 success at Birmingham City and West Ham United now prop up the table after a 1-1 home draw with Fulham.
Sunderland, who have now drawn their last four league games, went closest to scoring atg the Stadium of Light when Boudewijn Zenden hit the post in the first half, but United manager Alex Ferguson said he was happy to leave with a point.
"I think you have to give credit to Sunderland, their home record this season has been fantastic," he told Sky Sports.
"The most important thing for us to do was not lose a goal because that`s the area we`ve been weak in away games this season."
He said the incident before the match, when part of the roof of the visitors` dressing room collapsed, was not an issue.
"It was one those accidents. The staff at Sunderland were fantastic. It did not disturb our build-up to the match very much."
VAN THE MAN
Rafael van der Vaart`s rip-roaring week continued when he scored both goals as Spurs won at White Hart Lane to inflict a first defeat on Gerard Houllier since he became Villa manager.
Villa took the lead when Marc Albrighton tapped in at the far post after 16 minutes to score his first goal for the club.
However, Spurs stormed back when Van der Vaart headed them level in stoppage time at the end of the first half and put them ahead with a well-taken strike 15 minutes from time.
The Dutchman`s performance followed his adventures on Wednesday when he missed a penalty, scored a goal and got sent off in the Champions League win over Twente Enschede.
Everton, the only one of the 92 League clubs without a win before kickoff, ended that unwanted record when they climbed off the bottom of the table by beating Birmingham at St Andrews.
Roger Johnson put through his own net after 54 minutes and Tim Cahill added the second with a header for his 100th English League goal after the 90th as Birmingham lost at home in the league for the first time since September last year.
The victory lifted Everton into 17th place and sent their local arch-rivals Liverpool into the relegation zone at least until they host Blackpool on Sunday.
Fulham`s Clint Dempsey, who caused England goalkeeper Robert Green huge embarrassment when he scored a soft goal against him for the United States in the World Cup in June, beat him again after 33 minutes when he scored against West Ham United at Upton Park -- but this time Green had no chance of saving.
Dempsey controlled the ball with his chest before firing home from 12 yards. Frederic Piquionne equalised for the Hammers early in the second half and the match ended 1-1. West Ham have five points, the same as Wolves who lost 2-0 at Wigan Athletic.