Premier League: Spurs, Villa capitalise on City-Liverpool stalemate
While Saturday's programme of five matches centred around the battle for the Premier League title, Sunday's games threw new light on the battle for European places after Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa stole a march in the race for fourth place by winning when Manchester City and Liverpool could only draw 0-0 at Eastlands.
A game short on attacking flow and quality of football between City and Liverpool saw few chances for either side, with Emmanuel Adebayor's shot being saved by Pepe Reina the home team's best chance while Martin Skrtel's missed a first-half headed chance for Liverpool. A couple of penalty claims were exchanged too, with Adebayor feeling he had been tugged back by Daniel Agger while Yossi Benayoun played on when he could have gone down under a Vincent Kompany hack.
The goalless scoreline suited City best, in that they still have a game in hand on Liverpool and are a point ahead of Rafa Benitez's men. All eyes then turned to the late kick-off at the DW Stadium where Tottenham Hotspur were taking on Wigan Athletic.
Spurs made heavy weather of their task, understandable considering the state of the Lancastrian pitch before eventually beating the Latics 3-0.
Jermain Defoe's opener was clearly offside and referee Alan Wiley was not helped by his assistant's lack of a flag. Wigan made significant efforts to equalise before Roman Pavlyuchenko came on as a late sub to score two strikes that put Spurs into fourth place, though there remains only a single point between all four contenders. Villa, briefly in fourth, are back in seventh.
Bolton Wanderers find themselves in deep relegation danger after their lax defending was punished by a 3-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, in a happy lunchtime encounter for former Trotters boss Sam Allardyce.
The same could not be said of new Bolton boss Owen Coyle, who has now won just two games from ten since joining from Burnley. Niko Kalinic's first-half goal may have been deflected past an unlucky Jussi Jaaskelainen but both Jason Roberts and Gael Givet scored strikes that owed plenty to poor defensive play from the visitors.
Wanderers remain in the relegation zone alongside Burnley, Coyle's former charges, who continued their pathetic away record with a thorough 5-2 humbling at Aston Villa after taking a first-half lead through Steven Fletcher. An Ashley Young strike which dribbled through a group of Burnley defenders presented Villa with parity at the break before they ran riot in the second half.
Owen Coyle speaks to ESPN after Bolton's defeat.
Stewart Downing ended his long wait for a first Villa goal in the 56th minute but waited only two minutes for his second, both coming by virtue of comedic defending. Emile Heskey made it three goals in five minutes when poking in from close range before Gabriel Agbonlahor made it five to place Villa firmly in the hunt for Champions League football in 2010-11. Burnley scored late on through Martin Paterson but boss Brian Laws is under increasing pressure.
Fulham warmed up for their midweek Euro trip to Ukraine with a last-gasp defeat of Birmingham City. Bobby Zamora made it 2-1 in the last minute at Craven Cottage. Blues had taken the lead through a Chris Baird own-goal before Damien Duff struck a minute short of the hour. Zamora's injury-time free-kick took Fulham a place above Birmingham in the table.