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Festive mood for Manchester City

Manchester City closed the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United in dramatic fashion as Gareth Barry’s stoppage-time winner clinched a crucial 1-0 victory over Reading on Saturday. With United not in action until Sunday’s trip to Swansea, Roberto Mancini’s team desperately needed to put pressure on their bitter rivals and they finally seized the opportunity in the closing minutes at Eastlands.

Gareth Barry
Man City’s Gareth Barry (2nd left) climbs above Reading defenders to score on Saturday. PIC/AFP

After labouring to break down struggling Reading for long periods, the champions broke the deadlock when England midfielder Barry headed home from a David Silva cross. That was enough to move City within three points of United and keep their title challenge alive heading into the busy Christmas programme, while Reading stay bottom after their 11th defeat of the season.

Arsenal rise to third
Elsewhere, Arsenal climbed to third place as Mikel Arteta’s second half penalty sealed a 1-0 win over Wigan at the DW Stadium. The only goal of a scrappy encounter arrived in the 60th minute when Spanish midfielder Arteta fired home from the spot after referee Jonathan Moss gave a penalty for Jean Beausejour’s clip on Theo Walcott.

For all the talk of a crisis enveloping Arsene Wenger’s side after their humiliating League Cup defeat at League Two minnows Bradford, the Gunners have now won their last three league matches and are back in the race to secure a Champions League place. “It was very important because we beat West Brom at home and now we have two away wins,” Wenger said.

“It was a difficult game because they stopped us from playing. I believe they are in the wrong position in the table.” Meanwhile, Newcastle ended a miserable run of six defeats from their last seven league games as Shola Ameobi clinched a 1-0 victory against QPR at St James’ Park.

Tottenham totter
Tottenham slipped down to fifth place after being held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Stoke at White Hart Lane as Everton surged into fourth place with a 2-1 win over West Ham at Upton Park. Andre Villas-Boas’s side could have gone third with a victory but instead they dropped out of the Champions League places after a dour encounter.

Villas-Boas and his assistant Steffen Freund regularly complained about the physicality of Stoke, who had four players booked, but the visitors, well marshalled by defenders Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth, were worth a draw.

Even Gareth Bale, returning to the Tottenham side after his hamstring injury, couldn’t break down the Stoke back-four and Tony Pulis’s team.
West Bromwich Albion also remain in the hunt for a top-four finish after a 2-1 win against Norwich at The Hawthorns left them sixth and level on points with Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham.

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