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Apr 7, 2012

Chelsea snatch late win

Saturday proved to be a good day for the sides who didn't play, as Tottenham delighted the likes of Arsenal and Newcastle by failing to give themselves a three-point boost in the hunt for Champions League places, while Bolton and Blackburn registered results that favoured QPR in the relegation battle.

Liverpool will wish they had not played at all after another disappointment against Aston Villa, but the most telling goal of the day surely came from Chelsea's Juan Mata, who broke Wigan hearts at the death.

Chelsea's resurgence under Roberto di Matteo may yet end with Champions League football being secured after the Blues won 2-1 against Wigan to move within two points of the top four.

Di Matteo, who has already led his side to a blockbuster European semi-final with Barcelona, had to do without John Terry, Frank Lampard and John Terry, and Chelsea claimed a dramatic victory in the dying minutes thanks to Mata.

The match was shrouded in controversy as Branislav Ivanovic appeared to be a couple of yards offside when he found the net midway through the second period for Chelsea's opener. Wigan players surrounded the officials, but the goal was given much to the dismay of Roberto Martinez.

Defeat ends the Latics' sparkling run of form, which has included wins against Liverpool and Stoke, and they head into the final six games of the season adrift of safety on goal difference, having played an extra game than QPR and Bolton.

Martinez had his men well-drilled at Stamford Bridge and it took some magic from Mata to cause a rare moment of panic in the Wigan defence during a tight first half. The Spaniard danced his way into the box and when the ball rebounded to Didier Drogba, the Ivorian really should have done better with what was a weak header.

The opening goal came just after the hour, with Ivanovic clearly offside, and within moments there was more frustration for the visitors when the Serbian cleared off the line from Victor Moses. However, Mohamed Diame levelled with eight minutes left to seemingly deny Chelsea the win only for the home side to have the last laugh, Mata poking home after a vital contribution from Fernando Torres.

Tottenham are now only three points ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea, although they are temporarily above Arsenal by a point, after they could only secure a 0-0 draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Unchanged from their recent 3-1 win against Swansea, Spurs started well on Wearside with Benoit Assou-Ekotto shaving a post in the sixth minute. Luka Modric then kept Simon Mignolet busy with a low drive before Phil Bardsley's arm appeared to block an Emmanuel Adebayor header inside the area.

However, Sunderland began to grow into the contest and applied plenty of pressure close to half-time, Sebastian Larsson particularly dangerous with his set-piece delivery. Spurs simply could not find their usual tempo and it was Sunderland threatening again 15 minutes into the second period, Kyle Walker forced into a last-ditch challenge to deny James McClean at the far post.

Aaron Lennon added an extra threat out wide for Redknapp's men but 0-0 was a fair result on a day when neither side showed a cutting edge around the box.

Liverpool's horrendous run of form in the league continued as they drew 1-1 with Aston Villa at Anfield.

Andy Carroll found himself benched after his show of frustration at Newcastle, and pressure grew on boss Kenny Dalglish thanks to Chris Herd's early goal, which was only cancelled out late by Luis Suarez.

The Reds started brightly at Anfield and Shay Given was forced into early action after Stewart Downing's raid down the left flank, but they were stunned in the 11th minute when Herd beat Liverpool's deputy goalkeeper Alexander Doni. The Reds' shot-stopper was hardly faultless as he flapped at a cross in front of the Kop, and when Barry Bannan pulled the ball back to Herd he curled into the top corner.

Liverpool struggled for any type of first-half reply although they did have a big penalty shout five minutes before half-time, Suarez exchanging a one-two with Dirk Kuyt before going down under the attentions of Bannan. Replays showed there was marginal contact and the referee could not have been blamed had he pointed to the spot.

Blame certainly could be attached to Kuyt moments later though, when the Dutchman missed an open goal from two yards out. Once again it was Suarez causing problems with the initial cross, and when Steven Gerrard drove across goal Kuyt somehow managed to divert the ball over when it was easier to score.

Liverpool's luck continued to elude them in the second half, Gerrard and Suarez combining again for the latter to hit the inside of the far post with a header. The ball then rebounded directly at Given, who showed smart reactions to scoop the ball away from goal when he was in danger of diverting into his own net. Craig Bellamy came off the bench to hit the woodwork again, but the Reds finally got their equaliser when Suarez nodded home from a yard after Daniel Agger's back-post header. Carroll could and should have won it for Liverpool, but his free header from six yards was soft.

Blackburn remain in the relegation zone after they followed up their loss to Manchester United with a 3-0 defeat at West Brom. The latest setback leaves Steve Kean's men still adrift of safety on goal difference after an own goal from Martin Olsson, in addition to strikes from Marc-Antoine Fortune and Liam Ridgewell.

No Premier League team has conceded more goals on their travels than Blackburn this season, and it took just seven minutes to leak their 36th as Olsson diverted into his own net. Gareth McAuley was the man who caused chaos at the far post, and Olsson was the man in the wrong place at the wrong time for Rovers.

Blackburn pressed for an equaliser but were always open to the counter, and so it proved as Fortune doubled the Baggies' lead 20 minutes from full-time. Ridgewell then completed the job late on for Roy Hodgson's men.

Bolton's fight to beat the drop also looks set to go to the final week of the season after they were beaten 3-0 by Fulham at the Reebok Stadium. With Blackburn failing to win Owen Coyle's men sit one point clear of the bottom three with seven games of their campaign remaining.

Clint Dempsey, one of the outstanding performers of the season, broke the deadlock on the half-hour, rattling a 30-yard free-kick past Adam Bogdan. The American then doubled his tally on the stroke of the interval after showing perfect timing with his run towards the area. Mahamadou Diarra added the gloss in the final ten minutes.

Everton remain above Merseyside rivals Liverpool after a 2-2 draw at Norwich. Nikica Jelavic's opener was cancelled out by Jonathan Howson's first goal for the Canaries, but Everton regained the lead in controversial fashion after Jelavic netted again with Norwich players expecting play to be stopped for obstruction. It did not prove to be the winner though as Grant Holt levelled with 15 minutes left.

In the late game, Stoke pushed Wolves ever closer to relegation after Peter Crouch's goal sealed a 2-1 victory for the home side.

Winger Michael Kightly put Wolves in front in the 26th minute with a lofted pass that drifted straight in, but Robert Huth drove home an equaliser with eight minutes of the first half remaining before Crouch nodded in the winner just after the hour mark.

The loss was the visitors' sixth in a row and with only six games left, things are looking increasingly bleak for Terry Connor's men, who have taken only one point from a possible 21 since he replaced Mick McCarthy as manager.

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