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Arsenal late show keeps Euro ambitions on track

ESPN staff
April 13, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Olivier Giroud helped bundle home Arsenal's winner, although the goal has been credited to Sebastien Bassong © Getty Images
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Arsenal scored three times in seven minutes - having trailed in the 85th - to maintain their pursuit of Champions League football on Saturday, and Everton are moving into their slipstream thanks to victory over QPR. Reading look increasingly likely to join Rangers in the Championship next season despite a draw with Liverpool, and Aston Villa remain concerned after they were held by Fulham.

Premier League table and results

Arsenal made it seven wins from their last eight league outings with a 3-1 triumph over Norwich at Emirates Stadium, lifting them above Chelsea and Tottenham. Goals from Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski - in addition to a Sebastien Bassong own goal - did the damage for Arsene Wenger's men, who trailed to Michael Turner's opener until the 85th minute.

Norwich will still fear the prospect of being dragged into the bottom three after defeat left them four points clear of 18th-placed Wigan - having played two extra matches.

Olivier Giroud came closest to breaking the deadlock for Arsenal in the opening half-hour, glancing Bacary Sagna's cross across goal and shaving the woodwork. The returning Jack Wilshere looked slightly rusty in the middle of the Arsenal midfield, but Santi Cazorla was on the ball frequently as another chance came and went for Giroud before half-time.

However, the game changed in the 56th minute when Turner was afforded a free header at a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, burying his effort into the bottom corner. Arsenal's response was initially poor, barely fashioning a chance in the next 20 minutes, but a tugged shirt by Kei Kamara allowed Arteta to net a penalty in the 85th minute.

Boosted by a wall of noise from their home support, Arsenal then found a winner when Giroud bundled the ball home with the help of Bassong, before Podolski made things safe from Theo Walcott's assist.

Everton's dream of Champions League football remains a realistic prospect after a 2-0 win at home to QPR moved them within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea. David Moyes' men have played the extra game, but strikes from Darron Gibson and Victor Anichebe intensified pressure on Rafael Benitez's side, who face a tough run-in.

Defeat for QPR leaves them seven points from safety with five games to play, and the breakthrough goal came laced with misfortune as Gibson's drive deflected past Julio Cesar off Clint Hill.

However, it was hard to argue that Everton didn't deserve their lead and they battered away at the QPR defence in the second half. A second arrived when Anichebe flicked home at a set-piece, and the Toffees could have added more by the final whistle.

Liverpool stood united to remember the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy © Getty Images
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Reading are in the same position as QPR, on 24 points, after they drew 0-0 with Liverpool at the Madejski. Liverpool's outside hopes of securing European football for next season are surely now over after Reading keeper Alex McCarthy had a stormer.

Liverpool were first to threaten, Luis Suarez dinking the ball over the home keeper but Chris Gunter was there to head off the line. Suarez then played Daniel Sturridge behind the defence, but his first touch allowed the Reading defence to get bodies in the way of the eventual shot.

The visitors continued to dominate, with Suarez and Steven Gerrard both denied before McCarthy made a world class point-blank save to deny Sturridge. The pattern continued after the break, with Philippe Coutinho's classy back-heeled finish ruled out for offside after Gerrard's cross.

Noel Hunt had Reading's best chance when Pepe Reina produced a stunning block with his feet, and the Liverpool keeper needed to be sharp again to tip over from Jobi McAnuff. Liverpool were still the dominant force though and McCarthy produced two more world class stops to deny Gerrard and Suarez in the dying minutes.

Aston Villa only managed to put three points between themselves and the bottom three - having played two extra games - after a 1-1 draw with Fulham at Villa Park. Charles N'Zogbia handed Paul Lambert's side the lead on home soil but a Fabian Delph own goal pegged them back.

N'Zogbia was only in the team due to the enforced absence of Gabriel Agbonlahor, but he produced a special finish early in the second period to hand Villa the lead. It lasted only 11 minutes though as Delph found his own net at a corner, silencing a nervy Villa crowd.

Elsewhere, Southampton and West Ham failed to leapfrog Fulham into the top half, drawing 1-1 at St Mary's. Gaston Ramirez's goal pushed Saints ahead but Andy Carroll pegged them back.

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