Manchester United FC's Premier League title prospects took a potentially significant blow with a 3-0 defeat at UEFA Europa League contenders Fulham FC, on a day when Aston Villa FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC strengthened their top-four claims.
Victory for United would have allowed Sir Alex Ferguson's team to draw level with leaders Chelsea FC, who travel across London to face West Ham United FC on Sunday, for the second time this week. The Blues, however, can now establish a six-point lead following United's second loss in three league games, the hosts forging ahead through Danny Murphy's curling shot (22). Bobby Zamora's fifth goal in four matches doubled the advantage a minute into the second period, with Damien Duff (75) rounding off the scoring with a left-footed volley.
That allowed Villa, in fourth, and third-placed Arsenal FC to narrow the gap on United to two points, the latter with a game in hand. John Carew's header (61) earned the Midlands club a home victory against Stoke City FC, while Arsenal defeated Hull City AFC 3-0. Tottenham, two points further back in fifth, won 2-0 at Blackburn Rovers FC thanks to a double from Peter Crouch.
Elsewhere, sixth-placed Manchester City FC twice surrendered a lead against mid-table Sunderland AFC before finally emerging 4-3 winners, Roque Santa Cruz starting and finishing the scoring in what was Mark Hughes's final match in charge. Liverpool FC, meanwhile, lost 2-0 at bottom-of-the-table Portsmouth FC, who are now within two points of safety. Javier Mascherano (45) was sent off for the visitors at Fratton Park, 12 minutes after Nadir Belhadj opened the scoring with the 500th goal in the Premier League this term. Liverpool's Merseyside neighbours Everton host in-form Birmingham City FC on Sunday, while Burnley FC go to Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.
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