• Premier League round-up

United profit as City, Arsenal and Chelsea all slip up

ESPN staff
December 1, 2012 « Watch the FA Cup 3rd Round Draw live from 2.40pm | Chartbeat test »
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Rafael Benitez's unhappy start as Chelsea manager continued as his side crumbled to defeat against West Ham, while Manchester United moved clear at the summit after coming out on top of a seven-goal thriller at Reading.

City were forced to settle for a point against a dogged Everton side, while Arsenal slipped further off the pace as they were beaten at home by Swansea. Elsewhere, there were wins for Liverpool and Tottenham, while West Brom suffered a second successive defeat and QPR took a point off Aston Villa.

Premier League results and table

Manchester United took advantage of slip-ups by their title rivals as they moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League after beating Reading 4-3 in a thrilling encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

Both sides' defending left a lot to be desired with seven goals in a breathless opening 45 minutes, but United emerged triumphant thanks to two goals from Wayne Rooney.

However, United were twice forced to come from behind as they conceded the first goal for the 14th time in all competitions this season; Hal Robson-Kanu cracking in a strike from close range after Jonny Evans failed to get enough distance on his header.

United rallied, equalising through a superb goal from Anderson before Rooney grabbed his first, converting from the penalty spot after Jay Tabb inexplicably barged Evans in the penalty area.

But if United thought they had broken the Royals' resistance, they were severely mistaken, as Reading clawed themselves level - Adam Le Fondre nodding home a corner after finding himself unmarked in the box. In almost identical circumstances, Reading took the lead for a second time, another corner from the right saw Sean Morrison beat Evans to land a powerful header four minutes later.

But Reading were equally guilty of defensive lapses, and Rooney made it 3-3 after some nice work from Patrice Evra. Robin van Persie got in on the act to score United's fourth with a neat finish, and he should have had a second, his shot was blocked by Adrian Mariappa, but replays showed the ball crossed the line.

Both sides shored up their defences in the second half, and although they failed to add to their lead, United looked comfortable in a second half which failed to live up to the drama of the first 45 minutes.

Manchester City trail United by three points after they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Everton. City, who lost Aleksandar Kolarov early to a groin injury, fell behind after half-an-hour with the visitors having enjoyed the best of the early exchanges - Marouane Fellaini bundling home the rebound after Joe Hart saved his initial header from Leighton Baines' cross.

However, the Toffees' lead was shortlived as Carlos Tevez levelled from the penalty spot after Fellaini was guilty of pulling back Edin Dzeko from a corner after Tim Howard had saved the Bosnian's low volley.

City stepped on the gas in the second half, but they were unable to make their pressure count as Everton hung on for a hard-earned point, and nearly snatched all three as Hart scrambled to save Nikica Jelavic's free-kick in the dying minutes.

Benitez remains in search for his first win as Chelsea manager as West Ham came from behind for a 3-1 win at Upton Park.

The Blues found their first goal under the Spaniard's stewardship, Fernando Torres setting up Juan Mata in the first half. Torres, Victor Moses and Mata passed up good chances to double the lead and they were made to pay as Carlton Cole headed West Ham level just past the hour.

Petr Cech made a fine save to thwart Matt Jarvis and Ashley Cole headed off the line to deny Winston Reid, but the Hammers kept probing and Mohamed Diame fired home with four minutes remaining. As Chelsea chased the game, West Ham pounced and Modibo Maíga clinched the points.

Michu struck twice against Arsenal © PA Photos
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Arsenal lost more ground on the leaders after they were stunned 2-0 by Swansea City at Emirates Stadium. Two late strikes from Michu snatched all three points for the Swans, who were the better side for much of the 90 minutes after a tame performance by the Gunners.

Arsenal were nearly punished early on after a sloppy start, and they were relieved when the ball fell to Ashley Williams, who lashed his shot wide.

Wojciech Szczesny made an impressive double save to deny Angel Rangel before captain Thomas Vermaelen was called upon to make a last-ditch tackle to deny Nathan Dyer.

