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City cruise, Chelsea slip, United close on title

LONDON (AFP) –

Sunderland defender Danny Rose (R) vies with Manchester United striker Robin van Persie (L) on March 30, 2013

Sunderland’s English defender Danny Rose (R) vies with Manchester United‘s Dutch striker Robin van Persie (L) during the English Premier League football match at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland on March 30, 2013. Manchester United won the game 1-0.

Manchester City pounced on a stumble from Chelsea to tighten their grip on second place in the Premier League on Saturday, after Manchester United took another stride towards the title.

United’s 1-0 win at Sunderland had given them an 18-point lead but City cut their advantage back to 15 points ahead of the forthcoming Manchester derby by crushing Newcastle United 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

Carlos Tevez slid in to convert Gael Clichy’s cross in the 41st minute and David Silva made it 2-0 before half-time when he collected Samir Nasri’s pass and rifled a shot into the bottom-right corner.

Making his first appearance in two months, City captain Vincent Kompany added a third in the 56th minute with a flick from Gareth Barry’s low shot, and an own goal from James Perch made Newcastle’s misery complete.

“Samir Nasri played very well and if we play like this we won’t have a problem in the last couple of months of the season,” said City manager Roberto Mancini.

“It’s important to get second place and to win the FA Cup semi-final next week.”

Manchester City's striker Carlos Tevez (L) vies with Newcastle United's midfielder Moussa Sissoko (R) on March 30, 2013

Manchester City’s Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez (L) vies with Newcastle United’s French midfielder Moussa Sissoko (R) during the English Premier League football match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on March 30, 2013. Manchester City won the game 4-0.

City now have a five-point cushion in second place after Chelsea saw their hopes of Champions League qualification compromised in a 2-1 loss at Southampton.

Jay Rodriguez put the hosts ahead in the 23rd minute, exchanging passes with Steven Davis and coolly steering the ball past the advancing Petr Cech.

Chelsea captain John Terry equalised in the 33rd minute, heading in from a corner, but Rickie Lambert restored the hosts’ lead two minutes later when he swept home a superb free-kick from 25 yards.

“We are really disappointed,” said interim Chelsea coach Rafael Benitez.

“We were giving the ball away too easily. The players playing today were playing to be in the Champions League next season.”

Southampton have now beaten City, Liverpool and Chelsea at home this year, and Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur were the chief beneficiaries of their latest success.

Spurs won 2-1 at Swansea City to leapfrog Chelsea into third place, although they have played a game more.

Tottenham Hotspur's Welsh midfielder Gareth Bale (R) celebrates in front of home fans after scoring on March 30, 2013

Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh midfielder Gareth Bale (R) runs to celebrate in front of the home fans after scoring against Swansea City during the Premiership match at The Liberty Stadium in Swansea on March 30, 2013. Tottenham won the game 2-1.

Jan Vertonghen’s classy finish put Tottenham ahead in the 17th minute and the Belgian then teed up man-of-the-moment Gareth Bale to beat Michel Vorm with a vicious strike from outside the area.

Michu replied with a 71st-minute header, but Spurs held on.

Fifth-place Arsenal closed to within just two points of Chelsea after a 4-1 win at home to Reading, who sank to the foot of the table in new manager Nigel Adkins’ first game in charge.

Goals from Gervinho, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud saw Arsenal construct a 3-0 lead inside 67 minutes, with Mikel Arteta adding a fourth from the penalty spot after Hal Robson-Kanu had hit back for the visitors.

Everton also took advantage of Chelsea’s slip-up with a 1-0 win at home to Stoke City that left David Moyes’ side four points below the top four in sixth.

Chelsea's English defender John Terry (L) vies with Southampton's English striker Rickie Lambert (R) on March 30, 2013

Chelsea’s English defender John Terry (L) vies with Southampton’s English striker Rickie Lambert (R) during the English Premier League football match at St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, England, on March 30, 2013. Southampton won the game 2-1.

Kevin Mirallas settled the game with a fine solo effort in the 28th minute, surging forward from the halfway line and wrong-footing Geoff Cameron before sliding the ball past goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Earlier, Manchester United took a step closer to a 20th English league title by grinding out a 1-0 win at Sunderland.

With an FA Cup quarter-final replay at Chelsea on Monday, United manager Alex Ferguson rested Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, and saw his side score the game’s only goal in the 27th minute when Titus Bramble diverted Robin van Persie’s drilled shot into his own goal.

Victory was especially sweet for United as Sunderland’s fans had celebrated exuberantly at the Stadium of Light on the final day of last season when United found out they had been pipped to the title by City.

“They weren’t the only fans who enjoyed that, but that’s gone now,” United midfielder Michael Carrick told Sky Sports.

“It was about coming here, getting the points, ticking the game off, and keeping the run going.”

Defeat left Sunderland four points above the relegation zone in 16th place, although they have played at least a game more than the teams immediately below them.

Elsewhere on Saturday, an 81st-minute goal from Arouna Kone gave Wigan Athletic a 1-0 win at home to Norwich City that hauled Roberto Martinez’s side out of the relegation zone at Aston Villa’s expense.

Meanwhile, Andy Carroll scored twice, with Gary O’Neil also on target, as West Ham United eased their own relegation fears by beating West Bromwich Albion 3-1.

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