United beat Liverpool to increase lead
MANCHESTER (Reuters) - Manchester United beat 10-man Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday to go five points clear in the Premier League with seven games to go.
Arsenal relinquished second place to Chelsea in a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
A rare goal from unsettled defender Wes Brown in the 34th minute put United ahead and, after the dismissal just before halftime of Liverpool's Javier Mascherano for dissent, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani added late goals.
United extended their streak over fierce rivals Liverpool to seven wins in their last eight meetings.
Brown, who had previously scored only two goals in 10 years for his hometown club but may leave in the close season after rejecting a new contract offer, headed in a Wayne Rooney cross 11 minutes before halftime.
Ten minutes later, Liverpool were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Mascherano, who had been booked early on for a foul, was given a second yellow card by referee Steve Bennett.
The decision prompted a furious response from the Argentina international who had to be dragged away from the official by several team mates.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was also incensed by the decision over Mascherano's response to a booking for Fernando Torres, who could have been sent off himself in the second half as he allowed his frustration to show.
"(Mascherano) knows he made a mistake. But in this kind of game, just for asking (the referee for an explanation), to leave one team with 10 players is a difficult decision to understand," Benitez told reporters.
United manager Alex Ferguson said: "I think with the thing that happened during the week with Ashley Cole there is a focus on dissent. We talk about dissent and I think that (Mascherano incident) was dissent."
The incident summed up an unhappy afternoon for Liverpool, who have not beaten United since April 2004 and have now failed to score in their last seven league games against Ferguson's side.
The Merseyside club came into the game in decent form, having won their seven previous matches, but their key players, Torres and Steven Gerrard, made little impact.
Ronaldo, the league's leading scorer, also looked subdued for long periods but still managed to score his 24th league goal of the season as United could have won by a bigger margin.
Only a superb second-half performance from Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina spared Liverpool from total humiliation, the Spain international single-handedly keeping United out until the closing stages.
Wayne Rooney could have had a hat-trick but for Reina, whose first one-on-one save from the England international came after just six minutes as United quickly set the tone.
Ronaldo hit a post and the breakthrough finally came when Brown stayed up with the attack and beat Reina to Rooney's cross to head home.
Rooney, Ronaldo and substitute Carlos Tevez were all denied by Reina before Ronaldo headed in Nani's corner 11 minutes from time and two minutes later Nani capped United's day with a superbly struck third goal.
(Editing by Rex Gowar)
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