United draws, City wins as title race blown open

Updated: April 22, 2012, 6:07 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The Premier League title race took an unexpected twist Sunday when Manchester City beat Wolverhampton 2-0 to move within three points of leader Manchester United, which blew a two-goal lead in a 4-4 tie with Everton.

With the two rivals meeting at Etihad Stadium in the next round and City having a much better goal difference than United, the destiny of the title is back in both teams' hands in what is proving a thrilling climax to the season.

"It's a derby of amazing proportions -- probably the most important derby game in my time," said United manager Alex Ferguson, who took over in 1986.

United appeared to be coasting to an eighth straight home win when Wayne Rooney scored his second goal to put the team 4-2 ahead at Old Trafford.

However, poor defending from the defending champions allowed Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar to score goals in the final seven minutes and earn Everton a point.

City took full advantage hours later at Molineux, with goals by Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri ensuring Wolves became the first team to be relegated from the top flight.

"The United game's in our sights," City goalkeeper Joe Hart said. "We feel ready and are firing in the goals."

In the day's other match, Liverpool's poor league form continued with a 1-0 home loss to West Bromwich Albion, with Peter Odemwingie grabbing the winner against the run of play in the 75th minute.

Liverpool, which had 28 shots at Anfield, is languishing in eighth place -- two points behind Merseyside rival Everton with four matches left.

United still holds the initiative although City's superb form at home -- where it has won 16 of its 17 matches -- gives Roberto Mancini's team a great chance of leapfrogging its greatest rival. City currently has a goal difference advantage of six.

"I think they have a bigger chance than us," Mancini said. "But we have another chance."

Rooney closed to within one goal of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie in the scoring charts after taking his tally for the campaign to 26 and also became the club's fourth top scorer of all time, taking his overall tally to 180 to overtake George Best and Dennis Viollet. But that will be of little consolation to the England striker after the dramatic comeback of his former club.


BARCELONA, Spain -- Athletic Bilbao pushed last-place Racing Santander toward near-certain relegation from the Spanish league on Sunday with a 1-0 away win through an early goal from Gaizka Toquero.

The Basque striker ran onto Ander Herrera's through pass and scored with a shot inside the far post to give Bilbao the victory, lifting it into sixth place and the last Europa League spot.

Racing remained winless in its last 16 games to sit 11 points from safety with four games to play.

"The players are aware of the situation, but we have to maintain our honor and keep working," Racing coach Alvaro Cervera said.

In the Spanish capital, Arda Turan scored a brace in three second-half minutes to help Atletico Madrid brush past Espanyol 3-1 and stay even on points with Bilbao.

Atletico defender Diego Godin opened the scoring nine minutes in with a header before Vila Didac leveled for the visitors at Vicente Calderon stadium 10 minutes later from a pass by Sergio Garcia.

Turan scored with a spectacular airborne volley to rip Juanfran Torres' cross into the corner of the net to restore Atletico's advantage in the 59th. The Turkey midfielder quickly put the result beyond doubt when he latched onto a lobbed pass, cut back to shake off a pair of defenders, and sent his low strike off the post and over the goalline.

At Anoeta stadium, Carlos Vela's acrobatic late goal salvaged a 1-1 home draw for Real Sociedad against Villarreal.

The Mexico forward whipped in a bicycle kick to cancel out Marcos Senna's opener four minutes from the finish. It was Vela's 11th league goal this season.

The draw left Villarreal six points above the relegation zone.

"We were the better team for 80 minutes," said Villarreal coach Miguel Angel Lotina. "We have to keep playing like this to lock up our place in the top flight for next season as soon as possible."

Also, Granada moved eight points clear of the drop after a 1-0 win over the visiting Getafe thanks to Franco Jara's early goal set up by Carlos Martins on a counterattack.

Later, Real Betis was at Valencia.

Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1 on Saturday to close in on its first league title in four seasons, moving seven points clear of its fierce rival.


ROME -- Undefeated Juventus routed 10-man Roma 4-0 on Sunday to open up a three-point lead over AC Milan with just five rounds remaining in Serie A.

Ten-man Milan needed a 90th-minute equalizer from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to salvage a 1-1 draw at home with Bologna.

Meanwhile, the Italian game was once again marred by crowd trouble at Genoa, where supporters caused a 45-minute suspension in their club's 4-1 loss to Siena -- during which the players stripped off their shirts in a sign of apology.

Playing in the late match and already aware of Milan's draw, Juventus took control immediately with two early goals from Arturo Vidal in the fourth and eighth minutes.

