Sunday, May 8, 2011

Manchester City on course for Champions League despite loss

Sunday, May 8, 2011

LONDON (AP) ? Manchester City remains on course to qualify for the Champions League for the first time despite losing 2-1 at Everton after Tottenham was held to a 1-1 draw by Blackpool on Saturday.

  • Everton's Phil Jagielka, left, vies with Manchester City's Edin Dzek during an English Premier League match on Saturday in Liverpool.

    By Paul Ellis, AFP/Getty Images

    Everton's Phil Jagielka, left, vies with Manchester City's Edin Dzek during an English Premier League match on Saturday in Liverpool.

By Paul Ellis, AFP/Getty Images

Everton's Phil Jagielka, left, vies with Manchester City's Edin Dzek during an English Premier League match on Saturday in Liverpool.

Yaya Toure had put Man City on course to strengthen its grip on fourth place in the Premier League, but Sylvain Distin and Leon Osman scored in the second half to clinch victory for Everton.

Softening the impact of that loss was Tottenham's draw with Blackpool, leaving the fifth-place Spurs six points behind City.

Tottenham and City meet on Tuesday in one of three remaining matches and a victory for City would ensure the team qualifies for Europe's top knockout competition.

A victory for Spurs at City last May ensured they secured a Champions League spot for the first time, at the expense of their big-spending rival.

In the relegation dogfight, Thomas Hitzlsperger salvaged a 1-1 draw for West Ham against Blackburn, but the London club remains bottom of the standings — a point behind Wolverhampton and three adrift of Wigan, who are both also in the drop zone.

On Sunday, the focus shifts to the title race, with Chelsea able to topple Manchester United from the summit with a victory at Old Trafford, while third-place Arsenal is at Stoke.

City remains five points behind Arsenal after collapsing at Goodison Park, with Everton winning for the seventh time in eight meetings between the sides.

Toure, though, had put City ahead when he latched onto David Silva's pass and clipped the ball over goalkeeper Tim Howard.

"We had many chances to close the game," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "I don't know why we stayed too deep."

Distin, a former City defender, leveled for Everton with a powerful header that was too strong for goalkeeper Joe Hart to keep out in the 65th.

The winner seven minutes later also came from a header as the diminutive Osman beat Vincent Kompany to Phil Neville's pinpoint cross.

At White Hart Lane, Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes went from hero to villain in a minute.

After Michael Dawson conceded a penalty by handling a cross while jumping for a header, Gomes' diving save denied Charlie Adam from the spot.

But from the resulting corner, Gomes barged Gary Taylor-Fletcher over in the penalty area — and this time Adam blasted the spot kick into the net.

Jermain Defoe salvaged a point for Spurs with a late strike.

At Upton Park, a thunderous finish from Hitzlsperger canceled out Jason Roberts' close-range finish for Blackburn.

"We did well today and created lots of chances," West Ham manager Avram Grant said. "This is the story of our season. In every game, we create chances and don't score, but at least we got a draw."

Blackburn's point took it above Birmingham, although both teams are four points above the drop zone.

Birmingham lost 2-1 at Newcastle, with the hosts going ahead from the penalty spot through Shola Ameobi after defender Liam Ridgewell was sent off for handball.

Defender Steven Taylor added a second two minutes before halftime with a header, but former Newcastle midfielder Lee Bowyer reduced the deficit just before the break when his shot was deflected into the net by Fabricio Coloccini.

At Villa Park, Wigan took the lead when Victor Moses burst forward from midfield and played in striker Charles N'Zogbia, who found the corner of the net with an angled shot.

But Ashley Young beat Wigan 'keeper Ali Al-Habsi from 20 yards — his ninth goal of the season — to level.

Sunderland's safety has already been assured despite the team coming from behind to win 2-1 at Bolton, registering only its second victory in 12 matches.

Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari scored the winner in stoppage time after connecting with Stephane Sessegnon's through ball and finding the net with a shot that defender Zat Knight touched before the ball crossed the line.

Bolo Zenden put Sunderland ahead in first-half stoppage time with his first goal of the season after beating the offside trap.

Bolton looked to have secured a point when Ivan Klasnic equalized in the 87th.

Also Saturday, Nottingham Forest captured the final second-tier playoff place to join Swansea, Cardiff and Reading chasing promotion to the English Premier League.

A 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace secured sixth place for Forest, which will face Swansea over two legs in the playoff semifinals.

The winner meets Cardiff or Reading in the May 30 playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

The automatic promotion places went to League Championship winner Queens Park Rangers, which escaped a points deduction for breaching player-ownership regulations, and runner-up Norwich.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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