FOOTBALL / Mark Noble struck two penalties for the host

Wayne Rooney struck a second-half hat-trick as Manchester United came from two goals down to beat West Ham 4-2 and strengthen its position at the top of the English Premier League.

Mark Noble had struck two penalties for the host at Upton Park but also felt Nemanja Vidic should have been dismissed by referee Lee Mason for denying Demba Ba a goal-scoring opportunity.

100th league goal

United took full advantage in the second half, with Rooney pulling a goal back before levelling with his 100th league goal for his club.

The England striker then established a lead with a penalty after Matthew Upson's handball, before Javier Hernandez grabbed another.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson watched the match unfold from the stands as he is serving a touchline ban for criticising referee Martin Atkinson.

After 10 minutes another decision went against his team when the host took the lead through Noble's first penalty, after a move that started on the edge of West Ham's penalty area.

Thomas Hitzlspergers long pass out of defence released Carlton Cole, whose attempt to lob the ball over Patrice Evra resulted in the France international handling.

Noble kept his nerve and sent Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way to establish a lead, then doubled the advantage in the 25th minute with another spot-kick.

Mason's decision for the second penalty may have angered Ferguson, as Vidic was certain his challenge on Cole came outside the area.

The Serbia international even pointed to the precise area he had made the tackle as Cole danced in from the left, but Mason had already made his decision.

Noble went for power with his second penalty, and in the opposite corner, with his finish angling into the roof of the net.

United was inevitably going to see more of the ball as it chased the game, but its first sight of goal led to an athletic save from Robert Green.

Fine stop

He produced a fine stop to deny Park Ji-Sung when the midfielder was left unmarked and unleashed a powerful volley.

United also felt it should have had a penalty when Rooney's poor control saw the ball flick up and strike Upson on the arm.

Vidic, though, was thankful for Mason's leniency when he was only given a yellow card when he prevented Ba from racing through on goal.

Hitzlsperger flashed the resulting free-kick just wide.

Hernandez was brought on at the half-time interval, with Ryan Giggs moved to left-back as United looked to get back into the game.

Spectacular goal

Rooney pulled a goal back with a spectacular curling free-kick 25 yards from goal after Noble had fouled Michael Carrick in the 65th minute, giving United momentum heading into the final phase of the game.

Rooney then levelled the match when he collected Antonio Valencia's pass, raced past Manuel Da Costa and fired his finish beyond Green.

Dimitar Berbatov, on as a substitute, forced two saves from Green but it was Rooney who grabbed the lead for them, tucking away his penalty after Upson handled Fabio da Silva's cross.

Giggs crossed for Hernandez to tap in with six minutes remaining to add gloss to the scoreline.

The results:

West Ham 2 (Noble 11-pen, 25-pen) lost to Manchester United 4 (Rooney 65, 73, 79-pen, Hernandez 84); Birmingham 2 (Phillips 4, Gardner 59) bt Bolton 1 (Elmander 70); Everton 2 (Osman 38, Baines 83-pen) drew with Aston Villa 2 (Bent 47, 68).

Newcastle 4 (Nolan 22, Ameobi 45, Lovenkrands 50, Gutierrez 90) bt Wolves 1 (Ebanks-Blake 58); Stoke 1 (Walters 8) drew with Chelsea 1 (Drogba 33); West Brom 2 (Brunt 62-pen, 88-pen) bt Liverpool 1 (Skrtel 50); Wigan 0 drew with Tottenham 0. — AFP

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