| Chelsea’s Gianfranco Zola falls to a tackle by Southampton’s Claus Lundekvam during a Premier League tie at Stamford Bridge Thursday. (AFP)
London: Arsenal extended their lead at the top, Manchester United lost again and teenage prodigy Wayne Rooney was sent off in a frenetic programme of English Premier League matches on Thursday.
Thierry Henry scored Arsenal’s late winner in a 2-1 success at West Bromwich Albion, lifting Arsene Wenger’s champions four points clear of second-placed Chelsea who were held 0-0 at home by Southampton.
Manchester United lost further ground when they succumbed 1-3 at Middlesbrough — their second straight defeat — while Liverpool’s poor run continued with a 1-1 draw at home to Blackburn Rovers.
After 20 games Arsenal have 42 points, Chelsea 38 and Manchester United 35. Everton are fourth on 34 points with Liverpool on 33.
Manchester United captain Roy Keane made his first start since August 31 at the Riverside but fine finishes by Croatian Alen Boksic and Slovakian Szilard Nemeth either side of half-time put Middlesbrough into a deserved 2-0 lead.
Ryan Giggs’ close-range effort on the hour gave United hope but five minutes from time Joseph Desire Job killed off the visitors, who also lost at Blackburn on Sunday having won their previous eight games.
Rooney, the 17-year-old who has taken English soccer by storm this season, was harshly sent off for a high tackle with nine minutes left of Everton’s 1-1 draw at Birmingham City. The striker was given marching orders by David Elleray for showing his studs in a tackle on Birmingham’s Steve Vickers.
The 17-year-old had come on as a substitute after City’s Jovan Kirovski had cancelled out Tomasz Radzinski’s opener for Everton.
West Brom took a third-minute lead against Arsenal when Danny Dichio powerfully headed home a corner. It was 1-1 three minutes into the second period when striker Francis Jeffers pounced from close range.
Jason Roberts then struck the post for West Brom but French striker Henry, having missed one sitter, made no mistake with five minutes to go after Patrick Vieira charged down Adam Chambers’ attempted clearance.
At Anfield John Arne Riise fired a deflected 17th-minute opener for Liverpool against Blackburn. But a wonderful Andy Cole volley from 30 metres 13 minutes from time gave Blackburn a point. Liverpool have now taken only three points from the last 24.
Leeds’ 16-year-old midfielder James Milner beat Rooney’s record as the Premier League’s youngest goal-scorer by five days when he netted after 51 minutes at the Stadium of Light to cancel out Michael Proctor’s goal for Sunderland. (Reuters)