A unexpected defeat at Burnley should not only end any hopes that Manchester City had of repeating as Champions, but could drag them into the battle for a top four finish.
The battle amongst the top teams is so tight that a win at Turf Moor would have moved Manuel Pellegrini’s side within two points of Chelsea. But instead they are left only a point ahead of Arsenal and a lacklustre performance was punished by George Boyd’s second-half winner.
The third bottom Clarets took the lead in the 61st minute when Vincent Kompany’s header only reached the edge of the penalty area, where Scotland midfielder Boyd drove a fine low left-footed strike past City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Arsenal cemented their position in the top four as Olivier Giroud’s blistering strike inspired a 3-0 rout of West Ham United. Arsene Wenger’s third-placed side are aiming to qualify for the UEFA Champions League via a top-four finish for the 18th year in a row and they are well on course after a fifth successive league victory.
Giroud broke the deadlock seconds before the break as the France striker cut in from the right edge of the penalty area to lash an unstoppable left-footed shot into the far corner. Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey got Arsenal’s second, and his first since December, in the 81st minute when he played a one-two with Giroud and finished with aplomb.
Four-star Villa sink Sunderland
Aston Villa’s revival under new manager Tim Sherwood gathered pace as they boosted their bid to avoid relegation with a crucial 4-0 win at fellow strugglers Sunderland.
Villa had scored only four away league goals all season, but they have been transformed since former Tottenham Hotspur boss Sherwood took charge and have now won their last two league games to climb above Sunderland, who drop to fourth bottom after their sixth consecutive game without a win. Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor both scored twice before half-time, prompting angry Sunderland fans to surround the bench to criticise boss Gus Poyet.
Crystal Palace pushed second bottom Queens Park Rangers deeper into the relegation mire with a 3-1 victory over their London rivals at Selhurst Park. Alan Pardew’s side swept into a three-goal lead by half-time thanks to strikes from Wilfried Zaha, James McArthur and Joel Ward, before QPR’s Matt Phillips produced one of the goals of the season in the closing stages.
Bottom of the table Leicester City wasted a chance to improve their survival hopes as ten-man Hull City held on for a 0-0 draw at the King Power Stadium despite Tom Huddlestone’s dismissal for a second booking.
West Bromwich Albion ground out a 1-0 win against Stoke City at the Hawthorns, with the only goal in the 19th minute from Brown Ideye.