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Apr 8, 2012

City hopes hang by a thread

Manchester City's pursuit of the Premier League crown looks to be all over after a late goal from Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta condemned them to defeat at the Emirates Stadium. Earlier in the day, Manchester United beat ten-man QPR 2-0.

• Sat: Chelsea snatch late win
• Mancini: Balotelli could be sold
• The Balotelli controversies
• Palmer: Balotelli on the brink
• Young accused of diving
• Jolly: Scholes rolls back years
• Team of the Week
• Sunday Premier League gallery Photo Gallery

Manchester City are now eight points behind their rivals with six games remaining following a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal. The result sees Arsenal return to third place, five points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea.

Arsenal had the momentum heading into the match, with seven wins from their last eight league fixtures, and enjoyed the better of an opening period in which City saw key midfielder Yaya Toure limp off with a knee problem. The Gunners pinned City back for the majority, and should have taken the lead on 16 minutes - but Robin van Persie's goalbound header was deflected onto the bar by his team-mate Thomas Vermaelen.

City, looking low on confidence, threatened only on occasions, notably when Mario Balotelli - who was lucky to be on the pitch, having earlier escaped punishment for a knee-high, studs-up tackle on Alex Song - had a half-volley from six yards cleared off the line following an astute corner routine.

Mancini's men found a foothold towards the end of the opening period, and were in the ascendancy for the first 15 minutes of the second, only for Arsenal to stir into life, with Song crossing to Van Persie, who headed against the post from eight yards. That chance sparked a period of sustained Arsenal pressure as City, instead of scrapping for their lives in the title race, looked sapped of fight.

They should have been behind on 76 minutes, but somehow Vermaelen and Yossi Benayoun managed to spurn opportunities from three yards. Arsene Wenger's men got the reward they deserved when Arteta's low drive beat Hart from 20 yards, and City's misery was compounded when Balotelli received a second yellow in the 90th minute.

In Sunday's earlier game, QPR went down to a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford after having had to play 75 minutes with ten men.

United dominated from the opening whistle on home soil but their breakthrough came courtesy of referee Lee Mason, who awarded a soft 15th-minute penalty and sent off Shaun Derry when the offside Ashley Young fell in the area. Wayne Rooney dispatched the resulting spot-kick and, to compound QPR's misery, Derry was sent off.

United later killed the game off through Paul Scholes, whose 20-yard drive dipped under the over-exposed Paddy Kenny's right hand.

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