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Quickfire goal from van Persie leaves Manchester Utd top of EPL

updated 6:04 PM EST, Wed November 28, 2012
Robin van Persie celebrates his quickfire goal after just 33 seconds for Manchester United against West Ham.
Robin van Persie celebrates his quickfire goal after just 33 seconds for Manchester United against West Ham.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Robin van Persie scores after only 33 seconds for Manchester United
  • 1-0 win over West Ham keeps them a point clear at top of EPL
  • Mario Balotelli scores as Manchester City beat Wigan 2-0 to stay second
  • Chelsea held to second goalless draw under Rafael Benitez

(CNN) -- Robin van Persie scored after just 33 seconds as Manchester United maintained their slim advantage at the top of the English Premier League Wednesday with a 1-0 win over West Ham.

The Old Trafford faithful had barely settled in their seats when the Dutch striker picked up a pass from Michael Carrick and saw his shot deflect off James Collins to loop over visiting goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.

It was the quickest goal of the EPL season and left United a point clear of neighbors and defending champions Manchester City, who won 2-0 at Wigan.

United have fallen behind in many games this season before recovering and manager Alex Ferguson was delighted by their defensive display.

Mourinho on the enigma of Balotelli

"If we can keep clean sheets more often than not it will a good foundation to challenge for the title," he told Sky Sports.

Recalled Mario Balotelli gave City a second half lead at Wigan before James Milner sealed the three points with a thumping strike from outside the penalty area.

Balotelli's performance earned scant praise from his manager Roberto Mancini.

"I think Mario can do better. He scored one important goal but can continue to improve. For me, he did not play very well," he told Sky Sports.

Rafael Benitez is still searching for his first win and first goal since taking charge of Chelsea as interim manager following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo.

Read: UEFA mulls Champions League expansion

I think Mario can do better. He scored one important goal but can continue to improve. For me, he did not play very well
Roberto Mancini

His side were held 0-0 at home by West London rivals Fulham, off the back of the same result against Manchester City Sunday.

It left Chelsea seven points adrift of leaders Manchester United in third place in the standings and Benitez was again subjected to barracking by home supporters unhappy at his appointment.

West Bromwich Albion slipped back to fourth with a first defeat in five games, beaten 3-1 at Welsh side Swansea.

Spanish midfielder Michu scored his eighth EPL goal of the season to put Swansea ahead and they were two up inside 10 minutes when Wayne Routledge netted.

Routledge added his second and the home side's third just before the interval, but there was still time for West Brom to pull one back when on-loan Romelu Lukaku scored in injury time at the end of the half.

Tottenham Hotspur took closer order in fifth with a 2-1 home win over Liverpool at White Hart Lane.

Aaron Lennon was set up by Gareth Bale for an early opener for Spurs. Bale then put the home side two clear after just 16 minutes when he crashed home a deflected free kick.

In the second half, the pair were involved in a bizarre incident as Lennon smashed a clearance into Bale's face and it found its way into the Tottenham goal, but Liverpool could not force an equalizer.

Everton and Arsenal are just behind them in sixth and seventh after they shared a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.

Theo Walcott put the Gunners ahead in the first minute, but Belgian international Marouane Fellaini curled home a leveler midway through the first half.

Newcastle's miserable recent run continued with a 2-1 defeat at Stoke while Southampton remained in the drop zone after a 1-1 draw at home to Norwich.

It was referee Mark Clattenburg's first match in charge since being cleared of racially abusing Chelsea's John Obi Mikel.

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