LONDON: Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premiership to five points with ten games to play by thrashing Manchester City 5-1 at Maine Road yesterday.
An astonishing four-goal burst in the first 19 minutes guaranteed the points as the champions ruthlessly exploited a slip-up by rivals Manchester United, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Bolton earlier in the day.
A jaded-looking United needed a last minute equaliser from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to earn them their point after Bruno N'Gotty had headed Bolton ahead.
"We managed to dig something out of an impossible situation," manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports television. "Bolton looked fresh, strong, well prepared. That was the advantage they had over us today.
"There's plenty of evidence and it's been well proven over the years that they (my players) will find something when they need it and we did that today out of a situation where we didn't deserve the point, but we got it."
Arsenal, in contrast, could not have looked any fresher as they swept City aside with a blistering display of attacking football.
Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell scored in the devastating opening burst and Patrick Vieira got in on the act a goal eight minutes after the break.
Nicolas Anelka scored a late goal for City but that will have been scant consolation for either side of Manchester.
Henry's strike was the pick of the Arsenal bunch. Pulling down Martin Keown's long ball to the edge of the City box with a superb first touch with his right foot, the French striker then fired a left foot shot beyond Carlo Nash with his left.
Newcastle could still have a say in the title run-in after an impressive 3-0 away win at Leeds moved them to within three points of United with a game in hand.
A Kieron Dyer double and Alan Shearer's 15th goal of the season ensured Newcastle did not miss recent capture Jonathan Woodgate, who was forced to stay away from the game for fear of inflaming tensions over his controversial move from Leeds.
A late double from Canadian striker Thomas Radzinski gave Everton's bid for a Champions League place a huge boost with a 2-1 win over Southampton at Goodison Park.
England striker James Beattie's 17th Premiership goal of the season had given Southampton a first half lead against the run of the play.
But Polish-born Radzinski levelled things up with a header seven minutes from the end of regulation time before surging into the box four minutes into stoppage time and smashing an unstoppable shot inside Antti Niemi's near post.
The win lifted Everton to level on points with Chelsea in the fourth and final qualifying spot for the Champions League.
Gianfranco Zola made his 300th appearance for Chelsea as a second half substitute but even the little maestro could not inspire the Blues as they slumped to a disappointing 2-1 home defeat by Blackburn.
All three goals came in the closing minutes, Dwight Yorke and David Dunn putting Blackburn ahead before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink blasted in an injury-time free-kick for the home side.
Charlton moved closer to a potential place in Europe – and a reported £300,000 -per-player bonus – with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa, secured by second half goals from Jason Euell, Jonatan Johansson and Mathias Svensson.
Relegation-threatened Sunderland were once again forced to endure the sight of disgruntled fans streaming out of the Stadium of Light long before the final whistle as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of northeast rivals Middlesbrough.
Former England under-21 duo, Chris Riggott and Malcolm Christie, both signed from Derby during the transfer window did the damage.
A goal each in the space of seven minutes put the visitors in charge and Riggott made the points safe just before the hour mark after Kevin Phillips had pulled one back for Sunderland. – Agencies