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United wins again; big victories for City, Arsenal

Saturday - 3/30/2013, 4:32pm  ET

Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa, right, vies for the ball with Sunderland'sTitus Bramble, during their English Premier League soccer match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England, Saturday, March 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

LONDON (AP) -- Manchester United's record-breaking surge to a 20th English title gathered more steam with a 1-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday, and 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 in 30 league games and kept the team 15 points ahead of reigning champion Manchester City, which thrashed Newcastle 4-0 to tighten its grip on second place.

"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.

It was Bale's 27th goal for club and country this season -- a tally which has made him a contender for the Player of the Year award and is keeping Spurs on course for a return to the Champions League.

"He's an amazing player," Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said of Bale. "When he finds a small amount of space, he can produce something special."

With American goalkeeper Tim Howard back after recovering from broken bones in his back, Everton beat Stoke 1-0 courtesy of a wonderful solo goal by Kevin Mirallas. Howard even helped spark the counterattack that led to the goal, punching a cross clear that landed at the feet of Mirallas. The Toffees stayed sixth, two points behind Arsenal, while West Ham and Wigan also won to ease their relegation fears.

City produced one of its best performances of the season to sweep aside Newcastle, with Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure all scoring, but manager Roberto Mancini has given up hope of catching United.

"It's important to get second place and to win the FA Cup semifinal next week," said Mancini, indicating his priorities for the rest of the season.

United barely had to break sweat to see off disappointing Sunderland, which is now just a point clear of relegation trouble, but needed Bramble to deflect in Robin van Persie's shot to clinch victory at the Stadium of Light -- the venue where Ferguson's team had the title ripped from its grasp on the final day of last season.

United remained on course to break Chelsea's record from 2004-05 of 95 points from a single campaign and requires just 10 points from its last eight games to extend its record haul of championships.


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Spanish leader Barcelona conceded a late equalizer to slip to a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo, stumbling on Saturday before its Champions League quarterfinal with Paris Saint-Germain.

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

But Barcelona's defense left midfielder Borja Oubina unmarked to head home the tying goal two minutes from time, reawakening doubts about its injury-riddled backline before Tuesday's trip to PSG for their first leg in Europe's final eight.

The draw shouldn't endanger Barcelona's campaign to reclaim the league crown. The Catalan club leads Real Madrid by 14 points before the defending champions visit Real Zaragoza later with their sights likely set on Wednesday's game against Galatasaray in the Champions League.

Elsewhere, midfielder Pedro Morales scored one goal and set up two more in his first start for Malaga to give it a 3-1 win at Rayo Vallecano before the Costa del Sol side hosts Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, also on Wednesday.


MILAN (AP) -- Juventus beat bitter rival Inter Milan 2-1 in an entertaining match at San Siro on Saturday.

It took Juventus less than three minutes to take the lead with a stunning strike from Fabio Quagliarella.

Rodrigo Palacio tied it in the 55th but Juventus was back in front five minutes later when Alessandro Matri fired in from close range.

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