- Associated Press - Sunday, March 4, 2012

LONDON (AP) - Manchester United effectively turned the Premier League season into a two-team race for the title Sunday by ending Tottenham’s hopes, while Andre Villas-Boas paid the price for Chelsea’s failure to compete.

Clint Dempsey scored twice for Fulham, fresh off his goal that gave the United States a 1-0 win in an exhibition against Italy _ the Americans’ first win in 11 tries against the Azzuri.

Dempsey was eclipsed by teammate Pavel Pogrebnyak, who scored a hat trick in Fulham’s 5-0 rout of relegation-threatened Wolverhampton Wanderers.

United won 3-1 at Tottenham after Ashley Young set up Wayne Rooney’s opener at the end of the first half before scoring a classy double himself after the break.

The victory put the defending champions two points behind leader Manchester City and 11 points ahead of third-place Tottenham.

Alex Ferguson knew his United side had initially ridden its luck at White Hart Lane.

“It’s an entirely unbelievable result,” the 70-year-old manager said. “I would say that’s our hardest away game of the season … and, in fairness, the first half we were never at the races. Maybe we got our tactics wrong.

“What we tried to do was come back off them and sit back a little bit and draw them onto us, and then play on the counterattack. But it didn’t work. Second half, we pushed up more on them, challenged their back four better, and it did make a difference.”

Tottenham’s second home loss of the season left it just four points ahead of fourth-place Arsenal.

But with Chelsea three points further back in fifth, Villas-Boas was dismissed on Sunday by owner Roman Abramovich after eight months in charge.

“The results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season,” Chelsea said in a statement.

Assistant coach Roberto Di Matteo is taking charge of the Blues until the end of the season as Abramovich searches for his eighth permanent manager in nine years.

Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player and West Bromwich Albion manager, will have to keep an eye on Newcastle, which is only two points behind Chelsea after drawing 1-1 at Sunderland.

Nicklas Bendtner put Sunderland ahead from the penalty spot in the 24th, and the visitors managed to hang on until stoppage time despite having Stephane Sessegnon sent off in the 58th for lashing out at Cheick Tiote.

Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole was also dismissed after the final whistle for using foul and abusive language in arguing with referee Mike Dean.


PARIS (AP) _ Paris Saint-Germain halted a run of three straight draws by beating Ajaccio 4-1 to move one point ahead of Montpellier at the top of the French league.

Record signing Javier Pastore and winger Jeremy Menez gave PSG a 2-0 lead, but defender Yoann Poulard replied just before halftime to ensure a nervy finish at Parc des Princes.

PSG was in danger of a tying goal from the Corsican side until Guillaume Hoarau struck four minutes from time with his third goal in three games to make the result safe.

Brazilian winger Nene grabbed his 13th league goal of the season in injury time.


BERLIN (AP) _ Nuremberg stunned Borussia Moenchengladbach with a late goal to win 1-0 and deny the visitors the chance to move second in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Albert Bunjaku scored the winner three minutes from time _ and three minutes after coming on as a substitute _ when Alexander Esswein pulled the ball back for the Swiss striker to crash a shot under the crossbar.

Philipp Wollscheid instigated the move by dispossessing Moenchengladbach midfielder Juan Arango and sending Esswein through on the left.

Lukas Podolski salvaged a 1-1 draw for Cologne at Hoffenheim when he scored his 16th goal of the season in the 81st minute to break his side’s three-game losing streak.


MILAN (AP) _ Lazio beat 10-man Roma 2-1 in a heated Serie A derby match on Sunday to do the double over its rivals for the first time in 15 years and claim advantage in the race for third place.

Lazio took the lead in the seventh minute after Maarten Stekelenburg brought down Miroslav Klose. The Roma goalkeeper was sent off and Hernanes converted the resulting penalty.

Despite the man disadvantage Fabio Borini leveled less than 10 minutes later. However, Stefano Mauri fired in what was to prove the winner on the hour mark.

Lazio defender Lionel Scaloni was sent off five minutes from time for a second yellow card offense.

Lazio is now third, two points above Udinese, which was held to a 0-0 draw against Atalanta and five above Napoli after Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani scored yet again to help their side to a controversial 2-1 victory at Parma.


ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Jose Holebas and Colin Kazim-Richards scored in each half to help defending champion Olympiakos beat host OFI 2-0 and overtake Panathinaikos at the top of the Greek league on Sunday.

Panathinaikos, playing before empty seats in Athens’ Olympic Stadium, lost 2-0 to PAOK in its first home defeat this season.

Lino opened the scoring for PAOK in the 52nd minute with a penalty and assisted Dimitris Salpingidis with the second goal in the 83rd.

Olympiakos is now a point ahead of Panathinaikos and thirteen ahead of third-place PAOK.

In other games Sunday, Asteras beat Ergotelis 3-0, Levadiakos hung on to defeat Kerkyra 4-3 and last-place Drama beat Kerkyra 1-0.


AMSTERDAM (AP) _ FC Twente showed off its title potential by beating PSV Eindhoven 6-2 despite playing most of the second half with 10 men after defender Douglas was sent off.

The result in Eindhoven meant AZ Alkmaar stayed top of the Dutch league after its 3-1 win against Heracles Almelo on Saturday night. But Twente is now second, one point behind with a game in hand.

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