Manchester City and Arsenal responded to midweek UEFA Champions League setbacks by scraping unconvincing 1-0 wins in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Carlos Tevez secured the champion’s victory over Swansea City, putting them a point behind Chelsea before the leaders were due to host Manchester United yesterday.
“They sat quite deep and made it difficult for us to get the ball forward,” City midfielder Gareth Barry said.
It took Mikel Arteta’s late scrambled goal for Arsenal to overcome winless, 10-man Queens Park Rangers and rise to fourth — seven points behind the leaders.
While Arsenal’s attack lacked a cutting edge, the team was boosted by midfielder Jack Wilshere successfully returning after 17 months out of competitive action.
“It’s been a long journey, but I’m back now ... we didn’t underestimate QPR and knew they were going to be strong, especially from midfield and the wingers,” the 20-year-old Englishman said.
The match at the Etihad Stadium was the longest since the Premier League’s inception in 1992, with more than 12 minutes of stoppage-time after serious injuries to Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm and Manchester City defender Micah Richards led to them being carried off during the second half.
Vorm will be out for up to six weeks, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said.
The only goal came in the 61st minute, with Tevez sending a dipping shot into the bottom corner of the net beyond Vorm, who injured his groin while stretching to attempt to make a save.
Richards was later running down the pitch when he went down in agony holding his right knee. After receiving oxygen on the pitch, he was also carried off.
At the Emirates Stadium, Arteta’s winner came four minutes after QPR defender Stephane M’Bia was sent off in the 80th minute for kicking out at Thomas Vermaelen while on the ground after being fouled by the Gunners defender.
Olivier Giroud’s initial header from Andrei Arshavin’s cross was saved by Julio Cesar, but Arteta pounced to head against the bar and he prodded the rebound into the net.
The win lifted some of the gloom after successive losses in the Premier League and Champions League.
“I am very happy with the result, because we lost two big games and you could see the confidence was a bit jaded, but we were serious and we moved the ball quite well. We needed to be patient,” Gunners manager Arsene Wenger said.
Wigan Athletic emerged victorious for the first time at home this season as West Ham United were beaten 2-1.
Ivan Ramis volleyed Wigan in front in the eighth minute and James McArthur’s goal early in the second half proved decisive as James Tomkins pulled one back for West Ham in stoppage-time.
There was also a late goal at Reading, with Hal Robson-Kanu grabbing a point in a 3-3 draw with Fulham — the fourth goal in the final 13 minutes.
Reading had led at halftime through Mikele Leigertwood’s goal, but Brian Ruiz leveled in the 62nd minute and Chris Baird headed Fulham in front.
Garath McCleary pulled Reading level late on, but Dimitar Berbatov found time for what appeared to be the winner, until Robson-Kanu’s equalizer.
Reading remain in the relegation zone, clear of Southampton on goal-difference and a point ahead of QPR.
Stoke City endured a 0-0 draw with Sunderland, but extended their unbeaten home run in the league to 11 matches.