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Fulham fells United, Blues lose

LEADER Manchester United imploded at Fulham on Saturday when Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney were sent off in a 0-2 English Premier League defeat.

The result blew the title race wide open as the champion suffered its first loss at Craven Cottage for 45 years.

Scholes was dismissed for handball on the line in the 18th minute giving Danny Murphy the chance to put Fulham in front from the penalty spot and Rooney was red-carded for throwing the ball towards the referee after Zoltan Gera had made it 2-0.

After last week's 1-4 drubbing at home to Liverpool, United has now suffered back-to-back defeats in the Premier League for the first time since 2005.

The setback was softened later in the day as second-placed Chelsea wasted a chance to narrow the gap to one point by losing 0-1 at Tottenham Hotspur in a match delayed by a security scare.

Luka Modric's goal ended Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink's 100 percent record in the league since taking over in February.

The results made it a great day for Liverpool, which was hosting Aston Villa yesterday knowing victory will see it breathing down the necks of a United side which seemed out of sight two weeks ago.

United leads the table with 65 points from 29 games while Chelsea has 61, having played a match more. Liverpool also has 61 points from 29 games.

Arsenal consolidated fourth place with a 3-1 victory at Newcastle United that left the home side in the drop zone. The north London side has 55 points from 30 games.

United had not lost at Fulham since 1964 and recently won 4-0 at Craven Cottage in the FA Cup having registered a 3-0 win over the west London side at Old Trafford in the league.

However, the match swung Fulham's way when Bobby Zamora headed goalwards after Edwin Van der Sar had saved an effort by Brede Hangeland and instinctively Scholes used his hands to stop the ball going over the line.

Scholes was sent off before Murphy, a former Liverpool midfielder, placed his penalty beyond Van der Sar.

United manager Alex Ferguson replaced the sluggish Dimitar Berbatov at halftime with Rooney to revive the visitors. The champion duly pinned Fulham back but Mark Schwarzer made fine stops from Darren Fletcher, Park Ji-sung and Rooney before Gera finished off a flowing move to clinch a victory that should make it safe from relegation.

A frustrated Rooney then compounded United's day of misery when he appeared to throw the ball angrily towards referee Phil Dowd to become the third United player dismissed in two games.


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