Blue Moon rising: Manchester City players celebrate their sweep over the local rivals
[GALLO/GETTY]
 

Manchester City completed a Premier League sweep of crosstown rival Manchester United, beating the hosts 2-1 amid commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster.

Darius Vassell put City ahead in the 24th minute and Benjani Mwaruwari added the second just before halftime.

Michael Carrick got a goal back in the 90th, but lacking tempo and inspiration, United was unable to produce a fitting tribute to the survivors.

The last time City beat United in the league in both the home and away matches was in 1970.

"We showed the right spirit and the right attitude,'' City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson said.

"It was a great, great job and I'm extremely pleased and proud of our team.''

City, wearing light blue retro shirts, celebrated its first win at Old Trafford since 1974. United was also in 1950s-style uniforms devoid of sponsorship.

The loss kept United from moving past idle Arsenal at the top of the Premier League standings. Third-place Chelsea moved within three points of United despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Liverpool.

Arsenal can increase its lead to five points Monday with a win over Blackburn.

United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz blamed the midweek international friendlies for the team's fatigued performance.

With Wayne Rooney suspended and, Cristiano Ronaldo was played despite picking up an ankle injury in Portugal's friendly against Italy.

"Every time they come back they are affected by the trips,'' Queiroz said.

"Some of our best players weren't sharp. They played with no inspiration and there were bad touches.''

United by respect

Before Sunday's game, the eight players on Matt Busby's team that died in a crash in 1958 were recalled on electronic advertising hoarding featuring the crash's 23 victims.

A lone piper led out the teams before United manager Alex Ferguson and City counterpart Sven-Goran Eriksson placed wreaths on the center spot with fans raising aloft simple scarves.

Despite fears it would be disrupted, a minute's silence was observed inside the stadium despite a series of loud bangs outside.

The emotional toll of the pre-match memorials initially didn't appear to affect United, which surged forward early with Carlos Tevez and Ryan Giggs producing early strikes.

While City cooperated to help produce a fitting pre-match tribute, on the field the visitors didn't acquiesce.

"It's brilliant,'' City captain Richard Dunne said. "We've been disappointed with our last few performances and today we got stuck into them.''

Darius Vassell silenced Manchester United fans
for a second time with his opener [AFP]
Martin Petrov shot over from 20 metres, Stephen Ireland sent a downward header at Edwin van der Sar and Benjani made his presence felt after finally completing a protracted and muddled transfer from Portsmouth.

City's pressure translated into a goal in the 24th, when Vassell scored his 50th Premier League goal with his second attempt.

United immediately went fighting for the equalizer. Tevez unleashed a half-volley at Hart and Ronaldo was denied with a lot drive as he struggled to dazzle again when it mattered.

Benjani then doubled City's lead just before halftime.

Petrov's in-swinging cross took a deflection off the former Portsmouth striker's shoulder past the stretching Van der Sar.

"We were under pressure and that gave us something to really hang onto,'' Eriksson said.

"Benjani did very well, he is quick and keeps the ball, he also works very well defensively.''

Facing a resilient visiting defense, United sorely missed Rooney in attack.

He was suspended for picking up his fifth booking of the season at Tottenham last weekend.

After the break Tevez had a goal ruled offside, Anderson was denied with a low strike and Giggs dragged wide.

Carrick came off the bench to add a late consolation, curling a shot past Hart in injury time, but it came too late as City fans chanted "Easy, Easy'' and "Shall we play you every week.''

It was City's first win at Old Trafford since Denis Law's back-heeled winner in 1974 against his former team.

City also beat United 1-0 in August.

Honours even: Javier Mascherano, front, 
competes with Michael Ballack [AFP]
Blues and Reds bore draw

Chelsea is still challenging for the Premier League title after stretching its record unbeaten home run to four years with a 0-0 draw against Liverpool on Sunday.

The Blues could have lost if Peter Crouch had converted one of the three chances he got in the first half, but are instead just five points behind leader Arsenal, which hosts Blackburn on Monday.

Although Chelsea missed the chance to close to within a point of second-place Manchester United, manager Avram Grant was relieved not to lose and expects the return of several players from injury and the African Cup of Nations to galvanize his side.

"We can still win the title,'' Grant said.

"It will not be easy, but we can do it and we will challenge to the end.

"Every player coming back for us will make us stronger and we need them back. Frank Lampard also returned and I thought he played well.''

Chelsea enjoyed more possession at Stamford Bridge than its injury-plagued opponent, which was already out of the title race, without creating enough opportunities to force a victory.

The Blues did extend their home unbeaten streak, which was already the longest in English topflight soccer history, to 76 games, but would have narrowed the gap to United even more if Michael Ballack had not volleyed his side's best chance wide in the 82nd minute.

The biggest cheer in a quiet match came in the 62nd when referee Mike Riley was knocked to the ground by a firm pass from Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano.

"It was not an entertaining game, that's for sure,'' Grant said.

"We tried to do it, but it was not easy today.''

Chelsea now has 55 points from 26 matches, with Liverpool back in fifth place with 44, three fewer than city rival Everton.