Quickfire Van Persie keeps United top of the league
Robin van Persie scored the fastest goal of the English Premier League season as Manchester United stayed a point clear at the top with a 1-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford last night.
The Dutch forward needed just 33 seconds to give United the lead when, after receiving the ball from Michael Carrick, his first touch eluded Winston Reid before his finish deflected off James Collins and looped over Hammers goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Van Persie’s goal was all the more extraordinary as, prior to yesterday’s match, United had conceded the first goal 13 times already this season.
However, they remained just a point in front after reigning champions and rivals Manchester City won 2-0 away to Wigan.
City, the only unbeaten side in the top flight, looked like they might be held to a frustrating draw before Mario Balotelli scored his first league goal of the season in the 69th minute.
And three minutes later England midfielder James Milner made it 2-0 with a powerful shot.
European champions Chelsea suffered their second straight home goalless draw, under interim manager Rafael Benitez, a derby stalemate with Fulham doing little for his approval rating with the sceptical Stamford Bridge faithful.
Chelsea moved up one place to third but, more significantly, they are now seven points behind United.
Van Persie’s effort trumped that in an earlier kick-off match of his former Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott, who took a comparatively sedate 52 seconds to give the Gunners the lead at Everton.
But Everton equalised through Marouane Fellaini 20-yard strike in the 28th minute at Goodison Park.
The draw left Arsenal, searching for their first major trophy since 2005, 12 points off the lead.
Tottenham Hotspur moved into fifth with a 2-1 win at home to Liverpool.
Aaron Lennon put Spurs ahead in the seventh minute at White Hart Lane after good work by Gareth Bale before the Welshman doubled their advantage in the 16th minute with a deflected free-kick.
Bale, however, gave Liverpool hope with a 72nd minute own-goal although there was little he could do when Lennon, trying to clear Steven Gerrard’s goalbound header, smashed the ball into the winger’s face.
West Bromwich Albion kicked off in a lofty third place but soon found themselves brought back down to earth as they conceded three goals in half an hour during a 3-1 defeat at Swansea.
Michu needed just nine minutes to put Swansea in front with his eighth goal of the season, turning in Pablo Hernandez’s centre.
Hernandez also provided both crosses for winger Wayne Routledge’s double before the Baggies pulled a goal back before half-time through Romelu Lukaku.
At the Britannia Stadium, Stoke came from behind to beat Newcastle 2-1.
After a goalless first half, Papiss Cisse needed just two minutes of the second period to break the deadlock after Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic spilt Demba Ba’s shot.
But the hosts hit back with two goals inside the final 10 minutes from Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome as Newcastle suffered their fourth successive league defeat.
Southampton remained in the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw at home to Norwich in referee Mark Clattenburg’s first match in charge since being cleared of racially abusing Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel.
Rickie Lambert gave the hosts the lead at St Mary’s before Saints keeper Paulo Gazzaniga somehow allowed Robert Snodgrass’s free-kick to squirm under his body as Norwich levelled.
HT: 1-1. Att: 37,141.
HT: 1-1. Att: 29,325.
Stoke City 2
Walters 81; Jerome 85;
HT: 0-0. Att: 26,793.
Swansea City 3
Michu 9; Routledge 11, 39;
West Brom 1
HT: 3-1. Att: 20,377.
Lennon 7; Bale 16;
Bale 72 og;
HT: 2-0. Att: 36,162.
Man. United 1
Van Persie 1;
West Ham 0
HT: 1-0. Att: 75,572.
Man. City 2
Balotelli 69; Milner 72;
HT: 0-0. Att: 19,623.
Saturday: 13.45 West Ham Utd vs Chelsea. 16.00 Arsenal vs Swansea; Fulham vs Tottenham; Liverpool vs Southampton; Manchester City vs Everton; QPR vs Aston Villa; West Brom vs Stoke City. 18.30 Reading vs Manchester United.
Sunday: 17.00 Norwich City vs Sunderland.
Monday: 21.00 Newcastle vs Wigan.
Blackburn 1 - Bolton 2