x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Wayne Rooney double sinks Aston Villa

Manchester United equal their record 29-match unbeaten league run by beating Aston Villa 3-1 at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney scored twice as Manchester United equalled their record 29-match unbeaten league run by beating Aston Villa 3-1 at Old Trafford.

Rooney took just 50 seconds to open United’s account, then added another in stoppage time at the end of the first half.

But it took a rare Nemanja Vidic effort to calm a few nerves after Darren Bent had pulled one back for the visitors.

There were just 50secs on the clock when Edwin van der Sar launched a clearance deep into Villa territory from just outside his own area. Rooney took one touch to control, then belted the ball past Brad Friedel.

With the exception of one Bent effort, United dominated thereafter.

Dimitar Berbatov failed to threaten with a couple of close-range efforts. Nani got a bit closer, one attempt bringing a brilliant save out of Friedel. Ryan Giggs also made the veteran American work with a mazy run and shot that forced a low save by the post.

Yet, as injury-time approached, United were still waiting for that crucial second which would have set their minds at ease.

Having started the half by finding the net, it was appropriate Rooney should finish it that way too. Nani looked up and saw Rooney at the far post. The delivery was perfect, curling round the back of the Villa defence, too far out for Friedel to contemplate an interception, then dropping perfectly for Rooney, who tapped home with ease.

Yet what looked like an easy win, turned into a very nervous few minutes in the second half as Villa found some inspiration. Stewart Downing took out Rio Ferdinand with an excellent cross and Bent did what Gerard Houllier paid £23 million (Dh136.4m) for, finishing with ease.

Nemanja Vidic is not noted for scoring with anything other than his head. But, having nodded the ball on to Rooney from a United corner, the Serbian hung around long enough to receive the return, striding on to it confidently before drilling past Friedel.

Elsewhere, second-place Arsenal came from behind to beat Everton 2-1 at home thanks to goals by Andrey Arshavin and Laurent Koscielny.

Koscielny, the French centre-back, completed Arsenal’s comeback at Emirates Stadium, heading in the winner in the 76th minute to keep the Gunners firmly in the title race.

Arshavin had equalised in the 70th, eight minutes after coming on as a substitute for Tomas Rosicky, to cancel out a contentious opener scored by Louis Saha., the Everton striker.

Replays showed Saha was offside when he ran onto a pass from Seamus Coleman that came off Koscielny before reaching the France striker.

Chelsea produced an attacking masterclass in the absence of their new record signing Fernando Torres to beat Sunderland 4-2 away, moving to one point behind third-place Manchester City, who will have played a game more after it visits Birmingham today.

Torres was unable to play for Chelsea as he was not registered in time following his British-record £50m move to the London club from Liverpool on Monday.

But the defending champions did not struggle for goals  at the Stadium of Light, with Frank Lampard’s penalty and Salomon Kalou’s tidy finish overturning a fourth-minute Phil Bardsley goal to give Sunderland the lead.

Kieran Richardson’s free kick in the 26th minute brought the home side level but second-half goals by John Terry and Nicolas Anelka saw Chelsea home.

Wigan remained in the relegation zone after being held 2-2 by West Bromwich Albion in Tuesday’s other game.

Peter Odemwingie put West Brom ahead but Charles N’Zogbia’s deflected free-kick made it 1-1 and Ben Watson’s hopeful cross into the box found the corner to give Wigan the lead.

Substitute Marc-Antoine Fortune scored West Brom’s equaliser in the 79th minute, preventing the visitors climbing out of the bottom three.