United tops Reading to extend lead

It was a rather conservative performance from Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday, but it was enough to claim a 1-0 win over Reading and move 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

Manchester City faltered in a 2-0 loss at Everton earlier in the day, opening the door for United to extend its lead at the top with a positive result over the Royals.

That is precisely what happened as the Red Devils rode Wayne Rooney's first- half strike to all three points, lifting the club to 74 points through 29 games.

The telling goal came in the 21st minute following a fine individual run from Rio Ferdinand. The United defender eclipsed a couple of Reading midfielders before dinking a perfectly-weighted ball into the path of Rooney, who lashed a shot toward goal that needed a deflection to get past goalkeeper Stuart Taylor.

United pressed for another goal throughout the match but failed to create too many concrete scoring opportunities due to some resolute defending from the Royals.

Reading applied some late pressure in search of an equalizer, but United absorbed it to preserve the victory and keep the Royals second from bottom on 23 points.

Everton 2, Manchester City 0

Liverpool, England - Manchester City received a crippling blow its title hopes on Saturday, falling to 10-man Everton at Goodison Park by a 2-0 score.

Kevin Mirallas thought he had put the Toffees in front early on only to see his goal harshly called back for offside, but the opener eventually came through Leon Osman's 32nd-minute swerving strike from distance.

Everton was reduced to 10 men just after the hour mark when Steven Pienaar picked up a second yellow card for a challenge on Javi Garcia, but the home side managed to put the winning result beyond any doubt when Nikica Jelavic's deflected shot found its way past Joe Hart.

The result sees City remain on 59 points for the season, falling 15 points behind first-place United. Roberto Mancini has claimed just one win in his eight meetings with Everton.

The Toffees have won two straight in Premier league play, overcoming a disappointing FA Cup defeat to Wigan last weekend to climb to 48 points on the season.

Aston Villa 3, QPR 2

Birmingham, England - Aston Villa picked up a vital win at Villa Park on Saturday, defeating QPR 3-2 to gain further separation from the relegation zone.

QPR had taken the lead through Jermain Jenas' goal off of a rebound in the 23rd minute, but Villa was level by the break thanks to Gabriel Agbonglahor's header in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.

Andres Weimann and Andros Townsend exchanged goals after the restart, but it was Christian Benteke's goal nine minutes from time that proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Villa improves to 30 points in as many games, bringing the club six points clear of the relegation zone and seven points clear of last-place QPR.

Southampton 3, Liverpool 1

Southampton, England - Southampton turned out another impressive performance under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino, earning a 3-1 win over Liverpool at St. Mary's on Saturday.

The Saints enjoyed a two-goal lead when Morgan Schneiderlin opened the scoring six minutes in and Rickie Lambert doubled the advantage with his deflected free kick. Philippe Coutinho cut Liverpool's deficit in half just before the break, but his goal was negated 10 minutes from time when Jay Rodriguez made it three for the home side.

Southampton improves to 31 points, ending Liverpool's three-game winning run to leave the Reds on 45 points.

Arsenal 2, Swansea City 0

Swansea, Wales - Arsenal claimed a vital victory in its quest for a top-four finish, defeating Swansea City 2-0 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday thanks to two goals in the final 16 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck the woodwork twice in the first half but failed to produce a goal, leaving the two sides level by halftime.

Arsenal continued to push for the opening goal and eventually found it in the 74th minute when Nacho Monreal bagged his first goal for the club since making the switch from Malaga in January. Gervinho wrapped up the affair in stoppage time by slipping a low in the bottom corner on a breakaway.

The Gunners move into fifth place with 50 points on the season, 10 points ahead of the Swans.

Stoke City 0, West Bromwich 0

Stoke-on-Trent, England - Stoke City and West Bromwich remain separated by 10 points in the Premier League table after playing to a 0-0 draw at the Britannia.

Scoring chances were at a premium for both sides, leaving the Baggies on 44 points and the Potters on 34 points for the season.