Reading's Alex Pearce reacts after his team's loss to
Manchester City in their English Premier League match at
The Etihad stadium in Manchester. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Manchester City endured 93 minutes of frustration before
Gareth Barry's stoppage time header earned the Premier League
champions a precious 1-0 victory over bottom club Reading to
keep the pressure on leaders Manchester United.
Roberto Mancini's side, who won the title in the dying
seconds of last season, displayed the handy knack of scoring
late again as Barry's goal broke Reading's resistance and
moved City to within three points of United who play at
Swansea on Sunday.
City have 39 points from 18 games, followed by four clubs on
30 points after a rainswept opening to the busy holiday
programme yielded a mere 10 goals.
A second-half penalty by Mikel Arteta earned Arsenal a 1-0
victory at Wigan Athletic as the Gunners moved up to third
place while north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur fell out of
the top four after a 0-0 home draw with Stoke City.
Everton climbed to fourth, making light of Marouane
Fellaini's absence through suspension, to win 2-1 at West Ham
United in game in which both sides ended with 10 men.
West Bromwich Albion also reached the 30-point mark after
ending Norwich City's 10-match unbeaten league run with
Romelu Lukaku sealing a 2-1 victory 10 minutes from time
after Norwich had taken the lead at the Hawthorns.
Chelsea, who have 29 points from two fewer games, can jump
back to third place if they beat Aston Villa on Sunday.
There was no pre-Christmas cheer for the bottom four with
Reading, Wigan, Queens Park Rangers and Southampton all
QPR's revival under new manager Harry Redknapp came to a halt
with a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United while Sunderland also
edged clear of the bottom three after a 1-0 win at
City, whose 37-match unbeaten sequence in the league was
ended by United earlier this month, were expected to breeze
past a Reading side whose defence went missing in a Monday
night thrashing by Arsenal but the visitors had not read the
Reading were heading for a well-deserved point after
restricting City to a handful of chances and even had a
reasonable penalty shout waved away but they cracked three
minutes into stoppage time.
David Silva crossed into the area as City launched one final
assault and Barry, who appeared to have his hand on Reading
defender Nicky Shorey, climbed to thump a header into the
corner to the relief of the home fans and manager Mancini.
ARSENAL WIN AGAIN
"I hoped, always. It was difficult. We had lots of possession
but if you don't score early it is very difficult," Mancini
told Sky Sports.
"You have to be patient but if we had scored one goal in the
first half it would have changed the game. You need to score
quickly in these games and sometimes you take a risk to
score. I think we deserved to win.
"Our fans know we try until the last seconds always."
Luckless Reading manager Brian McDermott, whose side will be
bottom at Christmas, was angry the goal was allowed to stand.
"I cannot believe that has happened to us. That goal at the
end is plain wrong," he said. "(Barry) is on Nicky Shorey's
back and it is an absolutely certain foul. That decision
Arsenal claimed a third consecutive victory and, although
they remain 12 points behind United, the storm clouds that
were hanging over Arsene Wenger appear to be dispersing.
They were not as impressive as they were in the 5-2 win at
Reading on Monday but showed plenty of resilience to grind
out three points after Arteta dispatched his spot kick
following a clumsy tackle by Jean Beausejour on Theo Walcott
on the hour.
Arouna Kone had wasted a glorious chance to give Wigan the
lead in the first half and he was denied late on by Arsenal
Wojciech Szczesny before Dave Jones thumped a shot narrowly
wide of the upright with Szczesny rooted to the spot.
Despite Wigan's late pressure Arsenal held on and will now
get a week off after their Boxing Day clash with West Ham
United was postponed because of a train strike next Tuesday.
"We had to show nerve and we did it," Wenger said.
"They had a lot of possession in the end but we really wanted
Everton trailed to a Carlton Cole goal at Upton Park but
levelled through Victor Anichebe after 64 minutes before
Steven Pienaar scrambled in the winner.
Cole was sent off for a high tackle on Leighton Baines while
Darron Gibson saw red for Everton in the final minute. Both
decisions were criticised by their respective managers.
Gareth Bale returned after injury for Tottenham but they
missed the chance to end the day in third spot as Stoke
proved miserley opposition at White Hart Lane.
Eighth-placed Stoke have kept nine clean sheets in 18 league
games and are unbeaten in nine matches.