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Nov 17, 2012

United, Chelsea lose ground in title race

A rampant Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League after Chelsea and Manchester United lost to West Brom and Norwich respectively on Saturday, as QPR were left stranded at the bottom of the table by the same margin after they lost an early season relegation battle against Southampton and Reading came from behind to defeat Everton.

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After Arsenal scored five to beat Tottenham in the day's early match, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero then scored twice apiece as Man City repeated that feat with a 5-0 win over Aston Villa, while Luis Suarez was again instrumental as Liverpool battered Wigan and Michu and Jonathan De Guzman notched as Swansea consigned Newcastle to another defeat.

Chelsea fell four points behind the league leaders in the title race after they were beaten 2-1 by West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.

Baggies manager Steve Clarke had spoken before the match of his side's desire to take a major scalp at home after coming so close against Manchester City earlier in the season, and that hunger and self-confidence was evident as WBA took an early lead. They needed a bit of help from the visitors, however - Shane Long taking advantage of some slack marking from David Luiz to power a header past Petr Cech from close range.

The Blues managed to get back on level terms just before half-time - as Eden Hazard profited from a deflection off Billy Jones to see his shot deceive the previously well-positioned Boaz Myhill - but the decisive goal in the second half would go to the home side, as Peter Odemwingie got his head on a Long cross to delight the home crowd.

With 40 minutes to go in the game at that point Chelsea still had plenty of time to find an equaliser, but were denied at every turn as Juan Mata, Hazard and Daniel Sturridge could find no way through in a tense final phase of the contest.

Then, in the day's evening match, Manchester United missed the chance to return to the top of the table after they were beaten 1-0 by Norwich City.

At a raucous Carrow Road, Anthony Pilkington's perfectly placed second half header was too good for United, who were unable to find an equaliser in the closing stages as Jonny Howson missed a glorious chance to kill matters off.

At the bottom of the table, Mark Hughes could face a sleepless night as he sweats about his job, after watching his QPR side beaten 3-1 at home by a Southampton side in similar relegation trouble.

With both sides coming into the game 20th and 19th in the table, speculation had run high before kick-off that the losing manager could be sacked. But Southampton were clearly up for the game from the off - and took the lead early on as Rickie Lambert put his head in where it would hurt to nod home after Jason Puncheon's shot was cleared off the line.

Puncheon - who had been the star of the show in the first half - himself then scored on the stroke of half-time to give Nigel Adkins a bit of breathing room, but only four minutes of the second half had passed before Junior Hoilett - rising highest in the penalty box to reach the header - gave Hughes' side a glimmer of hope.

But an Anton Ferdinand own goal with seven minutes remaining extinguished any remaining hopes the Loftus Road crowd had of escaping with something from the game, leaving club owner Tony Fernandes to reflect on how adamant he really is about keeping Hughes at the helm.

QPR's plight looks all the worse after Reading overcame an early deficit to pick up their first league win of the season with a 2-1 triumph against Everton at the Madejski Stadium.

Steven Naismith had put the Toffees ahead after ten minutes to give the hosts cause for concern, but - despite another influential performance from Marouane Fellaini - the Royals were not fazed. It took them until the second half to fight back but fight back they did, Adam Le Fondre equalising by heading home from a Nicky Shorey cross after 50 minutes, before converting from the penalty spot after being brought down by Seamus Coleman to give Brian McDermott a much-needed and keenly-celebrated victory.

At the Etihad Stadium, holders Manchester City had the referee to thank for giving them a relatively easy afternoon in a 5-0 victory over Aston Villa.

City owed a certain debt to Joe Hart for keeping them on level terms in the early part of the contest as Villa started the brighter. But they were ahead at half-time thanks to David Silva's opportune effort - the Spaniard cleaning up after Vincent Kompany and Carlos Tevez had both made a hash of a glorious opening.

In the second half the points were sealed, thanks to two dubious penalties. Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez converted one apiece - as Villa complained bitterly about referee Jon Moss's two decisions.

Both those goals came around the hour mark, and then Aguero scored from open play just minutes later to leave Villa simply trying to save some face. That they barely managed - Tevez completing the rout for Roberto Mancini's side with 15 minutes still to play.

In the day's early kick-off, Arsenal fell behind early against Tottenham to a goal from former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor, but he was dismissed for a wild tackle on Santi Cazorla and 10-man Spurs were soon overwhelmed in a 5-2 defeat.

A header from Per Mertesacker drew Arsenal level, before two goals in quick succession from Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud put Arsenal ahead. Cazorla slotted home from close range on the hour to put Arsenal in complete control.

Gareth Bale got his name on the scoresheet 20 minutes from time but the comeback was snuffed out by a late goal from Theo Walcott.

Brendan Rodgers enjoyed bragging rights over Roberto Martinez as his Liverpool side demolished Wigan 3-0 at Anfield - with Luis Suarez once again proving instrumental.

Martinez was strongly linked with the Reds' manager's job before Rodgers eventually took the reins in the summer, but was unable to mastermind an away victory thanks to three second half goals.

It was Suarez, so instrumental to his side all season, who again provided the cutting edge - breaking the deadlock just after half-time by taking the ball from Raheem Sterling and rifling in a low shot from ten yards, before doubling the advantage soon after with a conversion from a similar spot after running onto Jose Enrique's through-ball.

Enrique then got on the scoresheet himself - Suarez providing a sweet interchange with Sterling before the newly-capped England player saw his shot parried away by goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi. It would only fall to the Spaniard, however, who crashed the ball home to give Rodgers a comfortable triumph.

Finally, at St James' Park a mistake from Tim Krul changed the course of the contest as Swansea picked up a valuable 2-1 away victory against Newcastle.

With the hosts, shorn of Papiss Cisse due to an ongoing dispute with the Senegalese Football Association, unable to carve out many gilt-edged goalscoring chances the visitors were virtually handed the lead in the second half, after Krul wildly sliced a backpass into the path of Pablo Hernandez, who crossed for Michu to turn home.

Jonathan De Guzman then made it 2-0 with a handful of minutes left, again taking advantage of a questionably Krul parry to find the net after Danny Graham's shot was only half-denied. Demba Ba would then net in injury time, but it was not enough to spark a full comeback.

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