Norwich City players force a save by Manchester City's
goalkeeper Joe Hart (3rd R) during their English Premier
League match at Carrow Road in Norwich. REUTERS/Dylan
Edin Dzeko shone to give 10-man Manchester City a
battling 4-3 victory at Norwich City but leaders Manchester
United also won as own goals and more controversial refereeing
marked the last Saturday of 2012.
United maintained their seven-point advantage over City at
the top of the Premier League after Gareth McAuley turned the
ball into his own net and substitute Robin van Persie netted
in a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at a sodden Old
City striker Dzeko scored twice in the first four minutes and
another of his strikes was credited as an own goal by
goalkeeper Mark Bunn at Norwich where Samir Nasri's
44th-minute red card had threatened the champions' dominance.
"We played fantastic for 25 minutes and should have scored
three or four. I don't know why (Nasri was sent-off) as the
linesman was there and I don't know what he saw. We saw the
video, both players touch heads," City boss Roberto Mancini
told the BBC.
"Today we showed we are there for the title."
In-form Spurs moved third following a 2-1 comeback win at
Sunderland where an apoplectic Gareth Bale was again booked
for diving while fourth-bottom Aston Villa lost their third
on the bounce in a 3-0 home defeat by Wigan Athletic.
Paul Lambert's Villa have conceded 15 in the three games.
Ten-man Stoke City were facing a first home loss since
February but a superb late Cameron Jerome strike secured a
3-3 draw with struggling Southampton and Reading pulled
themselves away from last spot with a 1-0 home win over West
Swansea City shrugged off the injury absence of top scorer
Michu to triumph 2-1 at Fulham where stand-in striker Danny
Graham grabbed the opener.
Leaders United started with Van Persie on the bench and had
Wayne Rooney out injured for a game that was nearly called
off before kickoff because of persistent rain.
Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa made his comeback from injury
but it was another returnee, winger Ashley Young, who
provided the cross for McAuley to inadvertently score on nine
Alex Ferguson's side have been consistently leaking goals,
only prevailing 4-3 over Newcastle United on Wednesday thanks
to a last-minute goal, but they just about held on to a clean
sheet before Van Persie eased fan nerves in the last minute.
After 20 of 38 games, United have 49 points to City's 42 but
Mancini will be glad his champions did not slip further
behind after playing with 10 men for over a half at Carrow
Bosnian forward Dzeko made a stunning start for City, whose
forwards had previously scored just three goals in eight
games, but Anthony Pilkington's 15th-minute goal and Nasri's
debatable sending off left the game in the balance.
France midfielder Nasri saw red for the first time in England
for going head-to-head with Sebastien Bassong but the
dismissal seemed harsh.
Sergio Aguero then gave City breathing space on 50 minutes
before a Dzeko strike came back off the post and hit Bunn on
its way into the net, in between Russell Martin's double for
spirited midtable side Norwich.
Two goals in three second-half minutes helped Tottenham fight
back for a deserved win at Sunderland which sent the north
Londoners up to third.
"I think we started well, we went one goal down but were on
top of the game really. We showed our character,"
match-winner Aaron Lennon said.
The hosts, who beat Manchester City 1-0 at home on Wednesday,
took the lead against the run of play in the 40th minute when
captain John O'Shea coolly tapped in after Spurs had failed
to deal with a free-kick into the box.
It was the Irishman's first goal for mid-table Sunderland and
his first league goal since netting for Manchester United
against Stoke City in September 2009 although his game ended
early with a hamstring strain.
Spurs, who thumped Villa 4-0 away on Wednesday, had dominated
the first half with Emmanuel Adebayor hitting the bar but
they were level three minutes after the break.
Carlos Cuellar headed a corner into his own net and another
unlucky deflection on 51 minutes presented Lennon with the
chance to make in 2-1 before Bale's third booking for diving
this term when he felt he had been fouled by Craig Gardner.
Chelsea can reclaim third spot at Everton on Sunday when
bottom side Queens Park Rangers host Liverpool.