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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unbeaten Newcastle, Forest Fall to Contenders

LONDON -- Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers blasted the English championship race wide open with wins over runaway pacesetters Newcastle and Nottingham Forest.

The only two remaining unbeaten records in English soccer fell Sunday to the two sides who battled for the title last season.

Champions Manchester United were in rampant form as they beat the pretenders to their title, Newcastle, 2-0 in a game manager Alex Ferguson said they could not afford to lose.

And Chris Sutton, the country's most expensive striker, grabbed both goals as Blackburn finally ended Nottingham Forest's outstanding return to the top flight.

Ferguson had said before Saturday's second meeting with Newcastle that if they fell 10 points behind the deficit could be too much.

"We knew how important this game was for us, just as it had been last Sunday at Blackburn," said Ferguson, whose side won 4-2 at Rovers.

Blackburn's 2-0 win at Nottingham meant the top four sides are now covered by just five points, with Newcastle leading Forest by two and United one point above Blackburn.

Newcastle, which had racked up a club record 18-match unbeaten run and won all five of its away league fixtures this season, had begun to look less invincible in recent weeks. On Saturday it was without top striker Andy Cole, sidelined for a month with shin splints, and manager Kevin Keegan admitted: "We were a like a toothless tiger today."

If Ferguson was thankful for his side's victory, Tottenham manager Ossie Ardiles was a hugely relieved man after his team beat West Ham 3-1 to register its first win in five games.

In a game billed by the British press as Ardiles' last if they lost, his team produced a performance of rare passion and determination.

"I have to be honest and say this week has been probably the worst of my career," said Ardiles, whose team lost 5-2 at Manchester City last Saturday and crashed out of the League Cup to first division Notts County in midweek

"There has been incredible pressure. I know I am not off the hook and that the pressure will come back."

Another manager fighting for his job, Everton's Mike Walker, pledged that he would not resign despite the Liverpool club's failure to win a league game.

Encouraged by his side's battling performance in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal, Walker said: "There is no way I'm going to pack it in. We've one foot in the grave but we're not in there yet."

Italian First Division

Midfielder Gianfranco Zola scored with two minutes remaining to give AC Parma a 1-0 victory over AS Roma on Sunday and first place in the Italian first division. Zola's fourth goal of the season leaves Parma with a 6-1-1 record for 19 points. That is two more than Lazio of Rome and Juventus of Turin, which both won Sunday to improve to 5-2-1. Roma (4-3-1) fell to fourth place with 15 points.

At Turin, striker Roberto Baggio's 45th-minute goal gave Juventus a 1-0 win over visiting AC Milan, dropping the three-time defending champions into 11th place in the 18-team league. It was Baggio's second score in as many weeks after returning from injury.

The defeat left Milan at 3-2-3, as the club was shut out for the third consecutive week. But the team received a boost when Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pledged to continue as club president.

"Milan have a special place in my heart and that will never change. I have never imagined leaving and I don't think I will leave," daily Corriere dello Sport on Sunday quoted Berlusconi as saying.

Spanish First Division

In a weekend that saw Zaragoza confirm itself as the Spanish league's early-season sensation, Espanol's Jordi Lardin's two goals -- his fifth and sixth of the season -- gave his team a strong 5-1 win Sunday over Albacete at Barcelona.

Lardin's eighth-minute goal was followed up by teammate Roberto Fresnedoso's goal in the ninth. Romanian Florin Raducioiu made the score 3-0 in the 22nd minute and Lardin scored again in the 30th minute.

Zaragoza moved into first place Saturday with a 3-2 win at home over Real Madrid. Both Zaragoza and Deportivo de La Coruna have 14 points and the same goal difference, but Zaragoza has scored more goals.

Argentine striker Juan Antonio Esnaider scored twice and Uruguay's Gustavo Poyet scored in the last five minutes to give Zaragoza its win. Deportivo fell from first place Saturday with a 1-1 tie with Tenerife. (Reuters, AP)