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Man United close gap on Chelsea

LONDON (AP) ― Manchester United moved level on points with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League on Saturday when the defending champions lost 1-0 at Birmingham.

While Patrice Evra and Javier Hernandez continued United’s unbeaten start with a goal each in a 2-0 win over Wigan, Chelsea conceded a 17th-minute goal to Lee Bowyer to lose consecutive league matches for the first time since the end of the 2005-06 season.

Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead and a chance to take sole possession of top spot when it lost 3-2 to Tottenham, 17 years after it last lost at home to its fierce north London rival.

Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Younes Kaboul ended Spurs’ embarrassing 68-match run without an away win against the established powers of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Arsenal dropped to third place but Tottenham remained outside the Champions League qualifying berths in sixth. Bolton took fourth on goal difference from Manchester City and Spurs with a 5-1 hammering of Newcastle.

“If you had said at the start of the day, ‘would you take being joint top of the league,’ I would have said ‘yes,”’ United manager Alex Ferguson said. “We know that come the second half of the season we will definitely get better and now we are joint top with Chelsea.”

United could easily have trailed at Old Trafford before Evra headed in a 45th-minute cross by Park Ji-sung past goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi for his first goal in 3 1/2 years.

Wayne Rooney’s appearance as a 57th-minute substitute lifted United and the match swung further toward his team when Antolin Alcaraz and Hugo Rodallega were sent off within three minutes of each other ― the Wigan captain for a second yellow card and Rodallega for a two-footed foul on Rafael da Silva.

Hernandez came on in the 65th and scored his seventh goal of the season with a diving header from Rafael’s 77th-minute cross.

Rooney was greeted mostly by cheers in his first appearance since limping out of an Oct. 16 match against Bolton with an ankle injury, although a few fans jeered the England striker following last month’s quickly retracted threat to quit United.

Chelsea looked on course to bounce back from last week’s 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland when Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba had early chances.
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