Boro hold Gunners | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 17, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 17, 2008

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Boro hold Gunners

Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo (C) goes airborne to score the all-important goal against Derby County during their Premiership encounter at Pride Park on Saturday.Photo: AFP

Manchester United's grip on the English Premier League trophy tightened on Saturday as rivals Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Middlesbrough.
That left defending champions United, who claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over bottom side Derby earlier in the day, at the top of the table on goal difference with a game in hand over their rivals.
It was the Gunners' fourth successive draw in the league but it could have been worse but for Kolo Toure's 86th-minute header, which cancelled out a first-half strike by Gunners old boy Jeremie Aliadiere.
Chelsea were also 1-0 winners, at relegation-threatened Sunderland, and are now as well-placed as Arsenal to challenge United in the title run-in.
Avram Grant's side will move level on points with the Gunners if they can beat Tottenham on Wednesday, four days before Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge.
Derby are on track to finish the season with the lowest points total of any side since the launch of the Premiership in 1992/93.
But Paul Jewell's side nevertheless defied the champions for over an hour before the good fortune that had seen Cristiano Ronaldo spurn a handful of chances finally deserted them.
Wayne Rooney, from what seemed to be an offside position, rolled the ball across goal for his prolific teammate to notch his 31st goal of the season with a side-footed finish.
It was a cruel blow for Derby, who would have established a first-half lead but for a superb display by England goalkeeper Ben Foster, who marked his United debut with two superb stops from Scotland forward Kenny Miller.
"Derby made a real battle of it," Ferguson acknowledged. "But the name of the game is to win, and we have to thank Ronaldo again."
Arsenal went behind as a result of sloppy defending, Turkish striker Tuncay Sanli allowed to run unchecked on to Mark Schwarzer's forward punt before crossing for Aliadiere to finish.
But just as it seemed that Boro, the only team to have beaten Wenger's men in the league this season, would complete a memorable double, Toure popped up in the box to power a Cesc Fabregas corner goalwards, the ball ricocheting off Schwartzer and Andrew Taylor on its way to the back of the net.
Toure denied that the title was slipping away from Arsenal. "I'm really confident," the Ivory Coast defender. "It was important not too lose and again we have come back and scored a late goal to make a draw. It shows we are strong and we keep going."
John Terry's first goal since the opening game of last season, a tenth-minute header from a Frank Lampard corner, was enough to give Chelsea the points at the Stadium of Light.
Grant said the win was testimony to the grit of his side. "We passed the ball well at the start but Sunderland made it a real battle and I'm glad we are good at this."
Liverpool kept the pressure on Merseyside rivals Everton, who are at struggling Fulham on Sunday, in the battle for fourth place by coming from behind to end Reading's recent mini-revival with the help of Fernando Torres's 27th goal of the season.
Marek Matejovsky volleyed the visitors into a shock 5th minute lead but his strike was quickly cancelled out by Javier Mascherano, who went past Stephen Hunt and found the net from 20 yards to claim his first goal for the club.
Torres then sealed the points with a textbook downward header from Steven Gerrard's free-kick three minutes after the break.
Portsmouth leapfrogged Aston Villa to move into sixth place in the table with a 2-0 win at Fratton Park, thanks to Jermain Defoe's sixth strike in as many games and a Nigel Reo Coker own goal.
Youth team striker Fred Sears marked his West Ham debut with the winner as Alan Curbishley's side stopped the rot after three successive 4-0 defeats by beating Blackburn 2-1 draw at Upton Park.
Roque Santa Cruz headed Blackburn into a 19th-minute lead but Dean Ashton equalised before half-time and then set up Sears for his fairytale winner.

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