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Weekend review

Very few managers would regard a 3-3 draw away from home having trailed 3-0 as two points dropped.

Classic at the Bridge; City move clear; Stoke and QPR see red

There are precious few managers who would regard a 3-3 draw away from home having trailed 3-0 with just over half an hour remaining as two points dropped, but then Sir Alex Ferguson has always been something of a phenomenon. Manchester United have become famed for their refusal to accept defeat during the tenure of the great Scot and, for the third time in Premier League history, they avoided defeat despite facing a three-goal deficit, leaving the majority inside Stamford Bridge stunned after their heroics against Chelsea, who blew such a significant lead for the first time since the top-flight was rebranded back in 1992. Andre Villas-Boas' men looked home and hosed when Juan Mata's sumptuous volley and David Luiz's deflected header added to Jonny Evans' first-half own goal, but a pair of penalties were dispatched with aplomb by Wayne Rooney before Javier Hernandez beat Petr Cech to level. Some Blues fans are sure to point to what they will feel is the debatable nature of United's second spot-kick award from Howard Webb when Danny Welbeck made sure he fell over Branislav Ivanovic's out-stretched leg, but it should be remembered that another referee on another day could have dismissed Gary Cahill for bringing down the Red Devils forward in the first half. But Webb should not be the talking point here. Match officials get one look at high-speed incidents and do their level best to make the correct judgement, a task hardly aided by the antics of many players who are determined to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour up to and beyond the line marked 'cheating'.

'Anticipating contact'

Despite United's stunning comeback, they slipped two points behind title rivals Manchester City, who moved clear after beating Fulham 3-0 in a snowstorm at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening, with Roberto Mancini's men taking the lead from the spot with Adam Johnson "anticipating contact" from Chris Baird. Sergio Aguero converted from 12 yards and then created the third goal late on for Edin Dzeko, with Baird's mood unlikely to have been improved after he could only divert Johnson's attempted cross beyond Mark Schwarzer in the first half. With third-placed Tottenham tackling top-four hopefuls Liverpool at Anfield on Monday evening, the battle for UEFA Champions League football continued over the weekend with both Newcastle and Arsenal enjoying victories. The Gunners' result was the more eye-catching, with their 7-1 demolition of 10-man Blackburn secured by goal-machine Robin van Persie's treble, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's first Premier League goals and all-time top-scorer Thierry Henry's latest cameo. But Newcastle remain above Arsene Wenger's side in the standings after another impressively efficient success, as big-money January buy Papiss Cisse scored a memorable winner for the Magpies against Aston Villa on his debut and Senegal strike partner Demba Ba again demonstrated his ability in front of goal. There is still some distance before the prizes are handed out, but Alan Pardew deserves due consideration for manager of the year.
Red rage
Elsewhere in the Premier League, the red cards for Stoke's Robert Huth and QPR's Djibril Cisse attracted as much attention as the resulting respective victories for their Saturday opponents, Sunderland and Wolves. Despite contesting the issue at the time, Loftus Road boss Mark Hughes and his new striker Cisse at least had the good grace to back-track on the clash with Roger Johnson after the event, while Tony Pulis' accusations of 'cheating' which were levelled at the faultless David Meyler are particularly lacking in class. Huth's tackle may have taken place on a treacherous and difficult surface and lacked any malice, but he still missed the ball and caught Meyler to send him cartwheeling into the air. The FA's response to Stoke's planned appeal will be interesting. After the red mist cleared, Sunderland went on to take all three points courtesy of James McClean's excellent strike, with Martin O'Neill continuing to enjoy great success with a squad of players who previously stumbled around under Steve Bruce. At QPR, Cisse's exit also proved pivotal, with Bobby Zamora's opener on his home bow cancelled out immediately after the break, as substitute Kevin Doyle set up Matt Jarvis to equalise before netting the winner to ease the pressure on manager Mick McCarthy and lift Wolves out of the Premier League relegation zone. They are replaced in the bottom three by Bolton Wanderers, who could not find a way through against Norwich at Carrow Road, despite the Canaries losing both first-choice centre-backs Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala to injury in the first half. Andrew Surman and Anthony Pilkington struck in the final 20 minutes to lift Paul Lambert's side into the top half of the table. Swansea now also occupy a berth in the top 10 of the top flight, courtesy of their 2-1 success against West Brom at an icy Hawthorns. The highest ground in England was hit hard by the snow which swept across the country on Saturday, with the contest decided by a flurry of second-half goals. Marc-Antoine Fortune was left all alone at the far post to fire the Baggies in front, but Gylfi Sigurdsson and Danny Graham responded immediately for the Welsh side, who continue to impress. Tim Howard, so often Everton's saviour, had a moment to forget in the 1-1 draw with Wigan, failing to gather Jean Beausejour's cross after it flicked off Phil Neville's boot and being more embarrassingly beaten by the spin than the England cricket team. Victor Anichebe added to his growing collection of super-sub outings with a late header to restore parity and rescue a point against the Premier League's bottom club, just days after David Moyes' men had overcome the league leaders.

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