Rosicky’s thunderbolt settles north London derby

Steven Gerrard scored twice from the penalty spot and missed another spot kick as Liverpool enhanced its title challenge with a 3-0 win over Manchester United. The host also had captain Nemanja Vidic sent off. The victory leaves Brendan Rodgers’s side four points behind leader Chelsea, which fell to a shock 1-0 defeat against Aston Villa.

Arsenal later pulled level with it by beating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in the north-London derby, with Tomas Rosicky getting the only goal after 72 seconds. Manchester City is two points behind, having played two games fewer.

“I think we’ve shown today that we’re genuine (title) contenders and we’re going to fight until the end for this,” Gerrard said. “We believe it. I’ve said it many times, in football it’s one of the easiest things to talk the talk — we’ve got to go and treat Cardiff like Manchester United. We’ve got to treat Sunderland like Manchester United and if we do, we’ll win a lot of games from now until the end of the season.”

“It’s a nightmare,” said United forward Wayne Rooney. “It’s one of the worst days I’ve ever had in football.”

Liverpool was the brighter side in the first half and got its reward after 34 minutes when Rafael handled in the box. Liverpool believed he should have been shown a second yellow card for the offence. He stayed on, but Gerrard calmly converted the penalty.

A minute into the second half, it doubled its lead, Gerrard going the same way from the spot after Phil Jones had bundled over Joe Allen. The Liverpool captain had another chance from the spot after 77 minutes when Daniel Sturridge had tumbled over the challenge from Vidic, who was shown a second yellow for his fourth red card against Liverpool.

This time Gerrard went left, but hit the post. Remarkably, he should have had another chance four minutes later when Sturridge was tripped by Michael Carrick in the box, but this time the referee turned down the appeal. Still, Liverpool added a third — Sturridge’s mishit fell kindly for Suarez, who slammed home his 25th goal of the season.

It took Arsenal just 72 seconds to take the lead at White Hart Lane, with Rosicky smashing an angled shot into the top corner after an initial pass had bounced off Olivier Giroud. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a persistent threat with his runs from deep, Arsenal had the better of the chances in a frantic first half, although Emmanuel Adebayor did go close from a Kyle Naughton cross.

Nacer Chadli had three glorious chances to level in the first seven minutes of the second half. First, he dallied after Wojciech Szczesny had fumbled, allowing Bacary Sagna to get back and clear, then Laurent Koscileny cleared off the line after Szczesny had dropped another cross. And then, he couldn’t adjust his feet to make meaningful contact on a low Andros Townsend cross that flashed across the six-yard box. Tottenham had almost all the play after that — by the end, Arsenal was playing a back five with Nacho Monreal, a left-back, in midfield, but it was all too hurried and Arsenal closed the game out with relative ease.

The results:

On Sunday: Manchester United 0 lost to Liverpool 3 (Gerrard 34-pen, 46-pen, Suarez 84); Tottenham 0 lost to Arsenal 1 (Rosicky 2).

On Saturday: Aston Villa 1 (Delph 82) bt Chelsea 0.

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