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SOCCER

United cling to Van Persie's early goal

Manchester United hung on to Robin van Persie's goal 31 seconds into the club's tussle with West Ham on Wednesday, which helped the Red Devils maintain their first-place position with a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman got the home side off to a flying start inside the opening minute when he beat his mark with cheeky turn and fired a shot that needed a deflection to get past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

It proved to be all United would need to hold on to top spot in the table as Sir Alex Ferguson's side staved off some pressure from the Hammers to improve to 33 points on the season.

West Ham has lost two league matches on the bounce to remain on 19 points through 14 games.

Tottenham 2, Liverpool 1

London, England - Tottenham put an end to Liverpool's eight-game unbeaten run on Wednesday, earning a 2-1 victory over the Reds at White Hart Lane.

Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale put the home side in the driver's seat with goals nine minutes apart in the first half. Bale conceded an own goal 18 minutes from time, but it proved to be irrelevant as Spurs cruised to a second consecutive win to bring the club to fifth place with 23 points.

Liverpool remains in the bottom-half of the table, stuck on 16 points.

Chelsea 0, Fulham 0

London, England - Rafa Benitez guided Chelsea to another clean sheet in his second match in charge at the club, but his first win as manager proved to be elusive as the Blues played to a 0-0 draw with Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Benitez saw his managerial debut with Chelsea result in a scoreless draw with Manchester City at the weekend, but Wednesday's identical outcome was enough to lift the club back into third place after West Bromwich faltered at the Liberty Stadium against Swansea City.

Fulham has failed to lock down a league win in its last six contests. The Cottagers occupy 11th place in England's top flight with 17 points.

Everton 1, Arsenal 1

Liverpool, England - Arsenal saw its early goal from Theo Walcott canceled out at Goodison Park on Wednesday as the Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton.

Walcott put the visitors in front inside the first minute of play, but Marouane Fellaini struck in the 28th minute to bring the Toffees level.

Neither side was able to find a game-winner as Everton improves to 22 points, one point better than Arsenal.

Manchester City 2, Wigan 0

Wigan, England - Mario Balotelli and James Milner scored three minutes apart in the second half on Wednesday to help Manchester City to a 2-0 victory over Wigan at the DW Stadium.

The win sees unbeaten City stay within one point of first-place Manchester United, improving to 32 points on the season.

Wigan has lost three of its last four league matches to slip closer to the relegation zone with 14 points, just four points clear of the drop.

Swansea City 3, West Bromwich 1

Swansea, Wales - Swansea City managed to cruise past West Bromwich at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday, receiving a first-half brace from Wayne Routledge in a 3-1 defeat of the Baggies.

Michu's ninth-minute opener put Swansea in front before Routledge's goals in the 11th and 39th minutes extended the club's lead. Romelu Lukaku scored deep into first-half stoppage time, but it was not enough for West Bromwich to spark a comeback.

West Brom drops out of the top-three, falling to fourth place with 26 points. Swansea, unbeaten in five straight Premier League matches, climbs to eighth place with 20 points.

Stoke City 2, Newcastle 1

Stoke-on-Trent, England - Newcastle suffered its fourth straight league loss on Wednesday, surrendering two goals in the final nine minutes in a 2-1 defeat at Stoke City.

Papiss Demba Cisse gave the Magpies the edge when he scored two minutes after the halftime interval, but Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome scored in the 81st and 85th minutes, respectively, to pile more misery on Alan Pardew's side.

Newcastle remains stuck on 14 points while Stoke City improves 19 points with a four-game unbeaten run.

Southampton 1, Norwich City 1

Southampton, England - Rickie Lambert and Robert Snodgrass exchanged first- half goals at St. Mary's on Wednesday as Southampton and Norwich City played to a 1-1 draw.

Southampton is unbeaten in four and improves to 12 points on the season. Norwich in unbeaten in seven and climbs to 16 points.