Gunners and City stay in title fight

Newcastle lose to strugglers Norwich to remain in relegation trouble

LONDON • Arsenal and Manchester City kept their faint Premier League title hopes alive with comfortable 4-0 victories against Watford and Bournemouth respectively yesterday.

Hours after Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger condemned Mesut Oezil for declaring that the Gunners had "messed up" their title challenge, the playmaker and Co. responded with their biggest league win of the season.

Arsenal took just four minutes to score through striker Alexis Sanchez, whose header was blocked by Heurelho Gomes although the goalkeeper was powerless to stop the Chilean scoring from the rebound.

Alex Iwobi doubled Arsenal's lead after 38 minutes when he side-footed home a pass from Sanchez to confirm Arsenal's dominance.

Watford, who conceded early in the first half, also conceded early in the second, when Hector Bellerin's shot took a big deflection to put the Gunners further ahead before substitute Theo Walcott made it 4-0 in the dying minutes at the Emirates Stadium.

The victory saw the Gunners close the gap on leaders Leicester City to eight points, with seven games left.

"The statement is not welcome," said Wenger pre-match of Oezil's comments. "No matter if it just one chance in 100, we have to believe."

After the game, the Frenchman reiterated that the title remains within reach.

"Our target is to play well in the next game," he said their trip to West Ham on Saturday. "We have to be very pragmatic and realistic. This is a start, but we have to keep it going and focusing on the process, the quality of the game. But today's result gives us a chance."

If third-placed Arsenal's title chances are slim, fourth-placed City's are slimmer yet, despite their victory at the Vitality Stadium.

City remain four points adrift of Arsenal but can take some positives ahead of their Champions League quarter-final first-leg trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Kevin de Bruyne and Samir Nasri made their long-awaited returns from injury, with the Belgian scoring City's second and the Frenchman setting up Aleksandar Kolarov's stoppage-time goal.

City's dip in form coincided with de Bruyne's absence and the forward showed what the side had been missing when he calmly finished a flowing move involving Sergio Aguero and David Silva in the 12th minute.

Midfielder Fernando and Aguero scored either side of de Bruyne's effort.

At the other end of the table, Norwich City pulled off a crucial, dramatic 3-2 home win over fellow strugglers Newcastle United.

Rafael Benitez's men had come from behind twice, with Newcastle substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic levelling after Timm Klose's opener and then again with four minutes remaining after Dieumerci Mbokani's strike.

But defender Martin Olsson bagged his first Norwich goal since September 2014 in the 93rd minute to send the Canaries six points clear of the relegation zone and leave second bottom Newcastle six points adrift of safety with a game in hand.

"The reaction of the team in the second half is a positive we can take. But it is not enough if we want to stay up," said Benitez. "Every week you will see something a little bit better but we have to start winning."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 03, 2016, with the headline 'Gunners and City stay in title fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe