City victorious, Blues ease pressure
Manchester City moved five points clear at the top of the table after they beat Blackburn Rovers 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
In the day's evening kick-off, goals from Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and substitute Edin Dzeko were enough for Roberto Mancini's men, who were never seriously tested throughout the contest.
City were dominant from the off but initially struggled to find an opening, with goalkeeper Paul Robinson in sparkling form to persistently deny opposing attackers. That all changed on the half-hour mark, as Balotelli found himself in the right place to sweep home Aleksandar Kolarov's low cross after good work from David Silva.
City could not extend their lead, however - until Robinson undid much of his earlier good work with a sloppy piece of play that cost his side dear. A corner into the box seemed to present little danger to the former England international, but he seemingly misjudged the flight as he weakly flapped at the ball under no pressure - succeeding only in pushing into the path of Aguero, who made no mistake in powering home from eight yards.
With the points assured City took complete control of the game, and added a third with ten minutes remaining. Dzeko had only been on the pitch for 90 seconds after replacing Balotelli, but he profited from another pinpoint Kolarov cross to plant a firm header in the top corner.
While City consolidated their position at the top of the table, the result saw Blackburn slip back into the relegation zone - after Wolves' draw earlier in the day.
Chelsea gave manager Andre Villas-Boas some breathing space as they recorded a 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge.
Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard were all restored to the starting line-up, and the old guard helped the Blues to a comfortable victory in front of the watching Roman Abramovich.
The Blues dominated the first half but were unable to make the breakthrough until the 48th minute, when David Luiz made space in the box before curling the ball around Bolton 'keeper Adam Bogdan.
Didier Drogba then doubled their lead on the hour after powerfully heading home from a corner, and Lampard finished off the scoring on 79 minutes when he was left in acres of space to fire in at the far post.
Sunderland came crashing back down to earth as they slumped to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of West Brom.
Peter Odemwingie scored his fifth goal in two matches as the Baggies claimed back-to-back league wins for the first time in 2012. Since replacing Steve Bruce at the Stadium of Light, Martin O'Neill has transformed Sunderland's season, turning his side from relegation candidates into European hopefuls, but they were second best to Roy Hodgson's side at The Hawthorns.
Odemwingie, who scored a hat-trick at Wolves last time out, got the Baggies off the mark after just three minutes, nodding in Youssef Mulumbu's cross from the left.
And the Baggies doubled their advantage shortly before half-time, James Morrison nodding past Simon Mignolet from Jerome Thomas' cross. It could have been three just seconds later, but Kieran Richardson blocked Marc-Antoine Fortune's effort after the Sunderland defence failed to clear Jonas Olsson's flick. Odemwingie then compounded Sunderland's woes, burying Fortune's cross before Keith Andrew sealed the rout.
Terry Connor enjoyed an impressive start to life managerial life as he saw Wolves climb out of the relegation places after battling back to claim a 2-2 draw against Newcastle United at St James' Park.
Goals from Papiss Demba Cisse and Jonas Gutierrez had given the Magpies a comfortable first-half lead, but Kevin Doyle's equaliser secured a hard-earned point for Wolves after a second-half comeback.
After a bright start for Wolves, Connor soon found himself contemplating defeat as Newcastle took control of the match. With Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye back for Newcastle, they dominated proceedings in midfield, and January signing Cisse got the home side off the mark. Demba Ba's audacious backheel was well saved by Wayne Hennessey, but Wolves failed to clear their lines and Tiote's drive was heading wide before Cisse stabbed home from close range.
Just moments after Hennessey pulled off a superb save to deny Danny Simpson, he was helpless to prevent Jonas Gutierrez's thundering effort from 30 yards as the Magpies doubled their advantage on 18 minutes.
Yet Wolves refused to accept defeat, and Matt Jarvis pulled one back shortly after the break, his strike deflecting off Simpson and looping over a helpless Krul. And just moments after a Newcastle double substitution, Kevin Doyle got Wolves back on level terms, lashing home after Jamie O'Hara's free-kick bobbled off Mike Williamson.
Mark Hughes endured a miserable reunion with former side Fulham as ten-man Queens Park Rangers were beaten 1-0 at Loftus Road.
The Cottagers burst out of the blocks and had the ball in the net in the third minute, but Andrew Johnson was ruled offside. They had their goal just three minutes later, though, as Moussa Dembele stylishly backheeled to Pavel Pogrebnyak, who beat Paddy Kenny and rolled the ball into an open net for his second goal in as many games.
Hughes' day went from bad to worse when Samba Diakite received a second yellow card on his QPR debut but, despite their dominance, Fulham were unable to make the most of their numerical advantage.
Meanwhile, Wigan and Aston Villa played out a goalless draw at the DW Stadium.
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