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Mar 19, 2011

Berbatov takes United five clear

A huge blunder from Manuel Almunia cost Arsenal dearly as they could only draw 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns and lose ground on Premier League leaders Manchester United, who defeated Bolton 1-0 at home.

• Holden heads for hospital
• Premier League Gallery Photo Gallery

With Aaron Ramsey making his return to the starting line-up and Jens Lehmann on the bench, much of the pre-match focus was on Arsenal's need to recover from recent setbacks. But West Brom threw an immediate spanner in the works thanks to Steven Reid, who steered a header home from Chris Brunt's corner to give his side the lead inside three minutes.

The Gunners struggled to find a way back into the match, and shortly after half-time were punished once again after an individual error that is unlikely to have pleased Arsene Wenger. Sebastien Squillaci appeared to be struggling to deal with Peter Odemwingie's attentions after a long ball over the top from Youssouf Mulumbu, but Almunia would surprise both players by rushing 25 yards out of his goal to try and clear the danger - only succeeding in allowing Odemwingie to evade both men unchallenged and slot home into the unguarded net.

Eventually, though, that would spark the Gunners back into life - with Andrei Arshavin giving his side hope after a fine finish with 20 minutes left. The diminutive Russian exchanged passes with Marouane Chamakh on the edge of the area, before curling a beautiful effort past Scott Carson. Barely ten minutes later they were level, with Van Persie bundling the ball home. As much as they tried, however, the Gunners failed to find an all-important winner over the closing minutes - something they could rue as title rivals Manchester United belatedly snatched all three points against Bolton Wanderers with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.

With Sir Alex Ferguson watching from the stands as he served the first of his five-game touchline ban, neither side managed to dominate proceedings - with both restricted predominantly to shots from range. But Jonny Evans' second-half sending off for a dangerous tackle on Stuart Holden seemed to open up the play, as shortly afterwards Holden's replacement, Matthew Taylor, spurned a glorious opportunity in front of goal when it looked easier to score.

Owen Coyle's men would then be punished brutally for that profligacy, as Jussi Jaaskelainen turned Nani's tame shot straight into the path of Dimitar Berbatov, who scored what could prove a crucial winner.

At the bottom end of the table, Wigan Athletic came from behind to engineer what could prove an equally defining 2-1 victory against fellow strugglers Birmingham City.

Liam Ridgewell's early strike was cancelled out by efforts from Tom Cleverley and Maynor Figueroa, who found the back of the net from around 25 yards out with barely any time remaining to prevent the Latics being stranded in the relegation zone and draw Birmingham into the mire with them.

Tottenham Hotspur were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw with West Ham in the Premier League's early kick-off, despite dominating much of the match and hitting the woodwork on three occasions. Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale all saw efforts rebound away off the frame of the goal, while Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko came up against Robert Green in fine form as their search for a winner entered the final five minutes.

FA Cup semi-finalists Stoke City breezed past Newcastle United 4-0 to ease their relegation worries. Jonathan Walters scored Stoke's first goal from open play in almost two months, as the former Ipswich Town forward rose well to nod Jermaine Pennant's cross beyond Steve Harper.

Newcastle looked threatening but failed to find an equaliser before the break, and were made to pay for that as Stoke re-emerged to grab two goals in quick succession. Pennant scored a goal of his own - inadvertently assisted by defender Sol Campbell, who struggled for much of the afternoon - before Danny Higginbotham rifled another free-kick through a poorly-organised wall to put the game beyond any doubt with 40 minutes still remaining. The Magpies kept pushing forward, but in the end they were punished as Ricardo Fuller added a fourth.

Blackpool were another team left to bemoan a goalkeeping error, as Junior Hoilett took advantage of a Richard Kingson misjudgement to grab a 2-2 draw for Blackburn Rovers.

After a subdued opening, Blackpool were initially feeling hard done by as Luke Varney's goal was disallowed for offside - although television replays would prove that decision to be correct. But they were subsequently given a massive slice of luck as referee Howard Webb adjudged Ryan Nelsen to have brought down Gary Taylor-Fletcher inside the box and, despite vociferous protests from the home side, Charlie Adam made no mistake in stroking the penalty home.

Adam then grabbed his second just minutes later, this time from a free-kick that he expertly curled over the wall and beyond goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Eventually, however, the hosts got back in the match - with Samba given the time to control the ball and then lash it home inside the box after Hoilett and Mame Biram Diouf saw efforts blocked. And it was Hoilett who would be the hero late on, finding himself in the right place at the right time as Kingson flapped at a cross to divert the ball home and keep both sides outside the drop zone.

In the Midlands derby at Villa Park, Wolves took bragging rights over a subdued Aston Villa with a 1-0 win. Matthew Jarvis scored the visitors' only goal of the game, striking Kevin Doyle's knock-on beyond Brad Friedel. Mick McCarthy's side got the ball in the back of the net on two further occasions in the first half, seeing both disallowed by the officials, but that proved to have no effect on the outcome as Wolves brought themselves within one goal of safety.

Seamus Coleman and Louis Saha struck as David Moyes began his tenth year as Everton manager as his started his first, by beating Fulham. in a 2-1 win. Coleman ignited a hitherto drab Premier League affair at Goodison Park with a well-placed header ten minutes before the break.

Former Fulham striker Saha doubled the Toffees' lead from a free-kick early in the second half but a Clint Dempsey strike prevented the home side easing to victory.

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