United continues title surge with Sunderland win

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United continues title surge with Sunderland win

Manchester United’s record-breaking surge to a 20th English title gathered more pace with a 1-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday, while Gareth Bale helped Tottenham seize the initiative in the race for Champions League qualification by scoring another spectacular goal.

Titus Bramble’s own goal earned United an English-record 25th win from 30 league games and kept the team 15 points clear of reigning champion Manchester City, which thrashed Newcastle 4-0 to tighten its grip on second place.

The defeat to United also proved costly for Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill, whose departure was announced hours later.

“The players have been galvanized,” United manager Alex Ferguson said of the team’s reaction to losing the title to City on the final day of last season. “Their spirit, concentration and focus have been excellent. We just have to win games and that is the important thing to focus on.”

Spurs leapfrogged Chelsea into third place thanks to a 2-1 victory at Swansea - with Bale’s sublime curling shot proving decisive - and the European champions’ 2-1 loss at Southampton.

Fifth-place Arsenal moved just two points behind Chelsea in the battle for a top-four place by beating Reading 4-1, ruining Nigel Adkins’ first game in charge of a team that’s now bottom of the standings.

In Spain, Lionel Messi’s 19th straight scoring effort in the Spanish league wasn’t enough to stop Barcelona from drawing 2-2 at Celta Vigo, as the leaders stumbled on Saturday before their Champions League quarterfinal with Paris Saint-Germain.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, also sputtered to a 1-1 draw at Real Zaragoza despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal, while Malaga won 3-1 at Rayo Vallecano with both teams facing first legs in Europe’s final eight this week.

Barcelona appeared to have secured the win when Messi added to his earlier assist to Cristian Tello by scoring in the 73rd minute to extend his record league scoring run to 19 consecutive games. With the goal against Celta, Messi has netted against every other team in Spain’s topflight during the streak.

But Barcelona’s defense left midfielder Borja Oubina unmarked to head home the tying goal two minutes from time.

The draw didn’t endanger Barcelona’s campaign to reclaim the league crown. The club maintained its 13-point advantage as Madrid seemingly had its sights set on Wednesday’s game against Galatasaray in the Champions League. AP, Reuters
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