goal duel

LONDON - Wayne Rooney fired Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League as his double-strike inspired a 3-0 win over Fulham yesterday.

LONDON - Wayne Rooney fired Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League as his double-strike inspired a 3-0 win over Fulham yesterday.

Sir Alex Ferguson's team had been knocked off top spot by Chelsea's victory against West Ham on Saturday, but Rooney struck 30 seconds after half-time at Old Trafford and added a second in the closing stages.

Arsenal stayed right on their heels - thanks to a stoppage-time victory over ten-man Hull.

Nicklas Bendtner was again the Gunners saviour, following up his hat-trick against FC Porto in the Champions League in midweek with a strike three minutes into added-on time to seal a 2-1 win at the KC Stadium.

Chelsea's 4-1 win over relegation-threatened West Ham kept them above Arsenal on goal difference.

Tottenham consolidated their hold on the final Champions League qualifying spot with a 3-1 win over Blackburn while Wolves won the day's big relegation battle, 2-1 at Burnley.

Arsenal, who have the easiest run-in of any of the top three, looked set for a straightforward victory after Andrey Arshavin fired them ahead after 14 minutes.

But they were pegged back by Jimmy Bullard's penalty after Sol Campbell was deemed to have pulled down Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Hull were reduced to ten men before half-time when George Boateng received a second yellow card but held the visitors at bay until right at the death, when Bendtner slotted home the rebound following a Denilson shot.

West Ham had gone in level at the break at Stamford Bridge, thanks to a stunning 25-yard strike from Chelsea old boy Scott Parker which cancelled out Alex's early header for the home side.

But Drogba's second-half brace, either side of a Florent Malouda strike, took his goal tally for the season to 27 and enabled Chelsea to preserve a little energy ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Inter Milan.

Tottenham tightened their grip on fourth place after Roman Pavlyuchenko made it eight goals in his last six matches with a double in a 3-1 win over Blackburn.

Jermain Defoe put Tottenham ahead in the first half. Russian striker Pavlyuchenko struck soon after the interval and then netted again in the closing stages to ease the hosts' nerves following Christopher Samba's goal for Blackburn.

Tottenham are three points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester City, who travel to Sunderland on Sunday, and manager Harry Redknapp is growing increasingly confident about his side's prospects of joining the European elite.

Aston Villa remain in the hunt for fourth spot but their cause was not helped by a goalless draw at Stoke.

Everton's strong recent form was reflected in a powerful start at Birmingham, Victor Anichebe and Ayegbeni Yakubu giving them a two-goal lead inside 22 minutes.

But they were forced to settle for a point at St Andrew's.

Bolton continued their resurgence under Owen Coyle with a convincing 4-0 win over Wigan.

Wolves an extremely important victory against relegation rivals Burnley 2-1 at Turf Moor to pull three points clear of the drop zone. - Sapa-AFP