Late Hernandez goal sends United nine points clear
LONDON (AP) -- Manchester United edged closer to a record 19th English title thanks to Mexico striker Javier Hernandez's late winner against Everton on Saturday while Liverpool routed Birmingham 5-0 to keep alive its hopes of European football next season.
Hernandez rose high to head home at the far post in the 84th minute to secure United a 1-0 victory, leaving his side needing seven points from the last four games to guarantee the title.
"The way we're going about our business gives us an outstanding chance,'' United manager Alex Ferguson said. "There's a winning attitude about the team and a real determination. They refuse to give in.''
Chelsea, which hosts West Ham later Saturday, and Arsenal, which visits Bolton on Sunday, are nine points behind United with a game in hand.
Argentina midfielder Maxi Rodriguez scored a hat trick for sixth-place Liverpool at Anfield, moving the team three points behind Tottenham, which missed a chance to leapfrog Manchester City into fourth by being held to a 2-2 draw by West Bromwich Albion.
Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt - with his seventh goal in the last six league matches - and substitute Joe Cole grabbed the other goals for Liverpool, which is level on 18 English titles with United.
Simon Cox denied Spurs all three points at White Hart Lane with an 81st-minute equalizer for West Brom after Jermain Defoe had put the hosts ahead with his 100th Premier League goal.
At the bottom of the table, Wolverhampton moved provisionally off the bottom, ahead of West Ham, with a 1-1 home draw against Fulham and Wigan dropped into the relegation zone by losing 4-2 at Sunderland.
Blackpool moved up a place to fourth bottom after drawing at home to Newcastle, with DJ Campbell's 10th goal of the season leveling for the hosts after Peter Lovenkrands' opener.
England striker Darren Bent's 14th goal of the season earned Aston Villa a 1-1 draw with FA Cup finalist Stoke, which went ahead through Kenwyne Jones.
Everton came close to denying United a 13th successive home victory in the league but Hernandez made it 19 goals in all competitions by connecting with Antonio Valencia's floated cross to beat visiting goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had made several great saves earlier in the match.
"Javier has done better than everyone expected,'' Ferguson said of the player he signed from Mexican side Chivas last summer. "We thought that because it was his first year, he would just get used to the English game and get strengthened up. He has passed all those tests.
"He is first in, at 9am every morning, and he is last to leave. He is a truly dedicated boy.''
United, who rested captain Nemanja Vidic ahead of Tuesday's Champions League semifinal first leg against Schalke, play Arsenal and Chelsea over the next two weekends.
Rodriguez was brought back into the Liverpool team in place of the injured Andy Carroll and wasted little time getting on the scoresheet, breaking the deadlock in the seventh minute and adding more in the 66th and 73rd minutes.
The victory was another demonstration of how comfortable Liverpool is looking under temporary manager Kenny Dalglish, who has transformed the team's fortunes since replacing Roy Hodgson in January.
"The players give me joy and satisfaction,'' Dalglish said. "Overall it was a thoroughly deserving three points. We played some fantastic football.''
Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko had canceled out Peter Odemwingie's opener for West Brom, before Cox ruined the hosts' hopes of going back into the top four.
"We moved the ball about well today but you've got no divine right to win games,'' Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "We'll try and make the top four and, if we don't, we'll try again next year.''
Sunderland scored goals through Asamoah Gyan, Jordan Henderson (two) and Stephane Sessegnon to claim a first win in 10 games and all but guarantee its safety.
Mohamed Diame and Franco di Santo were Wigan's goalscorers.
Blackburn, which is fifth from bottom and a point above Blackpool, hosts Man City on Monday.
Copyright 2011 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
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