Title race alive as Wigan beat United
Manchester City, with a massive helping hand from Wigan, breathed life into their Premier League title challenge on Wednesday, as leaders Manchester United were humbled at the DW Stadium. Arsenal will also be feeling bullish about their chances of a top-three finish after another victory, but Wolves find themselves in deep trouble at the bottom.
Manchester United's march towards the Premier League title no longer looks to be a precession after they were deservedly beaten 1-0 by Wigan. Defeat sees their eight-point lead at the top of the table cut to five, following Shaun Maloney's brilliant second-half winner.
Wigan, stuck in the bottom three at the start of the night, move two points clear of the relegation zone with the victory, and they once again had to suffer a controversial officiating decision before securing their first Premier League points against the Red Devils.
A superb opening 35 minutes from the Latics appeared to have resulted in a goal when Victor Moses headed home at a corner, but the strike was ruled out by the linesman. A foul by Gary Caldwell on David De Gea was the decision, but replays showed the linesman's judgment was extremely soft.
Wigan kept playing their football though and they got their reward five minutes after half-time, thanks to the invention of Maloney. The former Celtic man drifted in from the left, across the United area, before curling the ball past De Gea for 1-0.
Sir Alex Ferguson reacted by dragging off Wayne Rooney for Nani, and the United manager's frustration grew when a handball by Maynor Figueroa inside the area was missed by the referee. United camped in the Wigan half for the final 15 minutes, but they could not break down the disciplined home rearguard as their grip on the title loosened slightly.
Manchester City are now only five points behind their rivals after a 4-0 triumph over West Brom. The night's results mean City only need United to drop points in one further match for their title destiny to fall back into their own hands.
Roberto Mancini's men are beginning to believe again on a night that was significant for the sight of Carlos Tevez back on the starting team-sheet. Not since September had the Argentinian started a league game for City, and he marked the occasion with a goal although it was compatriot Sergio Aguero who took centre stage.
Six minutes was all it took for Aguero to brush aside several pursuers, unleashing a fine drive from 25 yards to beat Ben Foster.
The match then went noticeably quiet until news of Wigan's goal against United filtered into the stadium. Immediately Aguero doubled City's advantage with a delicious curling effort, and Tevez then heightened the noise at Eastlands with a third, assisted by Aguero.
David Silva contributed a fourth as City showed the type of form that has eluded them in recent weeks, and the Spaniard's strike was arguably the best of the night. Advancing on Foster's goal, Silva dinked the ball over the Baggies keeper to cap a good night for Mancini's men.
Arsenal are five points clear of Tottenham and fifth-placed Newcastle in the chase for Champions League qualification after they beat ten-man Wolves 3-0. Goals from Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Yossi Benayoun mean Wolves head into the last five games of the campaign nine points adrift of safety.
Wanderers boss Terry Connor made the bold call of leaving Steven Fletcher on the bench for the visit of the Gunners, but he was given little chance to be proved right as Sebastien Bassong saw red on nine minutes. The decision to send Bassong off looked harsh as he mistimed his tackle on Walcott inside the area but Van Persie gleefully punished the home side with a cheeky chip down the middle of the goal.
Within 120 seconds the game was effectively killed off as Walcott clinically converted goal number two, exchanging a one-two with Van Persie to beat Wayne Hennessey.
Arsenal took their foot off the gas for large periods of the remainder of the contest, although Benayoun added a third with 20 minutes left after Alex Song's assist.
QPR were able to capitalise on the loss of Wolves thanks to a 3-0 victory over Swansea. The result lifts Rangers two points clear of the drop zone.
Joey Barton, who had criticised the club's fans earlier in the week, quickly got them back on his side with the opener on the stroke of half-time. Jamie Mackie then doubled the home side's advantage, before the excellent Akos Buzsaky capped a superb night for Rangers.