- Premier League round-up
QPR hold City, Newcastle win at Villa
A Julio Cesar-inspired QPR did a defensive number on Manchester City to grind out a 0-0 draw and leave the champions four points adrift Manchester United. Newcastle earned their first three points of 2013 with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa while Stoke and Swansea were also held to a tie by Wigan and Sunderland.
Kick-off at Loftus Road came just hours after AC Milan claimed they had signed Mario Balotelli on a four-and-a-half year deal and Roberto Mancini will be worried that none of the club's remaining strikers could find the net against the league's bottom club.
QPR named two goalkeepers on their bench and Cesar must have been feeling under pressure from their presence as he made a hash of dealing with two early crosses. But the Brazilian recovered to repeatedly deny City from taking all three points.
Just before half-time he produced a stunning save to stop Gareth Barry scoring and in the last 10 minutes he stopped David Silva from six yards. City did find the net in the first half but Sergio Aguero's tap-in was ruled out for offside.
Edin Dzeko was thrown on by Mancini on the hour mark in place of Samir Nasri as City switched to two up front. He gave City more shape and the champions constructed their best attack of the game as James Milner lofted a ball into Pablo Zabaleta's path. The right-back headed the ball back to Aguero but the forward hit his volley well off target.
With 10 minutes to go City were in fluid form and Dzeko set up Silva for his chance but the QPR goalkeeper was there. City then had two late penalty shouts turned away and are now four points behind United while QPR remain on the bottom but are now on 16 points.
Newcastle saw off a spirited Aston Villa comeback in the second half to win 2-1 and ease their own relegation fears while pushing the Villains into the drop zone.
The January transfer window has seen Newcastle's squad undergo a French-flavoured revamp and it took less than 20 minutes for the club's spending to start paying off. Midfielder Moussa Sissoko, signed from Toulouse, played in Papiss Cisse who took two touches while the Villa defence hesitated before sliding the ball past Brad Guzan.
It was another Frenchman, Yohan Cabaye, who doubled the visitors' lead with a superb solo strike from distance on the half-hour mark. Ron Vlaar's weak headed clearance fell to Cabaye and, under no pressure, he smashed the ball to the left of Guzan, leaving him no chance of stopping it.
But Villa were a different side from the start of the second-half as Paul Lambert introduced Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor and their effect was immediate. Mathieu Debuchy was adjudged to have bundled over Agbonlahor in the box, Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Christian Benteke converted expertly. But try as they might the hosts could not find the elusive goal and now lie 18th in the table.
Wigan came back from 2-0 down to share the points with Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. The visitors made a terrible start as they allowed a pedestrian free-kick from Charlie Adam to lead to the first goal. Adam's ball sparked a small melee in the box and it spurted out for Ryan Shawcross to volley home from six yards.
Peter Crouch then scored his first goal in 18 games to give Stoke a 2-0 advantage as he tapped in the rebound after Ali Al-Habsi parried Adam's shot. But Wigan soon pegged them back through a goal by James McArthur who arrived late in the box to shoot with the outside of his right foot from Roger Espinoza's pinpoint through ball.
Ten minutes later, the pair combined again to create the equaliser for Franco Di Santo. Espinoza charged down the left and found McArthur, who headed the ball back across and Di Santo volleyed it home to complete the turnaround. Shaun Maloney for Wigan and Cameron Jerome for Stoke both had chances to win the game but the match somehow ended in a draw.
Swansea had the bulk of the chances against Sunderland but played out a largely uneventful 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light. The Swans were in control for most of the match and good chances fell to Nathan Dyer and centre-half Chico Flores.
A penalty shout was also waved away for the visitors after Itay Shechter went down under contact from Black Cats captain John O'Shea in the fifth minute. But the best chance fell to substitute Danny Graham at the death, in potentially his last game in a Swans shirt, but Titus Bramble saved the day for the hosts by blocking the striker's shot from six yards.