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The Sports Matrix: Thursday 29 November 2012

Hammer blow as Van Persie strikes early for United

Manchester United maintained their one-point lead at the top of the Premier League last night after defeating West Ham 1-0 at Old Trafford.

Robin van Persie gave Sir Alex Ferguson's side the lead by scoring after 33 seconds – the fastest goal in the Premier League this season, minutes after Theo Walcott had scored the previous fastest with his effort in the 51st second in Arsenal's 1-1 draw withEverton at Goodison Park.

Van Persie took a pass from Michael Carrick, above, on the edge of the area, produced a delightful, first-time flick to loop the ball over Winston Reid's head and the Dutchman's follow-up shot took a cruel deflection off James Collins and over the stranded Jussi Jaskelainen.

United's lead was vulnerable, though, as Sam Allardyce's side had good opportunities. Andy Carroll's first-half effort flew narrowly over the crossbar, before Matthew Taylor failed to convert Nolan's inviting cross after the interval. Substitute Modibo Maiga cut in and flashed a shot over the crossbar, and goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard denied Carlton Cole, but the hosts held on. MORE

Westwood hopes to retain title

Lee Westwood begins the defence of the Nedbank Challenge Trophy in South Africa today before heading to Bangkok next week. "I'd love to be the first to win three Nedbank titles in a row," Westwood said. "Coming back and defending a title is very satisfying." MORE

England give Giles limited-overs role

England have separated Test and limited-overs cricket. Andy Flower will continue to guide the Test squad but Ashley Giles, director of cricket at Warwickshire and already a selector, has been appointed as head coach of the one-day international and Twenty20 teams. MORE

Tredwell called up as spin cover

Kent off-spinner James Tredwell is joining the Test tour to India on Saturday in case Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar is injured. The move confirms that England intend to play two spinners in the remaining Tests to try for a rare series victory on the subcontinent. MORE

Woods backs plan to ban anchoring

Tiger Woods has backed the decision of golf's regulatory bodies on both sides of the Atlantic, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the United States Golf Association, who have moved to ban the anchoring of a putting device to the body from 2016.

Robshaw could miss Lions Tour

England captain Chris Robshaw could miss the Australia tour because the British & Irish Lions head coach, Warren Gatland, will pick a specialist breakaway forward for that Test series rather than a multi-purpose all-rounder like Robshaw. MORE

Charteris praises retiring Sharpe

Wales' Luke Charteris praised Nathan Sharpe ahead of the Australia captain's final Test on Saturday. Charteris said: "He really is one of the standout second-rows of the last 10 or 15 years, and if it is his last game he has earned his rest."

Van Commenee left to make point

Charles van Commenee resigned as UK Athletics coach after missing medal targets to help create "a culture of no excuses". "I wanted to make a clear statement about these things," said the Dutchman. MORE

Lewis Moody

Stuart Lancaster will be feeling the pressure but I believe he will come through it. This is a grounded guy, not someone who will get above his situation. He knows what is required of him. MORE

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