Man United drop two points in title race

Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by Middlesbrough on Saturday, dropping two points in the Premier League title race.

United midfielder Kieran Richardson gave the hosts the lead in the third minute, but Mark Viduka headed Middlesbrough level in the 45th.

The Red Devils, seeking their first English title since 2003, now have 82 points. Chelsea, bidding for a third straight Premier League title, have 78 points and play at Newcastle on Sunday.

”It opens the door, no question about that,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. ”We knew that if we made mistakes, they’d have an ability to come back at us. It’s a big task now.”

Jermaine Jenas scored an injury-time equaliser to give Tottenham a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, and Liverpool beat Wigan 2-0 to ensure they will finish in the top four and play in next season’s Champions League. Dirk Kuyt scored twice for Liverpool, who have 67 points.

Arsenal are fourth with 63 points.

At the other end of the table, Watford were relegated after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.

Also Saturday, it was: Bolton 1, Reading 3; Charlton 1, Sheffield United 1; Fulham 1, Blackburn 1; Watford 1, Manchester City 1; and West Ham 1, Everton 0.

On Sunday, Villa host Portsmouth.

Man United took the lead when Richardson shot into an empty net after a pass from Wayne Rooney, who had run in towards Boro goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Richardson went off at half-time with an injury.

Viduka equalised by beating United defender Wes Brown with a diving header off a cross from Stewart Downing.

Rooney had several late chances and Michael Carrick watched an 89th-minute shot go over the bar as United dominated the attack but could not find a winner.

United defender Rio Ferdinand went off at half-time with a groin injury and was struggling shortly before Viduka’s goal.

”Rio was limping and just couldn’t get to it,” said Ferguson, who added the defender would be sidelined for two weeks. ”The injuries killed us today [Saturday] in the first half.”

United and Chelsea play each other in the league at Stamford Bridge on May 9 — the first of three possible match-ups. There is also the FA Cup final on May 19 and they could meet four days later in the Champions League final. The first legs of the semifinals are this week — United host AC Milan and Chelsea play visiting Liverpool.

Emmanuel Adebayor headed Arsenal into a 2-1 lead at White Hart Lane in the 78th minute.

Tottenham went ahead in the 30th when Robbie Keane scored with a close-range header. It was Keane’s fifth goal in five games. Kolo Toure made it 1-1 in the 64th, heading into the corner after a free kick from Cesc Fabregas.

”We were stupid to allow those goals and we must stop that if we want to achieve something,” Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov said.

The last time Tottenham beat Arsenal in any competition was 2-1 in the league at White Hart Lane in November 1999.

Arsenal’s draw ended a week of turmoil off the field. David Dein was forced to quit as vice-chairperson and director of Arsenal on Wednesday after falling out with board members. Dein reportedly backed a possible takeover by American businessman Stan Kroenke.

Dein is a close friend of Wenger, who could leave when his contract finishes at the end of next season.

”We wanted to give victory to David today,” Wenger said. ”It was an eventful week.”

Kuyt scored for Liverpool in the 30th and 68th minutes.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez had one eye on the Champions League match and did not start captain Steven Gerrard in a league match for the first time in a year. Gerrard came on in the 70th minute.

”I think things are very positive for the club now that we are certain of being in the top four and the Champions League,” Benitez said.

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster helped Manchester City take the lead in the 53rd minute, with a pass intended for a teammate instead falling to City striker Darius Vassell, who scored into an empty net.

Tamas Priskin equalised in the 75th, but Watford needed a win to avoid relegation.

Watford were promoted after finishing third in last season’s League Championship. Watford also spent the 1999/2000 season in the Premier League.

There are two more relegation places to be filled. Fulham are 15th with 36 points, followed by Wigan and Sheffield United with 35, Charlton with 33 and West Ham with 32, with three games remaining. Watford have 24 points.

Fulham striker Vincenzo Montella scored in the 10th minute, tapping in a corner from Simon Davies that had been headed down by Papa Bouba Diop. Benni McCarthy scored his 21st goal of the season to equalise for Blackburn in the 61st.

Lawrie Sanchez has failed to stem Fulham’s winless record since taking over as temporary coach after Chris Coleman was fired on April 10. Fulham have now failed to win in their last 10 matches in all competitions.

West Ham defeated Everton with a goal from Bobby Zamora. He took a pass from Yossi Benayoun before shooting a 25m shot into the top corner in the 13th.

Charlton defender Talal El Karkouri scored with a low drive in the 59th, but 10 minutes later, Jonathan Stead equalised for Sheffield United with an angled shot.

Reading recovered from an own-goal from defender Nicky Shorey to defeat Bolton with three goals in the last six minutes.

Kevin Doyle scored an 84th-minute penalty kick and put Reading ahead in the 89th. Stephen Hunt added Reading’s third in injury time.

In the League Championship, Sunderland lost to Colchester 3-1.

Only one point separates the leaders from Derby after the Rams beat Luton 1-0 on Friday. Sunderland have 82 points and Derby has 81.

Birmingham are third with 80 points and can go into first place if they beat Wolverhampton on Sunday. — Sapa-AP

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