LONDON (AP) ― Manchester City moved into the English Premier League lead with a 4-1 win over Aston Villa 4-1 on Saturday as Manchester United dropped into second with a 1-1 tie at Liverpool.
Mario Balotelli scored from his back on an overhead kick in the 28th minute, his fourth straight match with a goal, and City pulled away as Adam Johnson scored in the 47th, Vincent Kompany in the 52nd and James Milner in the 71st.
Stephen Warnock got a goal in the 65th for visiting Villa.
City (7-0-1), seeking its first league title since 1968, has 22 points, two more than United (6-0-2), which rallied on second-half substitute Javier Hernandez’s goal in the 81st minute.
Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Liverpool. (AP-Yonhap News)
United manager Alex Ferguson did not start Wayne Rooney, who was “devastated” by a three-match Euro 2012 ban for kicking.
Steven Gerrard ― making his first start in seven months ― scored off a free kick in the 68th minute before Rooney and Nani came off the bench to spur United.
“I didn’t think they were really threatening until they scored the goal,” Ferguson said. “But then the game opened up and we took the chance.”
The capacity 45,065 crowd at Anfield included Miami Heat star LeBron James, who saw Liverpool play in person for the first time since becoming a minority owner of the club.
James, judging by his posts on Twitter, was impressed.
“One of the single best experiences of my life! The excitement that these fans have is like no other. Extremely loud start/finish,” he tweeted.
James was photographed standing in the directors’ box, wearing a sharp navy blue suit and red and white tie, accented with a red and white Liverpool scarf.
“Looking forward to the next time,” he tweeted.
United and City meet at Old Trafford on Oct. 23.
Chelsea (6-1-1) is third with 19 points following a 3-1 win at home over Everton that ended a six-game winless streak against the Toffees. Daniel Sturridge (31st minute), John Terry (45th) and Ramires (61st) beat American goalkeeper Tim Howard, and Apostolos Vellios scored in the 81st for Everton (2-4-1).
Stoke beat Fulham 2-0, Norwich defeated Swansea 3-1, Queens Park Rangers was held to a 1-1 tie by Blackburn and Bolton won 3-1 at Wigan.
Lionel Messi moved into sole possession of second place on the Barcelona career scoring list, getting two goals in a 3-0 win over visiting Racing Santander.
With 196 goals for Barcelona in all competitions, Messi moved past Laszlo Kubala (194) and trails only Cesar Rodriguez (235). Both of Messi’s goals came off his right foot, giving him just 34 in his career off his weaker foot.
Messi put Barcelona ahead in the 11th minute at Camp Nou, taking a pass from Andres Iniesta, cutting past two defenders and rounding goalkeeper Tono. Xavi Hernandez doubled the lead in the 27th, and Messi scored in the 68th minute off the rebound of Iniesta’s shot, which hit a post. Messi has 16 goals in 12 games overall this season and leads the league with 10.
Barcelona center back Gerard Pique will be sidelined for two weeks after leaving in the ninth minute with a muscle tear in his right leg.
Inter Milan lost again, keeping up its awful start as Catania rallied for a 2-1 win.
After Estaban Cambiasso put Inter ahead in the sixth minute, Catania tied it on Sergio Almiron’s goal in the 46th and went ahead on Francesco Lodi’s penalty kick in the 50th after Luca Castellazzi brought down Gonzalo Bergessio in the penalty area.
Inter (1-4-1) is 17th with just four points.
Defending champion AC Milan (2-2-2) defeated visiting Palermo 3-0 on goals by Antonio Nocerino in the 39th, Robinho in the 55th and Antonio Cassano in the 63rd.
Franck Ribery scored one goal, set up two more and earned a penalty kick as Bayern Munich beat visiting Hertha Berlin 4-0 to extend its lead in the Bundesliga. The match featured six penalty kicks and three red cards Saturday.
Ribery set up Mario Gomez to score in the fifth minute and made it 2-0 two minutes later, before sending Bastian Schweinsteiger through to score in the 13th.
The French winger was brought down by Roman Hubnik in the 68th, and Gomez converted the spot kick a minute later. It was the 12th game in a row without conceding a goal for Bayern, which visits Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Rangers conceded a late goal, and Celtic rallied from 3-0 down as Scotland’s big two endured frustrating draws.
Former Rangers striker Steven Thompson converted David van Zanten’s cross in the fifth minute of injury time to cancel out Nikica Jelavic’s 48th-minute goal as Rangers (9-0-2) were held 1-1 by St. Mirren at Ibrox.
Celtic (6-3-1) trails its Glasgow rival by 10 points after a 3-3 draw at Kilmarnock, which led 3-0 at the break. Anthony Stokes scored twice in three minutes before Celtic grabbed a point with a Charlie Mulgrew goal in the 80th.
Michel Bastos scored twice Saturday to lead Lyon to a 3-1 win over Nancy and help his team join Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the French league.
Olivier Giroud notched a hat trick as Montpellier beat Dijon 5-3 to go level on 20 points with Lyon and PSG, which plays at Ajaccio on Sunday.