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Arsenal stay on top with win

London: Arsenal stayed on top of the Premier League with a 3-0 victory at Charlton yesterday even though Leeds had scored a long overdue victory over Manchester United (as briefly reported in these columns Sunday).

French stars Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord hit the target and Brazilian midfielder Edu added a third as the Gunners set a league record of scoring in 45 games in a row with 22 games unbeaten on the road and 27 in all.

“It shows that the quality and the consistency is there,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “They have a very strong attitude to offensive and positive football and, of course, I am very pleased with that.

Wenger kept Patrick Vieira on the field for the full 90 minutes despite the French international’s plea to be rested because he felt tired having played every game so far.

In a game that kicked off three hours earlier for the benefit of live TV, Harry Kewell headed Leeds United to their first victory over Manchester United for five seasons in a 1-0 victory that temporarily sent Terry Venables’ team to the top of the Premier League.

Emile Heskey scored a last minute winner as Liverpool won 3-2 at Bolton after Czech striker Milan Baros — starting for the rested Michael Owen, had netted twice on his Premier League debut.

“Michael Owen had played seven games and the first half for England,” said Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier. “Obviously I knew I had to rest him. We have quite a squad and when you have the possibility to rotate the squad you do it.”

Chelsea stayed unbeaten with a 3-0 victory over surprise struggler Newcastle at Stamford Bridge to move to third. Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen struck his first two goals of the season and veteran Italian forward Gianfranco Zola, who has been with the blues for six seasons, scored his fifth in six games.

Fulham piled more misery on Sunderland with a 3-0 victory at the stadium of light to move up to fifth. Japanese star Junichi Inamoto scored the first and then set up goals for Barry Hayles and French international striker Steve Marlet.

Promoted West Bromwich Albion, who lost their first three games to Manchester United, Leeds and Arsenal, jumped to seventh after their third shutout win in a row, a 1-0 victory over Southampton. In a drab game at the Hawthorns, Sean Gregan lobbed Saints’ Welsh international goalkeeper Paul Jones who was at fault for failing to stop it.

In Saturday’s other game, Everton came from behind to beat Middlesbrough with two strikes by Kevin Campbell at Goodison Park.

Games left are sixth place Tottenham at home to last place West Ham and Blackburn at Manchester City (Sunday) and Birmingham City hosting Aston Villa in the first Birmingham derby for 16 years Monday.

United in a pit

Leeds, who had tied three times and lost six in nine previous games against the Reds, scored the only goal in the 66th minute as United lost the second game in a row. On Wednesday, the team tumbled 1-0 at home to Bolton.

The Manchester United defence was caught ball-watching as Ian Harte’s leftwing cross found Kewell unmarked in front of goal and the Australian headed powerfully home.

Venables admitted his team was lucky not to go into half time several goals down. “I thought at half time it might have been 0-11,” he said. “They played very, very well and had us on the rack. But at half time we changed it around second half and our boys were outstanding, absolutely brilliant. We deserved it at the end.”

Ferguson rued the fact that it is his team’s worst start since the Premier League started 10 seasons ago. “We’re lacking that cutting edge at the moment in the finishing,” he said. “The quality of our play is good, the teamwork is very good, we’re defending very well and you just have to dig in at this moment in time. It’s not easy but that’s where character comes in and I think they’ve got the character ok.”

Rio Ferdinand was greeted by a chorus of boos and banners saying “Judas” on his return to Elland Road after his £ 30 million midsummer transfer to Manchester United.

His England and club captain, David Beckham, was lucky to stay on the field when he elbowed Lee Bowyer in the face chasing a clearance by Fabien Barthez in the 22nd minute but didn’t even get a yellow card from referee Jeff Winter.

Division one leader Portsmouth edged Millwall 1-0 with a 50th minute goal by Bulgarian forward Svetoslav Todorov. Pompey remained three points clear of Leicester who downed neighbours Derby County 3-1 at the Walker stadium.

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