March 25, 2012

Spurs hold Chelsea, Man City go top (8 PICS)

Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp (L) shakes hands with Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo after their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London March 24, 2012. 

(Reuters) - Yaya Toure's deflected equaliser gave Manchester City a 1-1 draw at Stoke City on Saturday to reclaim top spot in the Premier League but two more away dropped points handed the advantage to Manchester United in the title race.

Toure's long-range blast, which deceived keeper Asmir Begovic after flicking off Ryan Shawcross, rescued his side after Peter Crouch's magnificent volley had given Stoke a 59th-minute advantage at the Britannia Stadium.

Manchester City joined United on 70 points but edged top on goal difference although the champions will go three points clear if they beat Fulham at Old Trafford on Monday.

Chelsea drew 0-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur - a result that left the Stamford Bridge club five points behind their fourth-placed opponents and eight shy of Arsenal who consolidated third spot with a 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa.

Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta secured a seventh consecutive league win for Arsenal.

At the other end of the table, Wigan Athletic gave their survival prospects a boost with a shock 2-1 win at Liverpool who have now won only twice in 11 league games.

Manchester City's Edin Dzeko shoots past Stoke City's Asmir Begovic (R) during their English Premier League soccer match at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent, central England, March 24, 2012.
Gary Caldwell's 63rd-minute strike handed Wigan their maiden victory at Anfield.

Bolton Wanderers earned an emotional 2-1 triumph over fellow relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers in their first match since midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest at Tottenham in the FA Cup last Saturday.

Victory for Bolton, secured with two goals from defender David Wheater, lifted them out of the relegation zone above Queens Park Rangers who had striker Djibril Cisse sent off in a 3-1 defeat at Sunderland.

Wolverhampton Wanderers remained bottom after a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City while Swansea City lost 2-0 at home to Everton.

Manchester City have won all 15 home league games this season but their mediocre away form is threatening to deny them a first top-flight title since 1968.


They have won only two of their last nine on the road and it could have been even worse on Saturday after Crouch stunned them with a contender for goal of the season.

Cushioning a dropping ball on his left foot 30 metres from goal, the out of favour England striker dispatched an unstoppable volley high over the diving Joe Hart.

Carlos Tevez, right, waits alongside Manchester City's manager Roberto Mancini, left, before coming on in the 66th minute. 
Manager Roberto Mancini introduced Carlos Tevez from the bench after 73 minutes but it was Toure three minutes later who brought the visitors level when he let fly from 25 metres, his shot glancing off the head of Shawcross before evading Begovic.

Crouch, who scored for Spurs in 2010 to deprive Manchester City of Champions League football the following season, said he hoped his goal would nudge him towards selection for England's Euro 2012 squad.

"It's probably the best goal I've ever scored," he told ESPN. "I always enjoy a volley but they don't normally fly in like that.

"When I joined Stoke I said if I'm scoring goals then I'd have a chance to play for England again. I hope I get a chance and I'd grab it with both hands."

In the lunchtime derby at an unseasonally warm Stamford Bridge, Chelsea wasted a chance to cut the gap on Tottenham to two points.

Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale (R) is challenged by Chelsea's John Terry (L) and Michael Essien during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge 
The closest they came to breaking the deadlock was Juan Mata's free kick against the post while Tottenham would have claimed a first win in the fixture since 1990 if they had taken their opportunities.

Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor should have scored for the visitors while Gareth Bale thumped a header against the crossbar and also forced a fine save from Petr Cech.

"It was a big point for us and it keeps them five points behind us," said Redknapp whose side have picked up just two points from the last 15.

"We had some great chances and their keeper made some great saves."

Counterpart Roberto Di Matteo argued Chelsea could have been awarded a couple of penalties.

"There was a clear penalty shout for us when (Benoit Assou) Ekotto pulled down Ramires at the far post," he said. "But we didn't create enough clear chances to get the goal we needed.

"It won't be easy (to reach the top four) but we'll try until the end."

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