LONDON, England, November 26 – Manchester United were denied the chance to keep the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City as Demba Ba’s controversial penalty gave 10-man Newcastle a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
When Javier Hernandez opened the scoring early in the second half at Old Trafford, United were on course to move within two points of City ahead of their rivals’ trip to Liverpool on Sunday.
But the reigning champions were left four points adrift of City as Ba equalised 15 minutes later following a dubious decision by referee Mike Jones.
United had taken the lead in the 49th minute through Mexican striker Hernandez, who deflected in Steven Taylor’s attempted clearance from Wayne Rooney’s shot.
Yet Newcastle were level in the most controversial manner in the 64th minute.
Rio Ferdinand appeared to win the ball when he tackled Hatem Ben Arfa in the penalty area and Jones initially gave a corner.
However, Jones’ assistant signalled for a penalty and Senegal striker Ba stepped up to score despite United’s protests.
Newcastle survived the final 12 minutes down to 10 men after winger Jonas Gutierrez was sent off for a second booking after fouling Nani.
“It was an absolute travesty. The problem is that assistants are not full-time even if the referees are,” Ferguson said.
“I didn’t think anyone in the ground thought it was a penalty apart from the assistant referee. The referee thought it was a corner. He was nearer to it. He was only eight yards away.”
At Stamford Bridge, fifth placed Chelsea finally got back on track with a comfortable 3-0 win against toothless Wolves.
After three defeats in their last four league matches and a painful Champions League loss at Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, under-fire boss Andre Villas-Boas couldn’t afford another slip at home to one of the division’s strugglers.
They got the perfect start when captain John Terry scored with a powerful header from Juan Mata’s corner.
Mata was the provider again when Daniel Sturridge added Chelsea’s second goal with a cool finish from the midfielder’s cross in the 29th minute.
Spain star Mata completed his virtuoso display and put the result beyond doubt with the third goal on the stroke of half-time.
“It was a really important result,” Villas-Boas said.
“We seek no excuses for the bad period and we know we haven’t been doing well but our confidence grew in the first half.”
Third placed Tottenham moved within six points of leaders City after Jermain Defoe’s late goal clinched a 3-1 win at West Bromwich Albion.
Harry Redknapp’s side, without key midfielders Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, fell behind when Youssouf Mulumbu netted in the 10th minute.
But Spurs equalised in the 24th minute through Emmanuel Adebayor. Nicky Shorey gave away a penalty with a foul on Aaron Lennon and although Adebayor’s spot-kick was saved by Ben Foster, the Togo striker slotted in the rebound.
England striker Defoe won it for the visitors in the 81st minute and Adebayor added a late third.
Everton’s revival continued as David Moyes’ side won 2-0 against third bottom Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.
David Wheater was shown a straight red card for a studs-up lunge on Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Everton took advantage through second half goals from Marouane Fellaini and Apostolos Vellios.
Norwich beat QPR 2-1 at Carrow Road in a battle between two sides promoted from the Championship last season.
Russell Martin fired Norwich ahead from close-range in the 15th minute.
QPR defender Luke Young equalised in the 59th minute, but Grant Holt bundled in Norwich’s winner in the 73rd minute.
Wigan moved off the bottom of the table after Franco Di Santo’s stoppage time strike secured a 2-1 win at Sunderland.
Steve Bruce’s side took the lead in the eighth minute through Sebastian Larsson.
But the Latics levelled just before half-time thanks to a Jordi Gomez penalty and Gomez netted the dramatic late winner.
Stoke heaped more pressure on Blackburn manager Steve Kean with a 3-1 victory at the Britannia Stadium.
Tony Pulis’s side took the lead through Rory Delap’s first half header and added further goals after half-time from Glenn Whelan and Peter Crouch.
Blackburn, who are now bottom, got one back through Ruben Rochina in the closing stages.
In-form Arsenal take on Fulham in a London derby at the Emirates Stadium in Saturday’s late match.