Manchester City opened up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with victory over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, as Chelsea beat Bolton Wanderers to ease the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas.
With second-placed Manchester United not playing until yesterday, City took full advantage of the opportunity to crank up the pressure on their cross-town rivals by taking all three points at Eastlands.
Goals from Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and substitute Edin Dzeko duly sealed a 3-0 win for Roberto Mancini’s side, who extended their remarkable 100 percent record at home this season to 13 matches.
The win was also City’s fifth straight victory this month, giving Mancini cause for confidence in the title run-in.
“I think we’ve had a good February — but we now need to have a good March, April and May if we want to win the title,” Mancini said. “It was a hard game. It was difficult. Blackburn play with 10 players behind the ball and if you don’t score, you have a problem.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Villas-Boas breathed a sigh of relief after watching his team down struggling Bolton 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Second-half goals from David Luiz, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard gave Villas-Boas something to smile about after a difficult week that saw the Blues pushed to the brink of elimination from the Champions League.
The victory — Chelsea’s first in five league matches — saw Villas-Boas’ side move back into the Champions League qualification places, three points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, who faced Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.
“It was important to win after all the recent disappointments. We have been trying so hard and today we managed to do a great, great game,” Villas-Boas said. “We managed to find the efficiency in front of goal that we haven’t had in the last few games and we are back on track in the league.”
After a poor first-half display, Chelsea’s nerves were settled moments after halftime when much-maligned Luiz shot the Blues ahead. The Brazil international picked up a loose ball and took his time, before rifling into the bottom corner past Adam Bogdan.
Chelsea made the game safe on 61 minutes when Drogba headed in Lampard’s corner for 2-0. Lampard, reportedly fuming at his treatment by Villas-Boas recently, then completed the scoring on 79 minutes, his 150th league goal.
Caretaker Wolverhampton Wan-derers boss Terry Connor saw his relegation-threatened side produce a stirring fightback from 2-0 down to grab a share of the points against high-flying Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Wolves looked to be dead and buried at the interval after goals from Papiss Demba Cisse and Jonas Gutierrez saw the Magpies surge into a 2-0 lead, but Matt Jarvis launched an improbable Houdini act on 50 minutes to make it 2-1, before Kevin Doyle leveled it in the 66th minute.
The hard-earned point was enough to lift Wolves out of the relegation zone at the expense of Blackburn.
Connor said he had always believed in his team’s spirit, despite trailing 2-0 at the break.
“I know what the dressing room is like and I know how they react in adversity, when things don’t go quite their way, but I had a feeling they would react in the right manner, a positive manner, and they did that today,” Connor said.
Queens Park Rangers’ dismal run of form continued as west London neighbors Fulham completed a season double with a 1-0 win at Loftus Road.