United beat Birmingham 2-1

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/F/Football.jpg' class='caption'> Third-placed Manchester United rallied to defeat Birmingham City 2-1 in the English Premier League

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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Third-placed Manchester United rallied to defeat Birmingham City 2-1 in the English Premier League, just about keeping alive their bid to challenge Chelsea for second place with seven games remaining. Second-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Louis Saha ensured three points for United after Martin Grainger's superb free-kick opened the scoring for the Blues in the first half. In the process, United moved to 65 points from 31 games with Arsenal on 77 from the same number while Chelsea sit in second place on 71 but with one less game to play. The victory caps off a successful week for the reigning champions, who progressed to the final of the domestic F.A. Cup competition last Sunday with a win over arch-rivals Arsenal. Birmingham City had never beaten Manchester United in the Premier League and their last victory in any competition over the star-studded club was back in December 1978. However, Birmingham have their sights set on their highest-ever finish in the top flight and with European league positions up for grabs, City had all the motivation they needed to upset a United outfit, which had only won one of their last six games in the Premier League. In the opening period, Birmingham were certainly the better side as United struggled to recapture the form which had seen them dispose of Arsenal in the F.A. Cup semi-final last Sunday. Less than 20 minutes in, former United player Robby Savage was unlucky not to put Birmingham ahead when his spiraling kick beat United goalkeeper Roy Carroll but flicked the cross-bar and ricocheted out of danger. United's best chance of the half came in the 27th minute when ex-Fulham striker Louis Saha stared down a near open goal but failed to execute with his right foot. Six minutes from the break, Birmingham substitute Martin Grainger positioned the home team in the lead with a brilliant free kick from outside the penalty area. The home team's standard of play declined in the second half and United, sensing their chance to draw level, did so through a well executed—but rare header—by Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo on the hour mark. Try as they might to secure a draw, Birmingham floundered in the closing minutes and allowed United to capitalise on a further opportunity. Louis Saha, who had missed several chances during the contest, finally regained the confidence of manager Alex Ferguson and headed home the winner 12 minutes from full-time. It was the Frenchman's sixth goal in eight games since his acquisition from Fulham two months ago. (AP)

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