Arsenal Eyes Top-four Finish; Saints Stay Alive

Gunners 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion lift them to fourth in the Premier League table.

Arsenal’s push for a place in the Champions League for a 16th successive season continued yesterday when two Tomas Rosicky goals gave them a 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion and lifted them to fourth in the Premier League table.

Aston Villa eased their relegation worries by winning 3-1 at Stoke City and Southampton virtually guaranteed their safety with a 2-0 victory at Reading who look doomed.

The day’s other match between Norwich City and Swansea City ended in a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road.

Arsenal claimed their sixth win in seven league games despite having German center back Per Mertesacker sent off 19 minutes from time for a foul on Albion striker Shane Long.

James Morrison scored from the resulting penalty but Arsenal hung on for the three points that took them on to 56 points from 31 matches, one behind arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur who are third on 57, also from 31 games. They are one ahead of Chelsea who slipped back to fifth on 55 points from 30 games.

Spurs are at home to Everton and Chelsea host Sunderland today, but even if they both win and Arsenal finish the weekend back in fifth place, the Gunners have served notice of their intent after being outside the top four since before Christmas.

The race for third and fourth places looks to be between the three London rivals with Manchester United and Manchester City, who meet at Old Trafford on Monday, looking set to finish first and second.

Celtic made to wait

In Scotland, meanwhile, Celtic’s coronation as champion must wait at least another week despite a convincing 3-0 win against Hibernian yesterday.

Second-place Motherwell’s 2-2 draw at home to St.−Mirren left Celtic 15 points ahead with five matches remaining in the Scottish Premier League, so a point in the leaders’ next match will seal a second straight title.

Playmaker Kris Commons scored twice and right back Mikael Lustig grabbed the other goal for Neil Lennon’s side at Parkhead, as Celtic claimed a 13th win in 17 home games.

James McFadden’s 84th-minute equalizer against St.−Mirren ensured Motherwell can still mathematically win the league.