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Apr 13, 2013

Arsenal surges late to thwart Norwich

Arsenal struck three late goals Saturday to move back into the top four of the Premier League and deny Norwich with a 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.

With Chelsea and Tottenham not in action this weekend because of the FA Cup semifinals, the Gunners had the chance to put Champions League qualification back in their own hands.

However, the Canaries -- who still need a couple of wins to secure top-flight status -- produced a resolute battling display and took the lead on 56 minutes through Michael Turner's close-range header.

With the clock ticking, Arsenal was handed a way back into the match when the assistant referee spotted a shirt pull on Olivier Giroud by Kei Kamara. Mikel Arteta kept his cool from the spot to level, before Giroud's close-range effort turned the match around and substitute Lukas Podolski wrapped things up in stoppage time.

Arsenal host Everton here on Tuesday night and then head to Fulham before Spurs play against Manchester City next weekend, and so could open up a significant gap on its north-London rivals.

Chris Hughton's men, meanwhile, must now regroup for the visit of Reading and games with Stoke and Aston Villa, which will ultimately define the end to their season.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere returned from an ankle injury, and although fellow England international Theo Walcott was also fit again, but was named on the bench while captain Thomas Vermaelen returned to defense in place of suspended Per Mertesacker.

Norwich beat Arsenal at home in October, starting a 10-match undefeated run, but has since stalled in 2013.

In stoppage time, Giroud's bullet header from a corner was deflected behind by Scotland defender Steven Whittaker.

There was more purpose from Arsenal following the restart, if again without much penetration in the final third.

Arsenal was level with just two minutes left from the penalty spot.

Following a corner, the assistant on the far side spotted a shirt pull by Kamara on Giroud -- which Norwich protested, and Bunn was shown a yellow card.

When calm was eventually restored, Arteta kept his nerve to guide the ball into the bottom-right corner just past Bunn's dive.

Arsenal turned things around when substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain darted to the left and cut the ball back, where Giroud stabbed it home just ahead of Bassong's challenge.

After Jonny Howson's snapshot was saved by Fabianski, it finished 3-1 to flatter the Gunners when Podolski turned to drill home from 18 yards.

Liverpool 0, Reading 0

Brendan Rodgers endured a highly-frustrating return to Reading as a remarkable performance from keeper Alex McCarthy saw Liverpool held to a goalless draw.

Time and again McCarthy came to the Royals' rescue by producing a succession of world-class saves to deny Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.

The academy product, who recently recovered from shoulder surgery, only started the match after Adam Federici was ruled out with an ankle problem.

Chance after chance went begging before the interval and apart from a bright spell from Reading midway through the second half when Noel Hunt and Jobi McAnuff could have scored, they were in full control.

The final 10 minutes saw Liverpool lay siege to the home goal and while Sturridge was guilty of butchering a match-winning opportunity, Suarez could only stare in disbelief as he was foiled by the terrific McCarthy twice in quick succession.

Aston Villa 1, Fulham 1

Aston Villa missed the chance to pull well clear of the relegation zone as Fabian Delph's bad day proved costly against Fulham.

Paul Lambert's side had been unlucky not to have led at the break but Charles N'Zogbia finally made the breakthrough before the hour mark at Villa Park.

However, Delph's own goal, combined with a glaring miss in the 73rd minute, allowed Fulham to go home with a point and denied Villa the chance to go five points clear of the bottom three.

Villa headed into the match seemingly timing their pull from relegation perfectly, winning three of its past four to leave it two points clear of the drop zone heading into the game, with rivals Sunderland and Wigan not in action Saturday.

Villa was without in-form forward Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was presumably ruled out with injury or illness and replaced by N'Zogbia.

Fulham suffered a blow in the 10th minute when Damien Duff was forced off with a leg injury and replaced by Stanislav Manolev in an otherwise quiet opening period.

Ashley Westwood's 24th-minute corner caused Fulham a moment of anxiety before Christian Benteke side-footed over from just outside the six-yard box when he should have added to his overall tally of 19 goals from Andreas Weimann's ball in.

Everton 2, QPR 0

A deflected strike from Darron Gibson -- Everton's 50th goal in the Premier League this season -- and a smart finish from Victor Anichebe five minutes either side of halftime secured a victory the hosts were just not made to work for.

With five matches remaining the Londoners are seven points from safety and they simply have to win their next two games against Stoke and Reading -- the clubs closest to them in their remaining fixtures -- to even stand a chance of surviving.

But it will take performances significantly improved from this one as it failed to put up a fight against the European football-chasing Toffees, who were themselves far from at their best.

QPR's future looked bleak even before kickoff with just two wins in its past 11 matches but what made its performance strange was that, despite their obvious predicament, there appeared no real heart for the battle within the team.

Southhampton 1, West Ham 1

Andy Carroll earned West Ham a hard-fought point in miserable conditions at Southampton, bringing the hosts' three-match winning streak to an end.

The on-loan 24-year-old missed last weekend's trip to parent club Liverpool and made an immediate impact on his return to Sam Allardyce's starting lineup.

Having proved a nuisance all afternoon, the striker fired low past Artur Boruc to deny Southampton a fourth win in a row.

Saints came closest to breaking the deadlock in a nondescript first half, with Jussi Jaaskelainen somehow tipping a close-range Rickie Lambert effort onto the post.

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