[QODLink]
FOOTBALL
United drop points at Birmingham
Dimitar Berbatov strike cancelled out by Lee Bowyer but Man Utd retake lead from Man City who beat Aston Villa 4-0.
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2010 07:05 GMT
Bowyer's late strike pulled Birmingham out of the relegation zone and dented United's title aspirations [GALLO/GETTY]

Manchester United gave away a late goal in a 1-1 draw at Birmingham City to regain top spot after Manchester City had briefly headed the English Premier League.

United extended their unbeaten run to 18 games but there were no celebrations after they gave away another late goal following Dimitar Berbatov's sweetly-struck opener.

Earlier on Tuesday Mario Balotelli hit a hat-trick, including two penalties, to help City beat Aston Villa 4-0.

United looked on course to leapfrog them with a two-point cushion after Berbatov scored in the 58th minute but Lee Bowyer levelled a minute from time to leave the visitors with seven draws and one win from their eight away games.

The draw took them to 38 points from 18 games, ahead on goal difference of Manchester City, who have played 20.

Arsenal, in action at Wigan Athletic on Wednesday, have 35 from 18 with Tottenham Hotspur fourth on 33 after beating Newcastle United 2-0.

Champions Chelsea, who have taken just six points from the last 24 having lost to Arsenal on Monday, slip to fifth on 31.

They are also in action on Wednesday against Bolton Wanderers.

United had the chance to pull nine points clear of Chelsea but were cautious in their approach at Birmingham, who started the game in the bottom three.

Drilled

Alex McLeish's team, beaten at home only once and victorious over Chelsea last month, also seemed content to play it safe until Berbatov opened them up with a neat backheel then finished the move with a low, drilled shot for his 15th goal of the season.

Results & fixtures

Tuesday December 28

 Birmingham 1-1 Man Utd
 Man City 4-0 Aston Villa
 Stoke City 0-2 Fulham
 Sunderland 0-2 Blackpool
 Tottenham 2-0 Newcastle
 West Brom 1-3 Blackburn
 West Ham 1-1 Everton

Wednesday December 29

 Chelsea v Bolton
 Wigan v Arsenal
 Liverpool v Wolves

Having conceded late goals in draws at Fulham and Everton earlier in the campaign, the visitors looked nervous as Birmingham finally pushed bodies forward and levelled with a goal that United claimed had been set up with a foul and a handball by giant substitute Nikola Zigic.

"I think it's terribly harsh, we outplayed them second half and we didn't deserve that," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

"Handball and foul for their goal and if the referee can't see that what chance have you got?"

There were no such problems for City, who were totally in control against a poor Villa side.

Balotelli was brought down after eight minutes and scored the penalty, with Joleon Lescott heading the second five minutes later.

Balotelli tapped in the 27th-minute third after the impressive David Silva had a shot parried and the striker showed some uncustomary enthusiasm to snatch up the ball before returning to type with a casually-converted penalty early in the second half.

"He is not a complicated guy, he is a good guy, he likes to look serious but he isn't," Mancini said of Balotelli, rumoured to be unsettled after his summer arrival from Inter Milan.

"Today I think we took a step forward, he smiled after the first goal, for the first time, and I hope it will continue."

Spurs struggled to break down Newcastle until Aaron Lennon struck after 57 minutes but the Londoners were reduced to 10 men when Younes Kabul was sent off for a headbutt eight minutes later.

However, just as in their Boxing Day win at Villa Park, Spurs still went for it and got their reward when Gareth Bale scored their second nine minutes from time with another trademark run and low shot.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps will be released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.