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Berbatov's treble breaks Liverpool's resistance

LONDON: Dimitar Berbatov scored a hat-trick as Manchester United downed Liverpool 3-2 while Chelsea crushed Blackpool 4-0 to open up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League on Sunday.

Berbatov sealed victory for United with an 84th-minute winner at Old Trafford after Liverpool had recovered from two goals down thanks to a second-half brace from skipper Steven Gerrard.

The win saw Sir Alex Ferguson's side go level on points with second-placed Arsenal, but four points behind Chelsea, which maintained its 100 per cent record with a ruthless demolition of Blackpool at Stamford Bridge.

Fifth win

Chelsea's fifth consecutive win was settled in the opening 45 minutes, with Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda (2) putting Carlo Ancelotti's rampant Blues 4-0 up at the break.

The reigning champion has now rattled in a remarkable 21 goals in only five games and could have had a fifth had it not been denied a certain penalty in injury time after a foul on Drogba.

In the day's other match, Manchester City moved up to fourth with a 2-0 victory away at Wigan. Skipper Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure got the goals at a rain-soaked DW Stadium as City registered it second win of the campaign.

City boss Roberto Mancini said his summer decision to hand the captaincy to Tevez was reaping dividends after watching the Argentine score before setting up Yaya's first goal in English football.

“I thought about it during the summer and I spoke to Carlos about it,” Mancini said. “He is an important player and he can improve as captain and we can have more of him.”

But the story of the day was at Old Trafford, where Berbatov stole the show with a virtuoso display that left Liverpool shattered and languishing near the foot of the table in 16th position after five games.

It was the first time a Manchester United player had scored a hat-trick in 64 years, and left Berbatov on top of the goalscoring charts with six goals from five games this season. “It was probably my best day in a United shirt,” Berbatov said. “Obviously I am happy. I am going home with a smile on my face. But I am nothing special. I am going home to play with my kids.

Berbatov put United 1-0 ahead on 42 minutes after being left in acres of space by marker Fernando Torres when Ryan Giggs swung in a corner.

Sublime effort

The Bulgarian then doubled United's lead on 59 minutes with a sublime effort, using one touch to control a Nani cross before sending an overhead kick crashing in off the underside of the Liverpool bar.

Ferguson later hailed the performance of Berbatov, who is enjoying his best run of form for United since his transfer from Tottenham in 2008 in a deal worth 30.75 million pounds.

The results: Manchester United 3 (Berbatov 42, 59, 84) bt Liverpool 2 (Gerrard 64-pen, 70); Wigan 0 lost to Manchester City 2 (Tevez 43, Yaya Toure 70); Chelsea 4 (Kalou 2, Malouda 12, 41, Drogba 30) bt Blackpool 0 . — AFP

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