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Fabregas brace pushes Boro into further trouble

ARSENAL captain Cesc Fabregas scored his first league goals for more than six months in a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in London yesterday, dealing a blow to Boro's bid to avoid relegation.

Fabregas scored in the 26th minute after a superb move from near the halfway line. Nicklas Bendtner's back-heeled flick to the Spaniard was quickly passed on to Andrei Arshavin who raced down the left flank. The Russian crossed to an unmarked Fabregas who had continued his run to the edge of the area and his sliding shot beat Boro goalkeeper Brad Jones.

It was Fabregas' first league goal since he headed in a late equalizer for a 1-1 draw against Sunderland on October 4.

He scored again in the 67th after collecting a through ball from Emmanuel Eboue and rounding Jones, who had come off his line, to slot into an empty net.

Fabregas has had a tough season, unable to repeat last year's form when he scored 13 goals in all competitions, seven of them in the league.

He was sidelined for three months earlier this term with a serious knee injury and has had to defend accusations that he spat at Hull's assistant manager after their FA Cup quarterfinal. The Football Association charged Fabregas with improper conduct and he has until May 12 to respond to the charges.

Arsenal extended its unbeaten run to 20 league games, not losing since a 0-3 defeat at Manchester City on November 22. The Gunners are in fourth place with 65 points, and will try to narrow the six-point gap on third-place Chelsea in its remaining games to automatically qualify for the Champions League group stages next season.

Middlesbrough is in 18th place with 31 points, but could drop a place lower depending on the outcome of today's match between Newcastle United and Portsmouth. Newcastle needs only a draw to go ahead of Middlesbrough on goal difference.

On Saturday, Manchester United produced a thrilling English Premier League comeback, scoring five goals in 22 second-half minutes to surge from 0-2 down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-2.

Spurs led until the 57th at Old Trafford but a controversial penalty allowed United back in and it ran riot with two goals each for Cristiano Ronaldo and an inspired Wayne Rooney and one by Dimitar Berbatov.

The win gave leader United 77 points, three ahead of Liverpool which beat Hull City 3-1 and has played a game more.

Chelsea stayed third on 71 points with a 1-0 victory at West Ham United.

Liverpool had to work hard to beat a Hull team which drew 2-2 at Anfield in December and is now fighting for Premier League survival.

Hull held its own until first-half stoppage time when Xabi Alonso hit a free kick into the wall before lashing in the rebound.

The home team suffered a further setback when Caleb Folan was sent off for kicking Martin Skrtel and it looked all over as Kuyt headed the second goal in the 63rd.

Hull pulled one back with an excellent effort from Geovanni in the 73rd but, after some nervous moments, the visitors settled it with Kuyt's second.


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