Advantage Spurs in race for fourth

Arsenal go top with win over West Ham after Tottenham firm up hold on ECL spot.

    Former Chelsea and Barca striker Gudjohnsen celebrates with Kranjcar [GALLO/GETTY]

    Tottenham Hotspur pulled away from Liverpool and Aston Villa in the race for the fourth European Champions League spot with a 2-0 win over Stoke City.

    Goals from Eidur Gudjohnsen and Niko Kranjcar earned Spurs the win against a Stoke side reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Dean Whitehead was dismissed.

    Victory took them on to 55 points from 30 matches, four points ahead of Liverpool, who face leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

    Aston Villa, also in the race for the English Premier League's last qualifying spot for Europe's top competition, stumbled in their lunchtime kickoff when they were held to a 2-2 draw by relegation-threatened local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers.

    Villa stay in seventh place on 50 points.

    Gunners go top

    Arsenal, who last won the Premier League in 2004 and have not lifted any silverware since landing the FA Cup the following year, went to the top of the table with a 2-0 home win over West Ham United in the late match.

    Denilson scored an early opener from the edge of the box and Cesc Fabregas struck a second-half penalty after West Ham missed a spot kick of their own.

    The Gunners also appear to have an easier run-in than title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea.

    "My players have always believed (we can do it) and I believe we can as well," manager Arsene Wenger, who was incensed at the sending off of Thomas Vermaelen for the visitors' penalty, told the BBC.

    "That is what champions believe – when no-one else believes you must believe you can do it."

    Defeat from victory

    Hull City, playing their first game under new coach Iain Dowie and battling against the drop, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as they lost 3-2 at bottom club Portsmouth, who scored twice in the last two minutes to seal a rare win.

    Results & fixtures

    Saturday March 20

     Everton 2-0 Bolton
     Portsmouth 3-2 Hull
     Stoke City 1-2 Tottenham
     Sunderland 3-1 Birmingham
     Wigan 1-0 Burnley
     Arsenal 2-0 West Ham

    Sunday March 21

     Man Utd v Liverpool
     Fulham v Man City
     Blackburn v Chelsea

    Portsmouth, who were effectively condemned to relegation earlier this week when the Premier League imposed a nine-point penalty for the club going into administration, were 2-1 down with three minutes left at Fratton Park.

    But goals in quick succession from Jamie O'Hara and Nigerian  veteran Nwankwo Kanu gave Avram Grant's side their fourth win of the campaign and left Hull to rue their failure to close out a match in which they twice led.

    In the other afternoon matches, Everton beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0, Sunderland beat Birmingham City 3-1 and Wigan Athletic beat Burnley 1-0 with an injury-time Hugo Rodallega goal.

    Mikel Arteta's superb free kick put Everton on course for their seventh consecutive home league victory.

    Hauled down

    The game had appeared to be heading towards stalemate until the 70th minute when Bolton full-back Gretar Steinsson hauled down Aiyegbeni Yakubu as he chased towards goal in pursuit of a Steven Pienaar through ball.

    Rodallega boosted Wigan's survival hopes and left Burnley in despair [GALLO/GETTY]

    Referee Alan Wiley showed Steinsson a straight red card and Arteta added to the punishment by placing a superb 20-yard shot past the Bolton wall, leaving goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen rooted to the spot.

    The last-minute second goal, from Pienaar, arrived as the South African slotted the ball into an empty net from 15 yards after substitute Leon Osman did well to keep the ball alive on the by-line.

    At the Stadium of Light Darren Bent scored twice as Sunderland moved closer to Premier League safety.

    Steve Bruce's team are now 10 points clear of the relegation  zone after Bent's double and a Fraizer Campbell goal.

    Bruce's former team Wigan also edged closer to safety with Colombian Rodallega's late winner in a dour match at the DW Stadium.

    Rodallega's goal – his second decisive strike in four matches having scored in the 1-0 win over Liverpool a fortnight ago – sees Wigan move seven points clear of the drop zone but leaves Burnley in real trouble, with just one win in nearly five months and only one away point all season.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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