Arsenal Defeats Manchester United 1-0 to Narrow English Soccer Title Race

Arsenal beat first-place Manchester United 1-0 today to open up the race for English soccer’s Premier League title. West Ham remains bottom after a 2-1 loss at fourth-place Manchester City.

Aaron Ramsey scored at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium to lift the third-place team to within six points of United with three games remaining. Chelsea is three points behind United following a 2-1 win against Tottenham yesterday.

“I have not given up hope,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters. “We want to fight until the last second of the season. You never know -- but Manchester United remain in the best position.”

Elsewhere, Wolverhampton Wanderers stay one spot above West Ham and in the relegation positions after a 1-1 tie at 10-man Birmingham City. Liverpool defeated Newcastle 3-0 to climb to fifth spot, ahead of Tottenham on goal difference.

The battle for the title now cannot be decided until the second-last round of matches at the earliest, with defending champion Chelsea able to go ahead of United on goal difference if it wins their clash in a week’s time. United is chasing a record 19th English league title and Arsenal is aiming to end a seven-year wait for the championship.

“It’s in our interest that Chelsea win,” at Old Trafford next week, Wenger said.

Ramsey Opportunity

Arsenal was without captain Cesc Fabregas after he suffered an injury in training, giving Ramsey an opportunity in midfield.

The Gunners dominated the early stages with Jack Wilshere dragging a chance wide from 15 yards and Theo Walcott hitting over from close range. Patrice Evra then managed to intercept a cross from Wilshere as Walcott waited to tap in at the far post.

United had a rare opportunity through Javier Hernandez, but Bacary Sagna managed to block as the striker took aim at goal.

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie appealed vociferously for a penalty kick on 32 minutes when Nemanja Vidic appeared to handle the ball from a Walcott cross. Nothing was given by the officials.

United started more strongly in the second half, Wayne Rooney forcing Wojciech Szczesny into a diving save four minutes after the interval.

The only goal came after 56 minutes. Van Persie advanced down the right before sliding the ball across to Ramsey, who struck a low shot into the bottom corner of the net. It was the Welshman’s first goal for the club since January 2010.

The visitors came close again, Nani forcing a save from Szczesny, and there were claims from United for a penalty late on as Michael Owen tumbled in the area.

Fifth Straight Loss

At the bottom of the standings, West Ham slipped to a fifth straight loss. The Hammers remain on 32 points, Wolves have 34, 18th-place Wigan and Blackpool, in 17th, are on 35 and Blackburn 38. Birmingham has 39 points.

The Hammers trailed 2-0 after 15 minutes at the City of Manchester Stadium, from a long-range strike by Nigel de Jong and an own goal from Lars Jacobsen. Demba Ba then scored for West Ham in the 33rd minute, but the visitors were unable to break down City’s defense again.

Wolves, who could have climbed out of the three-team drop zone with a win, took a seventh-minute lead at St. Andrew’s on a penalty from Steven Fletcher.

Sebastian Larsson replied on 27 minutes for the Blues, who played more than half the match with 10 men following a 38th- minute red card for midfielder Craig Gardner.

Magic Missing

“We didn’t have what was necessary to pick a hole whether it be from a final pass or a bit of magic,” Wolves manager Mick McCarthy told reporters. “It is a missed opportunity of course.”

At Anfield, Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt, with a penalty kick, and Luis Suarez scored for Liverpool to lift the Reds ahead of Tottenham.

Yesterday, Blackburn defeated Bolton 1-0, Blackpool tied 0- 0 against Stoke, while Wigan drew 1-1 against Everton. Fulham won 3-0 at Sunderland, and West Bromwich Albion defeated Aston Villa 2-1.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Cone in London at jcone@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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