Roma goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg was then sent off for a last-man foul on Claudio Marchisio in the 26th. Andrea Pirlo converted his own rebound from the ensuing penalty to make it 3-0, and Marchisio added the fourth in the 52nd minute.

"Our approach was fundamental. We approached this match like a great squad," Juve manager Antonio Conte said. "This is another step forward, but we know that there are five matches remaining and they're five finals. ... But we control our own destiny now."

Juventus also clinched at least a top-two finish, meaning it has qualified directly for the Champions League -- after finishing seventh the past two seasons.

"The club asked me to reach this goal and now it's been realized, but we're not aiming for minimum goals at this point," Conte said.

At the San Siro, Uruguayan forward Gaston Ramirez gave Bologna the lead in the 26th, finishing off a swift counterattack after Milan midfielder Mark van Bommel lost possession.

Milan defender Daniele Bonera picked up his second yellow card in the 82nd and it looked like the Rossoneri were about to slip to their second loss in three matches until Ibrahimovic scored with a close-range volley.

Elsewhere, third-place Lazio allowed a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Lecce, Inter Milan drew 0-0 at struggling Fiorentina to damage its dwindling chances of qualifying for the Champions League and Palermo drew 2-2 at Cesena.


BERLIN -- Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored his 25th goal of the season to salvage a 1-1 draw for third-place Schalke at relegation-threatened Augsburg on Sunday, while Freiburg ensured it will stay in the Bundesliga with a 0-0 draw at Hannover.

Huntelaar's 38th-minute strike canceled out Augsburg's opener in the sixth, when defender Sebastian Langkamp crashed his header in off the crossbar from a corner.

"We didn't start well. We fell asleep and they scored," Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes said. "We have to be happy with the point."

Schalke looked out of sorts and had goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall to thank for denying Axel Bellinghausen early on.

Huntelaar scored with his first shot on goal when he controlled a long ball before firing an unstoppable effort into the far corner. It was the Dutchman's 44th goal in all competitions this season.

The home side pushed hard for a winning goal, with Marcel Ndjeng's header flying agonizingly wide after an hour's play, before Matthias Ostrzolek should have done better when he fired over.

Augsburg is four points above the relegation zone with two games remaining, while Freiburg is safe after stretching its unbeaten run to nine matches in Sunday's late game.

Borussia Dortmund retained the Bundesliga title on Saturday.


PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain ended a dismal spell of form with a 6-1 thrashing of Sochaux on Sunday that kept it within two points of leader Montpellier in the fiercely-contested French title race.

Brazilian winger Nene led the rout with two goals, while Javier Pastore grabbed his 10th league goal of the season and Thiago Motta, winger Jeremy Menez and veteran defender Sylvain Armand also scored.

PSG had faced a barrage of criticism after winning only one of its previous five league games and dropping valuable points by conceding late goals.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti was clearly relieved.

"We were under a lot of pressure before the match and the team responded well," said Ancelotti, who publicly criticized his players' slack attitude after last week's 1-1 draw at Auxerre. "The complacency we showed against Auxerre wasn't there tonight."

Pastore's poor recent form had led to widespread criticism of the French record euro42-million record signing, but the Argentine's sixth-minute goal calmed the players' nerves at Parc des Princes.

Mali striker Modibo Maiga briefly equalized for Sochaux as he continued his fine run of form with his fifth goal in five games, but Motta and Menez ensured PSG went into the break 3-1 up.

"When everyone has the right attitude we are capable of playing some good football," Menez said.

Nene took his league tally to 16 for the season -- his best-ever return -- with second-half strikes before Armand scored in injury time.

Montpellier, which beat Valenciennes 1-0 on Saturday, now only has a marginally better goal difference of + 1 compared to PSG with five matches remaining.


AMSTERDAM -- American forward Jozy Altidore scored a go-ahead goal on a header to the far post off Maarten Martens' cross in the 65th minute, giving AZ Alkmaar a 2-1 win at home against VVV Venlo in the Dutch league.

Altidore's goal was his 15th in the league this season and 19th overall.

Ajax moved closer to retaining the league title, beating Groningen 2-0. Depending on results elsewhere, a win at Steven McClaren's FC Twente next Sunday could secure Ajax its 31st championship.

With three rounds to play, Ajax has a six-point lead over AZ and Feyenoord, who meet next Sunday.


LISBON, Portugal -- U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu started for Sporting Lisbon in a 3-2 win at Nacional, his first appearance since tearing a right knee ligament on Feb. 19 and undergoing surgery.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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