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United Lose Again

Fulham blew the Premier League title race wide open by inflicting Manchester United’s second successive defeat on a day when second-placed Chelsea also lost, 1-0 at London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

If United’s defeat by Liverpool last week reignited hopes on Merseyside of a first championship in 19 years, then such optimism will have been heightened by events in west London where Man Utd lost consecutive league games for the first time since April 2005. United’s afternoon started and ended badly with Paul Scholes being dismissed for handling a goal-bound header after 17 minutes, allowing Danny Murphy to convert from the penalty spot. Zoltán Gera (87) added a second and, a minute from time, a frustrating day for the champions was compounded by the dismissal of substitute Wayne Rooney for his second booking.

Chelsea could have closed to within a point of United but Guus Hiddink lost his first game as Blues manager, Luka Modrić (50) scoring the only goal at White Hart Lane to edge Tottenham up to ninth. Liverpool will do what Chelsea failed to if they overcome Aston Villa on Sunday. In the late game, Arsenal consolidated fourth place with a 3-1 win at third-bottom Newcastle United. Obafemi Martins (58) − who had a first-half penalty saved − cancelled out Nicklas Bendtner’s opener for Arsenal less than a minute earlier only for the Gunners to hit back shortly after through Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri.

Meanwhile, relegation-threatened Portsmouth came from behind to beat visitors Everton 2-1, while Ryan Shawcross scored six minutes from time to earn Stoke City a 1-0 victory against a Middlesbrough team now four points from safety. Elsewhere at the bottom, West Bromwich Albion drew 1-1 at home with Bolton Wanderers, while another struggler, Blackburn Rovers, played out the same result with West Ham United.