• Premier League round-up

Rosicky at the double as Arsenal cling on to vital victory

ESPN staff
April 6, 2013
Arsenal have now put the pressure on Tottenham and Chelsea as the race for the Champions League spots hots up © Getty Images

Arsenal threw down the gauntlet to Chelsea and Tottenham in the battle for the Champions League places as they held on for a 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion with ten-men.

Tomas Rosicky fired the Gunners into a commanding position by scoring twice to put his side two goals in front. However, Per Mertesacker was dismissed for bringing down Shane Long in the box, and James Morrison brought West Brom back into the game from the penalty spot with 20 minutes remaining. Arsenal though, were able to cling on and survive a late barrage of attacks to move into fourth in the table.

Aston Villa climbed out of the relegation zone after beating Stoke 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium. Villa lead when Gabriel Agbonlahor struck nine minutes into the game. While the visitors were the better side, Stoke pegged them back, but Villa recovered to score two goals before the end to bag the win.

Norwich and Swansea could not be separated at Carrow Road in a 2-2 draw. Swansea twice stunned the home fans by going in front, and then denying the Canaries with the all-important fourth goal. In the day's early kick-off, Southampton inflicted a 2-0 defeat on former manager Nigel Adkins at Reading.

Arsenal had gone in front against the run of play as West Brom began the game brightly. Gervinho - who was the man of the match in the victory over Reading last weekend - had an attempted shot which came into Rosicky's path, and the Czech was on hand to give the Gunners the breakthrough.

While West Brom were controlling pressure and desperate to get an equaliser before the break, Arsenal produced some fantastic play and should have gone two goals up. Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla all combined to set up Aaron Ramsey, but the Welshman could not cap off the fine move.

West Brom needed to start the second period on the front foot. Instead, they were chasing shadows as Arsenal doubled their lead, and it was Rosicky once again on the score sheet, tucking away at the second time of asking after Ben Foster had thwarted him from his first powerful effort.

Arsenal were in a comfortable position, but suddenly they began to look edgy at the back, and West Brom halved the deficit in the 70th minute. Mertesacker was sent off for a foul on Long in the penalty area, and Morrison stepped up to convert the penalty straight down the middle, although Lukas Fabianski might have done better in the situation.

West Brom piled players forward in their bid for an equaliser. Romelu Lukaku was guilty of squandering their best chance after Liam Ridgwell picked out the big Belgian with a good ball. Gareth McAuley also failed to put away another decent opportunity with a header creeping inches wide of the target. Arsenal were able to ride out the storm, and hold on for a vital victory to see them leapfrog Chelsea and trail Tottenham by a point.

Aston Villa are out of the relegation zone after recording a 3-1 victory at Stoke.

Matt Lowton's fine volley helped Villa on their way to a crucial win at Stoke © Getty Images
Agbonlahor gave Villa the early lead following good work from Matt Lowton on the byline. Agbonlahor's initial shot was blocked, before the ball fell kindly back into his path to enable him to finish from close range. Villa came close to doubling their lead, but Stoke survived as Andreas Weimann was denied by the woodwork.

Stoke had hardly threatened, and the closest they came to drawing level came from Ryan Shawcross' header. Consequently, Stoke fans vented their feelings at half-time and booed their side off the pitch.

Stoke appeared to have been given a lifeline when Michael Kightly made it 1-1. Charlie Adam began the move and fed the ball into Jon Walters, and in turn Walters threaded his pass through to Kightly.

Villa were not going to let the three points slip from their grasp, and a sublime goal from Lowton gave Paul Lambert's side the lead once again. It was a strike of the highest quality, as the full-back volleyed home from all of 30 yards to break Stoke hearts. Christian Benteke added the third in the opening minute of stoppage time.

Norwich and Swansea played out a cracking 2-2 draw, but the point for Norwich will do them no favours as they remain close to the danger zone at four points clear.

Swansea thought they had scored via Michu, but a soft foul was awarded and the goal was harshly ruled out. When the visitors did have the ball in the back of the net, this time it counted, and it was star man Michu who grabbed it, smashing his shot from Jonathan De Guzman's cutback.

Michael Laudrup's men were only ahead for five minutes as Norwich quickly responded. Swans 'keeper Michel Vorm had come for a cross but could not do anything about it, and Robert Snodgrass was on hand to head in the equaliser. Norwich then turned the match in their favour as Michael Turner powered a header beyond Vorm to give his side a 2-1 advantage.

The newly-crowned League Cup winners reacted in the best possible fashion to net the fourth goal of the game via Luke Moore. Norwich failed to clear their lines from a corner, and Moore finished Angel Rangel's header back across goal to silence the home crowd.

Southampton hammered a huge nail into the coffin of their former manager Nigel Adkins, as goals from Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana consigned bottom club Reading to a 2-0 defeat.

Adkins was axed by Saints and replaced by Mauricio Pochettino. It looks like the latter will be in the Premier League next term, while Adkins may now be preparing for life in the second tier.

Rodriguez showed tremendous desire on 34 minutes to get to the ball ahead of Reading keeper Adam Federici to score for a third game in a row. The Royals failed to find a counter and Lallana broke down the middle on 72 minutes and swept the ball confidently beyond Federici.

The win takes Southampton on to 37 points and within touching distance of safety, while Reading remain on 23 points with only six games remaining.

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