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Arsenal keep Man City in check Chelsea crash

LONDON, March 29, (AFP): Manchester City squandered an opportunity to replace Chelsea at the Premier League summit after being held to a 1-1 draw by an improved Arsenal side on Saturday. Chelsea’s 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace meant that victory at the Emirates Stadium would have sent City top on goal difference, but they remain third after David Silva’s opener was cancelled out by Mathieu Flamini.
The day’s events mean that only five points now separate leaders Chelsea and fourth-place Arsenal, who produced a much more determined display after last weekend’s 6-0 demolition by Jose Mourinho’s side. Chelsea’s advantage is paper-thin, however, as City, who trail them by two points, have two games in hand, while second-place Liverpool will go top if they win at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
After Tomas Rosicky had seen an early penalty appeal turned down for Arsenal, City went ahead in the 18th minute when Silva prodded in after a shot from Edin Dzeko came back off the post.

Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker inadvertently almost doubled City’s lead early in the second half, the ball trickling inches wide of goal after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had pushed a Samir Nasri cross against him. Within moments Arsenal were level, as Lukas Podolski was granted space to cross from the left and Flamini flew in to steer a half-volley into the bottom-right corner in the 53rd minute.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart then saved from Podolski, while City’s best chance of a winner saw Yaya Toure, Nasri and Dzeko denied by a series of desperate blocks by Arsenal defenders. Chelsea manager Mourinho had admitted defeat in the title race after his side slumped to a shock loss against relegation-threatened Palace at a sun-soaked Selhurst Park.

Palace 1, Chelsea 0
In Palace, Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes suffered a major blow after John Terry’s 52nd-minute own goal condemned Jose Mourinho’s side to a 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Crystal Palace.
The loss, Chelsea’s second successive away defeat, meant the league leaders were unable to increase the pressure on Manchester City and Liverpool, their nearest challengers. For Palace, a first win in six games moved Tony Pulis’s side five points clear of the bottom three and improved their chances of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship. Chelsea were unable to find a response after Terry had headed past Petr Cech from Joel Ward’s cross and Mourinho must now lift his side ahead of their Champions League quarter-final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain.

Mourinho had chosen to focus on the defeat at Aston Villa two weeks previously, and not last weekend’s comprehensive 6-0 defeat of Arsenal, in the build-up to this game, repeating his criticism of referee Chris Foy’s performance at Villa Park. The Chelsea manager admitted that he feared the loss could prove costly to his side’s title hopes and acknowledged that they could not afford to slip up again against another team in the bottom half of the table. Perhaps with one eye on the midweek trip to Paris, Mourinho made a switch to a 4-3-3 formation, employing David Luiz, Nemanja Matic and Frank Lampard in a three-man midfield.

The change appeared to unsettle the visitors and they struggled to find the fluency that marked the opening stages of the victories against Galatasaray and Arsenal that followed the loss at Villa. Against the Gunners, Chelsea had been 3-0 up inside 17 minutes. On this occasion, it took them the same period of time to create the first notable chance, with Cesar Azpilicueta finding his way to the byline and producing a low cross that Andre Schurrle directed wide. It was Palace, though, who responded more positively to that opportunity, with Pulis’s side offering more of a forward threat after withstanding Chelsea’s early pressure. Yannick Bolasie’s pace down the left was causing Branislav Ivanovic problems and the winger should have put Palace ahead in the 25th minute when he was picked out by Jason Puncheon’s right-wing cross.

West Brom 3, Cardiff 3
In West Bromwich, Cardiff City kept their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League alive but drew West Bromwich Albion deeper into the dogfight at the foot of the table with a thrilling 3-3 draw at The Hawthorns. After finding themselves 2-0 down after just nine minutes to goals from Morgan Amalfitano and Graham Dorrans, the Bluebirds hit back through the in-form pair of Jordan Mutch and Steven Caulker. But three minutes into injury time, Thievy seemd to have sealed the points for the home side only for Mats Daehil to snatch a late point for Cardiff with an extra five minutes on the clock. Having found themselves drawn into the relegation battle in recent weeks, largely due to having drawn five and lost one of their last seven home games, the Baggies wasted no time in taking a grip on the match.

West Brom raced into a 2-0 lead insde the first nine minutes, with Morgan Amalfitano rounding off a rapid breakaway with a long-range low right-footed shot into the bottom left corner with less than two minutes on the clock. Amalfitano had a similar chance to double the score on six minutes but missed the target before Graham Dorrans made it 2-0 on eight-and-a-half minutes when he drove home from Matej Vydra’s pass. Mutch dragged the Bluebirds back into it on the half-hour with a powerful shot from outside the area after being set up by Aron Gunnarsson. Then, with the game seeming to be heading for a low-key West Brom victory, Cardiff found an equaliser when Caulker headed home a well-flighted ball from Gary Medel with 18 minutes left.

But all the thrills were to come deep in injury time, Thievy’s low left-foot shot again putting West Brom in the driving seat, only for Daehil to pop up and lash home Ben Turner’s pass for an invaluable point.
In Pepe Mel’s 10th game in charge since taking over from the sacked Steve Clarke, West Brom failed to add to their soliatary win and have only run up eight points under the new regime. For Cardiff, though, it was an important lifeline as it leaves them still in the bottom three, three points behind Albion and five from safety. Yet even their loyal fans must be wondering if time is not running out and their first season back in the top flight for 51 years might still end in a rapid return to the second tier Championship.

Swansea 3, Norwich 0
In Swansea, Swansea climbed away from the relegation zone as Jonathan de Guzman’s double clinched a crucial 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Norwich. De Guzman struck twice in quick succession late in the first half and Wayne Routledge added the third after the break to give Garry Monk’s side their first victory in 10 games in all competitions and end a six-match winless run in the Premier League. De Guzman had been controversially denied the chance for a potential winner at Arsenal on Tuesday when referee Lee Probert blew for full-time in the 2-2 draw just as the Dutch midfielder was about to shoot. The Dutch international made up for that frustrating finale at the Liberty Stadium as the Swans leapfrogged Norwich and moved seven points clear of the relegation zone. Norwich’s seventh successive away defeat in all competitions left Chris Hughton’s team six points above the bottom three.

Monk’s team monopolised possession in the early stages without making the most of their domination.
Spanish striker Michu, back from injury recently, showed a little rust when he reached for Jonjo Shelvey’s cross and stabbed a shot well wide. But Norwich had only themselves to blame when the hosts broke the deadlock in the 30th minute. Shelvey’s cross was poorly cleared to the edge of the area, where the unmarked de Guzman was waiting to lash a low strike past John Ruddy. De Guzman wasn’t finished yet and he capped an impressive move to double Swansea’s lead eight minutes later.

Wilfried Bony was the instigator with a clever back-heeled pass that set de Guzman clear and the midfielder took full advantage to clip his shot over Ruddy from eight yards.  The Canaries desperately needed an early goal in the second half and they almost got it when Robert Snodgrass’s effort from outside the area was headed off the line by Ashley Williams. Monk’s men responded with a sweeping attack which nearly culminated in a goal when de Guzman unselfishly played in Shelvey and the midfielder slipped his marker before shooting narrowly wide. Swansea put the result beyond doubt in the 75th minute when Shelvey played the ball to Routledge on the left side of the area and the former Crystal Palace winger fired home.

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