The weekend’s Premiership action saw all three title contenders pick up wins.
Chelsea ground out an unconvincing win at home against Middlesbrough, thanks to an early header from Ricardo Carvalho. Reduced to ten men after having Abou Diaby sent off after thirty minutes, Arsenal fought back heroically from two goals down to beat Bolton 3-2 at the Reebok Stadium, the winning goal a deflected shot from Cesc Fabregas in the dying minutes.
While Arsenal and Chelsea struggled to overcome mediocre opposition, league leaders Manchester United were emphatic in their 4-0 victory over Aston Villa. Dominating the match from start to finish, United went ahead through a 17th minute strike by Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Portuguese winger played a key part in setting up Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney (twice).
In a more competitive division like La Liga, a five-point gap between first and second place would seem far from unassailable. But the yawning chasm in quality between the top three and the rest of the division was emphasised again at Old Trafford on Saturday, and it seems unlikely that United will drop enough points in their remaining games to allow Chelsea or Arsenal back in it.
Liverpool took a big step towards consolidating a place in the European Champions’ League after a 1-0 home win against a lacklustre Everton side at Anfield. Fernando Torres go the only goal of the game after seven minutes.
Two Jermaine Defoe goals helped Portsmouth to a 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic, keeping Harry Redknapp’s side very much in contention for a UEFA Cup place.
At the bottom, Derby County’s relegation was confirmed after 2-2 draw at home to relegation-threatened Fulham.
Derby achieved promotion via the play-offs last season after a fortuitous win over a far superior West Brom side at Wembley, and they have looked out of their depth throughout this season. Despite a disappointing season, the club look well placed to compete for promotion again next season.
Newcastle United came back from behind to record a shock 4-1 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane, a second successive win lifting them well out of relegation danger, for the time being at least.
A last-minute winner from Andy Reid secured a massive win for Sunderland at home to West Ham, lifting them to 14th place in the table, just a point ahead of Reading, who could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to Blackburn.
Birmingham City fans have a new hero in the diminutive form of Mauro Zarate, the former Velez Sarsfield striker currently on loan from Qatari side Al Sadd. Zarate, a star of Argentina’s successful Under-20s national team, hit two goals in an impressive 3-1 win over Manchester City.
By Houman Barekat