Dimitar Berbatov struck in injury time to hand Manchester United a 1-0 win over Bolton which saw the champions climb to the table’s summit for the first time this season on Saturday, while still enjoying the luxury of holding a game in hand over their rivals. Chelsea remained in the title hunt by virtue of two late, late strikes which turned a looming 1-0 home defeat to Stoke into a 2-1 win as Aston Villa and Arsenal also won.
On Monday it was pacesetter’s Liverpool’s turn to once more attempt to demonstrate their credentials during the latest Merseyside derby, but they failed to peg back the new leaders after Everton’s Tim Cahill cancelled out a spectacular Steven Gerrard Liverpool opener.
Meanwhile, the lower reaches of the table still resemble a 13-club survival dog-fight headed by West Ham and separated by a mere eight points – Sunday’s unsatisfactory 1-1 draw between Tottenham and Portsmouth, for example, saw the Londoners move four places off the bottom of the division while still sharing the same minimum 21 points with the other four afflicted teams now below them.
In Portugal, Sporting Lisbon thrashed Paços Ferreira 5-1 in the last group phase match of the Carlsberg League Cup to earn February 4 semi-final home advantage alongside Benfica. Barcelona continued their relentless march towards the Spanish championship with a 5-0 win over Deportivo but Jose Mourinho returned home a disappointed man after his Inter Milan were beaten 3-1 at Atalanta to allow Juventus to close to within three points at the head of the table.