Manchester United missed the chance to make significant inroads into Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League after a controversial penalty secured fourth-placed Newcastle United a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Saturday.
United, who led through Javier Hernandez’s early second-half goal, were pegged back by Demba Ba’s 64th minute spot-kick that left Alex Ferguson’s side four points behind City who play at Liverpool on Sunday.
“It was an absolutely shocking decision,” a frustrated Ferguson told Sky Sports after defender Rio Ferdinand was harshly penalized for a tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa. “It cost us.”
Tottenham Hotspur, with a double from Emmanuel Adebayor, stayed third after coming from behind to win 3-1 at West Bromwich Albion while Chelsea emerged from their recent slump to give under-pressure manager Andre Villas-Boas a huge boost with a 3-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester City have 34 points, followed by Manchester United on 30, Spurs (28), Newcastle (26) and Chelsea (25).
Franco Di Santo struck a last-gasp winner to lift Wigan Athletic off the bottom with a 2-1 victory at Sunderland. Blackburn dropped to the basement after losing 3-1 at Stoke City in the lunchtime kickoff.
Manchester United have stumbled at home in this season’s Champions League and after being held to a midweek draw by Benfica, they found high-flying Newcastle tough to crack on their return to domestic action, even when the visitors were reduced to 10 men after Jonas Gutierrez’s 79th minute dismissal.
A fine performance from goalkeeper Tim Krul was overshadowed by Newcastle’s equaliser.
Ferdinand appeared to win the ball fairly from Ben Arfa but linesman John Flynn signalled a penalty. Referee Mike Jones then awarded a spot-kick after consulting with his assistant and Ba slotted in his ninth league goal of the season.
“Why can’t the referee overrule the linesman when it is so clear to him and he was so near to him... he was only yards away,” lamented Ferguson.
“The problem is the referees are full time but the linesmen are not.”
United, who wasted a host of chances, were also denied by a late goal-line clearance and had a goal ruled out for offside in stoppage time.
“In terms of creating chances we were fantastic today. If we play like that every week I’ll be absolutely delighted,” Ferguson added.
“Normally you would expect us to score three or four today with the chances we had... there was a bit of bad luck in terms of blocks on the line, their keeper has made two or three fantastic saves and we missed two or three glaring chances.”
Chelsea, who had lost three of their previous four league games and their last two at home, cruised past Wolves after John Terry, Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata struck before halftime.
Villas-Boas said a crisis meeting had taken place following Wednesday’s Champions League defeat at Bayer Leverkusen which left their qualification hopes in doubt and his team emphatically responded.
“We have been wanting this performance for some time now,” the Portuguese said. “It was an important win for us. We were focused in our tasks.”
Terry headed in at the back post after seven minutes before Sturridge, starting up front alongside Didier Drogba with Spain striker Fernando Torres again left on the bench, added a second and Mata finished well just before the break.
Spurs made it five successive league wins with a comeback success at the Hawthorns. They fell behind when Youssouf Mulumbu headed home but Adebayor equalised from the rebound after his penalty had been saved by Ben Foster.
Jermain Defoe struck nine minutes from time to put the London side ahead and Adebayor sealed victory in stoppage time.
In other matches, Everton won 2-0 at 10-man Bolton Wanderers, who had defender David Wheater sent off for the second time this season in the 20th minute, and Norwich City beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 in a game between two promoted sides.