Manchester City opened up a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League with 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, as Arsenal returned to form with a 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn Rovers.
City, who suffered a surprise defeat at Everton in last week, bounced back with a straightforward victory over the Cottagers at a blizzard-hit Eastlands.
Sergio Aguero set City on the road to three points with a first-half penalty, before Roberto Mancini’s side eased into a 2-0 lead through a Chris Baird own-goal. Edin Dzeko added a third on 72 minutes.
The win re-established City’s three-point lead in the title race, although second-placed Manchester United had a game in hand.
“It was a good performance. The players were fantastic,” City boss Roberto Mancini said. “It was very important to win after the defeat at Everton in midweek. It was important for our future. There are some difficult moments during the season. This can happen. I hope now we can continue to win all our games.”
In other games on Saturday, Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick as Arsenal silenced their critics with a seven-goal humiliation of Blackburn.
Disgruntled Arsenal fans had reportedly been planning protests at the Emirates after Arsene Wenger’s side had slid to three consecutive league defeats and a disappointing draw at Bolton Wanderers last week, but Wenger’s side responded to the disquiet amongst their supporters with a ruthless demolition of Rovers, which saw them move up to fifth in the table.
Van Persie took his tally for the season to 28 after striking in the second, 38th and 62nd minutes, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (two) and Mikel Arteta getting the other goals, before substitute Thierry Henry completed the scoring.
Morten Gamst Pedersen was the lone scorer for Blackburn, who also had Gael Givet sent off for a wild challenge on van Persie just before halftime.
The defeat left Blackburn firmly rooted in the relegation zone, two points adrift of safety in 19th place.
Wenger, meanwhile, praised the contribution of teenage winger Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“Alex was not ready earlier in the season, but he has made a big step in the last months, he produces team play and is not only going forward, but contributes to the buildup and defending,” Wenger said. “He has improved very quickly and he is a fighter as well in his personality. He plays like a guy who had talent in September, but is much more mature now.”
Rovers’ beleaguered boss Steve Kean was left bemoaning Givet’s dismissal.
“It was a tough afternoon,” Kean said. “When you try to compete with 11 men it’s hard enough. The biggest bearing was the early goal and the sending off, and the referee did not have a tough decision to make.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Norwich City moved up to ninth place with a 2-0 win over struggling Bolton Wanderers, second-half goals from Andrew Surman and Anthony Pilkington sealing the points for the Canaries at Carrow Road.
Queens Park Rangers striker Djibril Cisse followed up his debut goal for the club last week with a controversial red card as the Londoners slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Loftus Road.
QPR had got off to a dream start when new signing Bobby Zamora opened his account for the club with a 16th-minute opener, but Cisse’s red card transformed the game as Wolves hit back to level through Matt Jarvis, before Kevin Doyle fired Mick McCarthy’s men into the lead.