LONDON: Arsenal maintained their push for the English Premier League title with a 2-0 win away to Bolton Wanderers on Sunday.
Goals from Spanish midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida helped leave the third-placed Gunners just three points behind leaders and London rivals Chelsea after Owen Coyle’s first match as Bolton manager ended in defeat.
Arsenal took the lead in typically attractive style in the 28th minute when Fabregas
played a rapid one-two with Eduardo on the edge of the box before shooting into the far corner. Matt Taylor had chances to equalise for Bolton, who remain in the relegation zone, and his failure to score was punished when Eduardo’s cross was helped on by Bolton’s Zat Knight and Merida, following a clever touch, scored with a precise shot from eight yards out.
Earlier, Aston Villa failed to make the most of slip-ups by their Champions League rivals in a goalless draw at home to strugglers West Ham. The point at Villa Park saw Martin O’Neill’s men stay sixth in the English Premier League table, two places outside the Champions League spots, after a Saturday where fourth-placed Tottenham were held to a goalless draw by Hull, Manchester City lost to Everton and Liverpool drew 1-1 with Stoke. League Cup semi-finalists Villa have now not won, and not scored, in the league since beating Stoke 1-0 on December 19.
“The issue today was we were unable to score a goal but it was a big effort by my players considering we played in the Carling (League) Cup semi-final only on Thursday,” O’Neill said. The draw was a boost for West Ham, lifting the London club out of the relegation zone. “Away from home it’s a good result,” Hammers captain Matthew Upson told Sky Sports. “We’re improving. Hopefully we can maintain that to the end of the season.”
Elsewhere, Blackburn Rovers moved up two positions into 12th place with a 2-0 win at home to Fulham, both goals at Ewood Park scored by defenders from set-pieces. Chris Samba opened the scoring in the 25th minute after Benni McCarthy’s corner to the near-post had been cleared off the line by Damien Duff. South Africa’s McCarthy was also involved in Rovers’ second goal, after half-time, when New Zealand defender and Blackburn captain Ryan Nelsen headed in his free-kick.