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Referee in dock as even Ferguson admits penalty is 'fortunate' but United look like champions in thrilling 5-2 win
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The Independent Online

Critical refereeing decisions helped shape the top of the Premier League table yesterday as Liverpool surged to the top for two hours, only to be overhauled by Manchester United's recovery from 2-0 down to beat Tottenham 5-2.

In the afternoon, Rafa Benitez's side moved above Sir Alex Ferguson's on goal difference after winning 3-1 at Hull after the home side's Caleb Folan was sent off. By half-time at Old Trafford, Liverpool were celebrating further as goals by Darren Bent and Luka Modric put Spurs ahead, only for a penalty awarded by Howard Webb to turn the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored from it and by full-time he and Wayne Rooney had both scored twice, Dimitar Berbatov adding a fifth goal against his former club. Even United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson, delighted as he was with the astonishing revival, admitted that the penalty, for a challenge on Michael Carrick by the goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was "fortunate".

"We got a break today," he said. "In the first half we were too slow, too casual and second to every ball. We played right into Tottenham's hands and deserved to be down. We had to get the first goal and Carlos Tevez coming on was responsible for the energy that got the fans going and the team playing. Once we got that first goal we were absolutely electric."

Ferguson said a defeat, which would have left his team level with Liverpool with a game in hand, would have "blown the race open". Three points clear, "we have to be happy," he added.

Tottenham's Harry Redknapp was insistent that the penalty should not have been awarded and he told the referee so in the tunnel afterwards. "He made a terrible mistake," Redknapp said. "All the [United] players were saying to ours that they could not believe it. It brought United back from a position where they weren't going to win the game."

He said the incident illustrated the need for video technology. "The fourth official should be able to look at it, instead of worrying about little things like who's standing in the technical area," he said. "At Blackburn two weeks ago we lost after having Wilson Palacios sent off when he didn't make any contact with their player. We can't keep saying wrong decisions even out. We want right decisions."

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