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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Football

Manchester sides heat up Premiership race
Agencies
Manchester, January 02, 2013
First Published: 00:27 IST(2/1/2013)
Last Updated: 00:31 IST(2/1/2013)

Manchester City inflicted a first league defeat in 11 games on Stoke as the Premier League champions kept their title challenge alive with a 3-0 win at Eastlands on Tuesday.

Goals from Pablo Zabaleta, Edin Dzeko and a Sergio Aguero penalty saw Roberto Mancini's team make the perfect start to 2013 as they remain within seven points of league leaders Manchester United, who won 4-0 at Wigan.

As has been the case for so much of the season, City dominated the first half completely, in terms of possession, but were frustrated by the lack of an end product until taking the lead three minutes before the interval.

Aguero was at the heart of so much of City's enterprising play and the Argentina forward almost handed his side the lead in the opening minute when he gathered James Milner's pass at full speed and skipped his way past a challenge before his low shot was kept out by goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

As City kept pressing, Andy Wilkinson made a telling tackle to deny Aguero six yards out but, after Gareth Barry sent over a cross from the resulting breakdown in play, Aguero met the ball with a near post header that struck the post and flew behind.

United sweep wigan aside for win

London: Manchester United kept a firm grip on the Premier League title race by sweeping to a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on the first day of 2013 to maintain their seven-point lead.

Champions Manchester City remain United's nearest rivals after a 3-0 success at home to Stoke City, while Tottenham Hotspur climbed to third by coming from behind to defeat second-bottom Reading 3-1 at White Hart Lane.

Javier Hernandez had already had a goal ruled out for offside at the DW Stadium when he put United 1-0 up against Wigan by tapping in after Ali Al Habsi saved from Patrice Evra in the 35th minute.

Robin van Persie got off the mark for the New Year eight minutes later, collecting a pass from Hernandez and sending Ivan Ramis to the turf with a dummy before curling the ball inside the right-hand post.

Hernandez added a third in the 63rd minute, swivelling to dispatch a half-volley when a van Persie free-kick arrived at his feet, before the Dutchman completed a brace of his own in the 88th minute with his 16th league goal.

City dominated the early stages at home to Stoke, who had gone into the game looking to protect a 10-match unbeaten run.

Pablo Zabeleta broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time, rolling the ball into an empty net after Asmir Begovic touched away James Milner's low cross with his foot.

Sergio Aguero was the creator of City's second in the 56th minute, with a low drive that was parried by Begovic, only for Edin Dzeko to turn the loose ball home.

West Ham back to winning ways

West Ham returned to winning ways for the first time in six outings as first-half goals from Mark Noble and Joey O'Brien were enough to defeat Norwich 2-1 in controversial fashion at Upton Park on Tuesday.

It was a much needed win for the East Londoner's, who move six points away from the relegation zone and pick up maximum points for the first time since defeating Chelsea 3-1 on December 1.

Scottish defender Russell Martin pulled a goal back for Norwich in the dying minutes but it wasn't enough to salvage something from a tight contest.

 Berbatov fires Fulham to success

Fulham shook off their slumbers from 2012 to win 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion on New Year's Day and record only their second away win of the Premier League campaign.

The honour of scoring the first goal of 2013 fell to Dimitar Berbatov, who finished a sweeping Fulham counter-attack with a crisp strike in the 39th minute.

West Brom equalised four minutes into the second half through Romelu Lukaku and the hosts twice hit the post. Following which Alex Kacaniklic calmly beat Ben Foster in the 58th minute to give Martin Jol's side victory.

The win, Fulham's second in 13 league games, lifted them to 12th place in the English top flight and left Steve Clarke's West Brom in seventh.


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