robin van persie, goal, manchester united, manchester city, manchester derby
Robin van Persie scores from a free kick in the Manchester derby at the Eithad Stadium. -Photo by AFP

LONDON: Manchester United put down a huge marker in the Premier League title race as Robin Van Persie’s late free-kick sealed a dramatic 3-2 derby victory in Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium fortress on Sunday to propel them six points clear.

In his first Manchester derby since leaving Arsenal in August, Van Persie netted from a free kick in the third minute of stoppage time to end City’s unbeaten start to the season and snapped their two-year unbeaten run at home in the Premier League.

The goal wiped out City’s comeback after the hosts responded to Wayne Rooney’s first-half double with goals from Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta after the break.

Everton also scored twice in stoppage time to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Goodison Park — Nikica Jelavic’s decisive goal sending Everton back into the top four.

United’s victory however was marred by an ugly incident immediately after Van Persie’s deflected free kick had beaten Joe Hart when a celebrating Rio Ferdinand was struck by an object thrown from the City fans and suffered a cut to his face.

“It’s unfortunate that a City fan runs on and coins are thrown. That shouldn’t happen. The same thing happened at Chelsea, which was masked by all the other things. We could have done without that,” United manager Alex Ferguson told the BBC.

Fergsuon, though, preferred to revel in his side’s victory. “You couldn’t take your eyes off it today, it was so engrossing. It tells you about the quality of the Premier League, it’s such a great league,” Ferguson said.

City manager Roberto Mancini added: “We didn’t deserve to lose this game. We played very well. We recovered very well and we dominated the second-half. We have showed we are a really strong team and we can win this title again.”

Tottenham were minutes away from a fourth consecutive league victory that would have consolidated their place in the top four when Clint Dempsey put them ahead at Goodison Park but Everton equalised with a header from former Tottenham player Steven Pienaar before Jelavic poked home the winner.

In the day’s late game, Liverpool came from behind to win 3-2 against West Ham at Upton Park.

Former West Ham defender Glen Johnson fired the Reds into the lead with a brilliant strike into the top corner before Mark Noble equalized from the penalty spot.

Steven Gerrard’s own goal, a header from Matt Jarvis’s cross, put West Ham in front but Liverpool substitute Joe Cole levelled against his old club before Hammers defender James Collins turned Jordan Henderson’s cross into his own net.

On Saturday, Fernando Torres continued to silence his critics by scoring twice for the second game running as third-placed Chelsea won 3-1 at Sunderland to record their first Premier League victory under Rafael Benitez.

The much-maligned Spain forward struck two goals in the first-half, his second from the penalty spot, and almost completed a hat-trick shortly after half-time when his ferocious shot rebounded off the woodwork for compatriot Juan Mata to tap home.

The double by Torres, his first goals in the Premier League for two months, came on the back of his double blast in Wednesday’s 6-1 rout of Danish team Nordsjaelland in the Champions League.

“It was a long time not to score in the Premier League, but I have scored a few this week, and I was very happy to see the team winning,” Torres told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Bottom club Queens Park Rangers set an unwanted Premier League record when a 2-2 draw at Wigan Athletic meant they had failed to win any of their 16 matches this season.

Mikel Arteta’s pair of penalties secured Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over high-flying West Bromwich Albion that helped Arsene Wenger’s side rise from 10th to seventh, two points behind West Brom.

Southampton clambered out of the relegation zone and up to 15th place after a 61st-minute strike from Jason Puncheon secured a 1-0 win at home to second-bottom Reading while Aston Villa and Stoke City produced a dull 0-0 draw.

Norwich City are unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions after a 4-3 win at Swansea City, although Michu’s double for the home team after the break almost helped them to an unlikely escape having trailed 3-0 at half-time.—Agencies

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