Arsenal showed some signs of hunger in the second half and felt they deserved a penalty as Olivier Giroud tumbled following a challenge from Chico, but Mark Clattenburg felt the defender managed to get a toe on the ball.

Szczesny was called upon once again to deny Dwight Tiendalli, and Swansea were rewarded for their flowing play, Michu playing a one-two with Luke Moore before driving a left-footed strike past Szczesny. The Swans' £2 million summer signing then bagged his 11th goal of the season, showing real composure to round Szczesny after Dyer dispossessed Carl Jenkinson on the halfway line.

Tottenham moved into the Champions League places after an impressive 3-0 win against Fulham. Clint Dempsey was booed on his return to Craven Cottage, but the former Cottagers forward will not be too concerned after two quickfire goals from Jermain Defoe clinched a convincing victory for Andre Villas-Boas' side.

It was Fulham who enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, Mladen Petric forcing a save from Hugo Lloris after the Croatian made good contact with John Arne Riise's dangerous ball from the left.

But the home side were left to rue their failure to convert their chances, and it was Spurs who took the lead early in the second half. Fulham failed to close down Sandro in the midfield, and after carrying the ball goalwards, the Brazilian unleashed a 30-yard bullet which beat Mark Schwarzer at his near post.

Defoe continued his impressive goalscoring form, netting two goals in the space of five minutes - lashing home from close range after a superb solo run by Gylfi Sigurdsson before collecting Dempsey's through ball to slot the ball past Schwarzer.

Spurs leapfrogged West Bromwich Albion into fourth after the Baggies were beaten 1-0 by Stoke City at The Hawthorns thanks to Dean Whitehead's second-half goal.

A stubborn defensive display from the Potters kept Steve Clarke's side at bay, and after soaking up plenty of pressure, the visitors grabbed all three points after Whitehead steered home Michael Kightly's cross to secure Stoke's first away win in the league since January.

Daniel Agger gave Liverpool the lead against Southampton © Getty Images
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Daniel Agger secured victory for Liverpool as they bounced back from their defeat to Tottenham in midweek with a 1-0 win over Southampton at Anfield. The Reds, who welcomed Lucas Leiva back into the starting XI, hit the woodwork on a number of occasions before Agger nodded home shortly before the break.

Southampton, who have picked up seven points from their last three games, started confidently, Rickie Lambert flashing a 25-yard cracker narrowly wide. Luis Suarez looked to be through on goal after running onto Pepe Reina's long ball, but Jose Fonte scrambled the ball away.

Jonjo Shelvey hit the woodwork before Suarez saw his free-kick clatter the crossbar. But while Suarez was ruing his bad luck, Glen Johnson sent the ball back into the box for Agger to nod in from ten yards.

Faced with the chance to climb out of the relegation zone, Saints made a bright start to the second half, but Liverpool looked more likely to add to their lead, although Suarez was guilty of squandering late chances.

Harry Redknapp was given a stark reminder of the challenge facing him at Queens Park Rangers as he saw his side take a point from an entertaining 1-1 draw with Aston Villa at Loftus Road.

In his first home game in charge, Redknapp saw his side fall behind after just eight minutes - his team giving the ball away cheaply, leaving Ashley Westwood to find Brett Holman, whose powerful 25-yard shot beat Rob Green.

Rangers were back on level terms ten minutes later, Jamie Mackie rising highest to nod Samba Diakite's chipped cross into the box past Brad Guzan.

The home side's fragility at the back was all too evident, and Villa soon had the ball in the back of the net again, but Christian Benteke was deemed to be offside when he sent a powerful header past Green from Matt Lowton's cross.

QPR were left to rue a host of missed opportunities, as Shaun Wright-Phillips beat Guzan before hammering a half-volley against the post. Clint Hill's strike rattled the bar in the closing stages, but Redknapp was unable to work his magic and secure QPR's first win of the season.

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