Manchester City’s challenge for the Premier League title suffered a setback as they were forced to stage a late fightback just to salvage a 3-3 draw against Sunderland at Eastlands on Saturday.
With leaders Manchester United not in action until today’s trip to Blackburn Rovers, Roberto Mancini’s side would have returned to the top of the table on goal--difference if they had beaten the Black Cats, but City, who had won their previous 20 home league games to set a Premier League record, are now two points behind United and that gap will extend to five if the champions win at Ewood Park.
City, on a run of only one win in four league matches, fell behind to Sweden midfielder Sebastian Larsson’s cool finish in the 31st minute.
Mancini’s men equalized two minutes before halftime when referee Phil Dowd harshly awarded a penalty for Craig Gardner’s challenge on Edin Dzeko. Mario Balotelli stroked home the spot-kick, yet City were behind again moments later as on-loan Arsenal -forward Nicklas Bendtner headed in Stephane Sessegnon’s cross.
Larsson added the third goal as he fired Sessegnon’s pass beyond Joe Hart in the 55th minute.
To their credit, City kept going and Balotelli struck again in the 85th minute, before Aleksandar Kolarov hit the equalizer moments later.
Chelsea kept their top-four bid alive with a 4-2 win over Aston Villa as the home faithful paid tribute to stricken captain Stiliyan Petrov.
Petrov’s presence at Villa Park just 24 hours after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia produced an emotional atmosphere. With reports circulating that the Villa midfielder will retire to focus on his battle, a tearful Petrov was given a rapturous reception by the home fans.
Chelsea made the perfect start when Daniel Sturridge slotted home in the ninth minute and Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic doubled their lead in the 51st minute.
Villa looked to have snatched a point when James Collins struck with a 77th-minute header and Eric Lichaj equalized three minutes later, but Ivanovic restored Chelsea’s lead in the 83rd minute and Fernando Torres moved the Blues within two points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with his first league goal since September last year.
Struggling Queens Park Rangers ended Arsenal’s run of seven successive league wins with a shock 2-1 victory at Loftus Road.
The third-placed Gunners fell behind in the 22nd minute when Adel Taarabt skipped past Thomas Vermaelen to fire in his first Premier League goal.
Theo Walcott equalized in the 37th minute, but Mark Hughes’ side regained the lead when Mali midfielder Samba Diakite notched his first QPR goal in the 66th minute.
QPR remain third from bottom, but they are now level on points with Blackburn Rovers.
Bolton Wanderers sealed a crucial 3-2 win over relegation rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.
Terry Connor’s Wolves, who have lost eight of their past 10 matches, broke the deadlock through Michael Kightly’s stunning 53rd-minute strike, but Bolton midfielder Martin Petrov equalized with a 63rd-minute penalty after Roger Johnson fouled Mark Davies.
Marcos Alonso put Bolton ahead in the 80th minute and Kevin Davies struck four minutes later to seal a win that keeps Bolton one point clear of the relegation zone.
Bottom of the table Wolves got one back through Matt Jarvis, but they are now six points adrift of safety.
Wigan Athletic’s bid for another great escape continued with a 2-0 win against Stoke City at the DW Stadium.
The Latics, who beat Liverpool in their last outing, have made a habit of avoiding relegation in the closing weeks of the season and they took the points through second-half goals from Antolin Alcaraz and Victor Moses.
Roberto Martinez’s side stay 19th, but only goal-difference is keeping them in the bottom three.
A Gareth McAuley own-goal and Victor Anichebe’s 68th-minute strike helped Everton climb above rivals Liverpool into seventh place with a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at Goodison Park.
Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff scored as Fulham beat Norwich City 2-1 at Craven Cottage.
Aaron Wilbraham’s 77th-minute goal was little consolation for the Canaries.
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