Manchester United beat Bolton 2-1 to return to the top of the Premier League on Saturday after Chelsea tossed away its lead to lose 2-1 at Aston Villa.
A fifth-minute own-goal by Bolton defender Zat Knight and Antonio Valencia's first United goal put the defending champions on the road to a seventh victory. Matthew Taylor replied late for Wanderers at Old Trafford to make it difficut for the Red Devils in the last 10 minutes.
United has 22 points from nine games, and Alex Ferguson said his team has a history of getting better in the second half of the season.
"It was harder than it should have been. In the last 10 minutes, there was a bit of panic because Bolton have that type of play that makes it difficult for everyone so we are happy to get a result," Ferguson said.
"But that's the Premier League, we always find that in the first half of the season when (other) teams are more motivated to win. I don't bother too much with that. It's when we get to March that real things happen."
Aston Villa came from behind to beat Chelsea with headed goals from center backs Richard Dunne and James Collins.
After Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel blundered to let in a 30-meter (yard) shot from Didier Drogba in the 15th minute, Dunne equalized with a diving header in the 32nd and Collins scored his first goal in four years in the 52nd.
It was Chelsea's second away loss in a row in the league after a 3-1 defeat at Wigan three weeks ago. The Blues, who led the standings going into Saturday's games, remain on 21 points after nine games. Villa has 16 from eight.
"We lost the game because we (conceded from) two set plays," said Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti. "We need to be more focused on the situation. Chelsea played a good game and we don't want to lose the game in that situation, only if the other team play better than us. Aston Villa were very able on the set plays.
"We want to do better for sure. We need more concentration."
Liverpool tumbled 1-0 at Sunderland thanks to a freak fifth-minute goal by Darren Bent, whose shot took a deflection off a fans' beach ball that had drifted on to the pitch. It was Liverpool's fourth defeat in nine games and Rafa Benitez' team is drifting out of title contention.
"We didn't play well but we had bad luck," Benitez said. "I didn't see (the deflection off the beach ball). I was surprised because the linesman was there and afterwards they were explaining to me, but you cannot change things. The main thing was for us to improve the performance of the team."
Tottenham won 2-1 at last-place Portsmouth and is third with 19 points. After a rare goal by defender Ledley King, former Portsmouth striker Jermain Defoe put the visitors two goals ahead before he was sent off late in the game for retaliating violently to a foul. Portsmouth then had Michael Brown sent off.
Fourth-place Arsenal has 18 points from eight games after beating Birmingham 3-1 at Emirates Stadium with goals by Robin van Persie, Abou Diaby and Andrei Arshavin.
An equalizer two minutes from the end by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov earned Everton a 1-1 draw at home to Wolves after Kevin Doyle had netted for the visitors. Wolves' tall Austrian striker, Stefan Maierhofer, was sent off in the final minute for a second yellow card.
Stoke edged West Ham 2-1 with goals by James Beattie.
On Sunday, Blackburn welcome neighbor Burnley and Manchester City visits Wigan. On Monday, Fulham hosts Hull.Reuse content