• Premier League

Arsenal threaten Chelsea, Villa slip up against West Ham

ESPN staff
January 18, 2010
Fran Merida and Cesc Fabregas celebrate as Arsenal beat Bolton © Getty Images

Arsenal earned themselves the chance to top the Premier League by overcoming Owen Coyle's Bolton 2-0 in the game of the day on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger's men face Bolton again at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, and a repeat scoreline would see The Gunners assume top spot. Chelsea are currently three points clear having played the same number of games and have a two-goal advantage when it comes to goal difference.

Cesc Fabregas was the Arsenal puppeteer, producing yet another commanding performance upon his return from injury, scoring the first and playing a significant role in the second for Fran Merida. Substitute Merida had earlier replaced Craig Eastmond, who was making his full Premier League bow for Wenger's side.

Coyle will have taken plenty of positives out of the Bolton performance, which could have seen the dangerous Matt Taylor bag a hat-trick on another day. The former Portsmouth man missed a carbon copy of Merida's goal just moments before the Spaniard struck the killer blow.

Aston Villa blew the chance to go level with Tottenham and Manchester City in fourth place, stumbling to a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham.

Martin O'Neill's men showed distinct signs of tiredness after their midweek Carling Cup win at Blackburn, yet they still almost snatched all three points when James Milner shaved a post. James Tompkins and Matthew Upson were outstanding for The Hammers.

And at the bottom end of the table, Blackburn had their centre backs to thank as they overcame Fulham 2-0 at Ewood Park.

Chris Samba handed Rovers a fortuitous opener before fellow defender Ryan Nelson wrapped things up with a subtle glance on Benni McCarthy's free kick. Clint Dempsey went off with a serious injury for Fulham, casting doubts over his World Cup prospects.

Victory lifts Blackburn five points clear of the relegation zone having played the extra game, allowing manager Sam Allardyce some much-needed breathing space as his side climbs to 12th in the table.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.