Bad start for Grant as Rooney hits the spot

Portsmouth 1 Manchester United 4
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The Independent Football

Wayne Rooney scored a hat trick as Manchester United beat bottom-place Portsmouth 4-1 Saturday to stay in touch with Chelsea in the Premier League title race.

By winning a second straight match for the first time in two months, defending champion United went two points behind leader Chelsea, which is at Arsenal on Sunday.

Manchester City slumped to a seventh successive draw after Hull held the big-spending club 1-1, while West Ham defeated Burnley 5-3 and Bolton remained in the relegation zone after drawing 1-1 at Fulham.

In Saturday's other matches, Blackburn was held to a 0-0 draw by Stoke, Wigan beat Sunderland 1-0 and Tottenham was at Aston Villa in the late encounter.

Avram Grant took charge of Portsmouth for the first time after being appointed manager following Paul Hart's dismissal. But Grant — whose first and last matches as Chelsea manager were losses to United — once again had the misfortune to face the 18-time English champions after 18 months away from management.

Grant's team got off to the worst possible start when Rooney tumbled in the penalty area following a clumsy challenge by Michael Brown. But after Rooney converted from the penalty kick in the 25th minute, Kevin-Prince Boateng leveled from the spot at the other end after Nemanja Vidic fouled Frederic Piquionne.

Rooney restored United's lead three minutes into the second half when he latched onto Ryan Giggs' pass. The England forward grabbed a third minutes later when Piquionne was penalized for fouling Giggs and he slotted in the penalty kick.

And Giggs found time to score his 100th Premier League club on the eve of his 36th birthday to leave Pompey rooted to the bottom of the standings.

At Manchester City, not even the return of Brazil forward Robinho after three months on the sidelines could return Mark Hughes' side to winning ways.

Shaun Wright-Phillips had put big-spending City ahead on the stroke of half time with a 25-meter (yard) strike, but Jimmy Bullard leveled in the closing minutes from the penalty spot after Joleon Lescott was adjudged to have handled.

"Of course it is a disappointing run we're on, because we're failing to see out victories when we have the lead," Hughes said. "We're trying to get something started here but at times we look exactly what we are, a side that has been thrown together very quickly."

After being humiliated 9-1 by Spurs last weekend, Wigan rebounded at home to Sunderland courtesy of Hugo Rodallega's sixth goal of the season.

Sunderland striker Darren Bent, who is black, later said his mother was on the receiving end of racist comments.

"So we get beat by Wigan and to make matters worse my mum gets racially abused by a SUNDERLAND fan," Bent wrote on Twitter. "I wont stand for that."

At Upton Park, West Ham boosted its relegation battle by winning for only the third time this season.

Jack Collison, Junior Stanislas and Carlton Cole gave West Ham a three-goal lead before halftime against Burnley

Guillermo Franco headed in after the break and Luis Jiminez scored the first goal of his loan spell from Inter Milan to make it 5-0 before the hour mark.

Despite Steven Fletcher scoring twice and Chris Eagles also hitting the target to reduce the deficit, Burnley has collected just one point now from seven away matches since returning to the top flight. Steven Caldwell was sent off late on for the visitors.

At Craven Cottage, Ivan Klasnic sent Bolton into the break with the lead and despite Damien Duff equalizing for Fulham, the draw ended the visitors' run of three straight defeats.

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