Weekend review

Manchester's big two continue to lead the way, with Arsenal and Chelsea suffering hiccups.

City and United lead title hunt, with Arsenal now out of the running

Super Sunday saw Manchester's big guns fire again while Tottenham kept their title hopes alive. Arsene Wenger has, however, conceded that Arsenal are now out of the running following their defeat by Manchester City, while Chelsea suffered an untimely hiccup on the road at Wigan. Manchester United briefly went top of the table following their victory over Queens Park Rangers, while Spurs edged out Sunderland to move back into third. Craig Bellamy put in an inspirational performance for Liverpool as they overcame Aston Villa, while Stoke saw off Wolves at Molineux. Bolton and Blackburn remain in trouble after coming unstuck against Fulham and West Brom respectively, with pressure mounting on the shoulders of Owen Coyle and Steve Kean. Everton left it late to snatch a point off Norwich, while the spoils were also shared on Tyneside as Newcastle and Swansea failed to trouble the scorers.


Sunday's action offered plenty of pre-Christmas cheer to Premier League followers, with Manchester City and Arsenal rounding off a thrilling afternoon. There was only one goal at the Etihad Stadium, but an open game produced opportunities aplenty. Arsenal were unable to make the most of the chances which came their way, leaving the door open for David Silva to bundle home a 53rd-minute winner. Victory for City saw them return to the top of the table and preserve their two-point lead at the summit, while Arsenal will have to wait another 12 months before they can mount a title tilt. Manchester United had briefly occupied top spot, with a 2-0 win at Loftus Road putting Sir Alex Ferguson's side in pole position. Queens Park Rangers boss Neil Warnock had vowed to get at United on home soil, and the hosts were as good as their word. They were, however, left with a mountain to climb inside the opening 60 seconds, as Wayne Rooney glanced home a pinpoint cross from Antonio Valencia. Both sides had chances to add to the scoring during the first half, but poor finishing and some inspired goalkeeping ensured the game remained in the balance. United wrapped up the points, though, on 56 minutes when Michael Carrick was allowed to glide forward from halfway and sweep the ball past Radek Cerny. Tottenham remain title outsiders, but a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sunderland has kept them in the hunt. Harry Redknapp's side sit seven points adrift of table-topping City with a game in hand. Roman Pavlyuchenko stepped off the bench to hand Spurs a welcome three-point haul on Sunday. The Russian replaced Aaron Lennon inside the opening 30 minutes at White Hart Lane and grabbed the only goal of the game just past the hour mark. Luka Modric really should have made the game safe shortly after, but he somehow fired over a gaping goal. Defeat leaves Sunderland precariously perched just above the drop zone, with Martin O'Neill now fully aware of the size of the task he faces at the Stadium of Light. The fourth of Sunday's fixtures saw Liverpool head home from Villa Park with three points under their arm. Aston Villa started the game in buoyant mood and searching for a fourth home win of the season, but saw the game slip away from them inside the opening 15 minutes. Bellamy was at his elusive best for the Reds and the Welshman broke the deadlock 11 minutes in when he prodded home from close range. Liverpool doubled their advantage four minutes later when Martin Skrtel met a Bellamy corner to nod past Brad Guzan. Kenny Dalglish's side sit sixth, but they are only four points off the top four. Chelsea occupy the final UEFA Champions League place at present, but saw two points slip through their grasp at Wigan on Saturday evening. The Blues looked to be on course for a fourth straight win at the DW Stadium when Daniel Sturridge fired them in front. Andre Villas-Boas' side were unable to hang on to that lead, though, with a rare error from Petr Cech costing them dear. The Czech keeper spilled a poked effort from Hugo Rodallega two minutes from time and Jordi Gomez was in the right place at the right time to haul Wigan level. Nine points now separate Chelsea from City, while the Latics are only a point shy of hauling themselves out of the drop zone.
Bolton remain rooted to the foot of the table after suffering a fifth straight defeat, and their 13th of a forgettable campaign, away at Fulham. The leakiest defence in the top flight was breached on two occasions at Craven Cottage, with the Trotters bereft of ideas and short on confidence right now. They were able to keep Fulham at bay for 32 minutes on Saturday, but were then hit by a quick-fire double from the hosts. Clint Dempsey broke the deadlock, with the American heading home a cross from Bryan Ruiz. Fulham's Costa Rican forward then produced a moment of individual brilliance two minutes later as he raced clear and scooped the ball over the onrushing Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the back of the net. Blackburn remain firmly entrenched in a relegation battle after going down 2-1 at home to West Brom. Kean insists he still has the full backing of the Ewood Park board, but he desperately needs to start picking up points if he is to get the Rovers support back on side. He thought his side had claimed a draw against the Baggies, with Scott Dann cancelling out James Morrison's thunderbolt of an opener. There was, however, to be a late twist in the tale, with Peter Odemwingie lashing a last-minute winner past Paul Robinson. Wolves were left cursing the performance of referee Anthony Taylor after finding themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline against Stoke. Mick McCarthy's side, who sit just above the drop zone, took the lead at Molineux courtesy of a Stephen Hunt penalty. Potters defender Jonathan Woodgate was lucky to stay on the field after conceding the spot-kick, with Wolves of the opinion that he should have been shown a second yellow card. Taylor kept his cards in his pocket and Tony Pulis' side staged a second-half fight back. Kevin Doyle deflected a Robert Huth free-kick into his own net and Peter Crouch nodded home a 70th-minute winner - helping to keep Stoke handily-placed in the top half of the table. Some nifty footwork from Norwich striker Grant Holt threatened to put Everton to the sword at Goodison Park, but the Toffees hit back to snatch a share of the spoils. The Canaries continue to impress among English football's elite and got their noses in front on Saturday after 28 minutes. Holt somehow managed to twist and turn his way past a number of blue shirts inside the Everton box and guide the ball into the back of the net off the post. David Moyes feared the worst as time ticked down, but Leon Osman salvaged a draw for the Toffees nine minutes from time when he diverted a scuffed shot from Royston Drenthe past John Ruddy. The only goalless draw on a busy weekend of Premier League action came at St James' Park, as Newcastle and Swansea drew a blank. The Magpies threw everything they had at the Swans, but were unable to find a way through. The impressive Michel Vorm proved to be a thorn in their side, with the Dutch keeper putting in another eye-catching display. Newcastle have now gone five games without a win, while Swansea will be delighted with their mid-table standing.

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