Manchester United kept the pressure on leaders Arsenal in the weekend’s Premiership action by snatching a last-gasp winner against Chelsea.
The Gunners retained their five-point advantage at the top with a comfortable home victory, consigning West Ham United to bottom in the process.
Sir Alex Ferguson had dubbed United’s game against Chelsea at Old Trafford a “must win” game, yet they were curiously unable to rouse themselves for much of the first half.
It was no surprise when the visitors took the lead on thirty minutes. Gudjohnsen ran onto Petit’s through pass, ghosting past Keane and reaching the ball fractionally before keeper Barthez to gently flick the ball over the Frenchman and into the net.
The setback roused Manchester United and they were level before half-time. Paul Scholes headed home a pinpoint David Beckham cross to score in his fifth game in a row and is clearly enjoying his more advanced role this season.
Manchester Utd were the better team after the break and continued to press for a winner. It came two minutes into stoppage time in the second period. Subs’ Veron and Forlan combined for Forlan to thrashhome.
“If we keep knocking on the door, we hope it will open,” said Ferguson afterwards of his side’s attempts to keep up with Arsenal.
Arsenal maintained their lead at the top with a 3-1 victory over West Ham United on Sunday. Indeed,they are playing with a swagger and confidence that suggests the title may be as good as won, regardless of Manchesetr United’s efforts.
Arsene Wenger’s side did benefit from a controversial Henry penalty on 14 minutes though, for which Lomas was sent off, which left West Ham furious.
Their lead lasted less than half an hour. Brazilian Edu underhit a back pass, and, swift of feet and mind, Defoe latched onto it, striking the ball through Seaman’s legs to equalise.
The second half saw Arsenal looking too good for the undermanned visitors.
Henry scored twice to complete his second hat trick of the season, although the Frenchman’s second was shrouded in controversy with West Ham, alleging that Lee Bowyer was elbowed in the face in the build-up to the goal. Henry now leads the Premiership scoring charts with 17 goals.
Elsewhere, Newcastle United leapfrogged Chelsea into third place, five points behind Manchester United but with a game in hand. They beat Man City 2-0 at home with a displayof attacking pace to rival Arsenal.
Liverpool ended their dismal winless run with a 1-0 victory away to Southampton.
Emile Heskey scored his first in eighteen games – another miserable statistic for Liverpool – to the relief of all involved with the club.
It was a solid, if largely unexciting performance, but one that should offer encouragement that they can still salvage something from this season. They lie sixth, just four points behind Newcastle.