Aston Villa and Wigan both won away matches today to help their fight to avoid relegation from English soccer’s Premier League, as Arsenal and Tottenham improved their chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
Villa beat Norwich 2-1 to move five points ahead of the three teams at the bottom of the 20-team league that will be relegated to the second-tier Championship. Wigan remains at the top of the relegation zone after its 3-2 win at West Brom, but pulled to within two points of Sunderland above it.
Theo Walcott scored the fastest goal in the Premier League this season as Arsenal won 1-0 at relegated Queens Park Rangers, while Gareth Bale’s goal in the 86th minute gave Tottenham a 1-0 victory over Southampton.
Arsenal moved into third place with 67 points, two more than Chelsea and Tottenham in the race for the final two qualifying places in European soccer’s Champions League next season.
Relegated Reading won 4-2 at Fulham, Manchester City drew 0-0 at Swansea, while West Ham and Newcastle also finished 0-0 in today’s other matches.
Gabriel Agbonlahor scored his second goal of the game in the 89th minute to give Aston Villa its second straight win. The victory moves Villa to 13th place with 40 points with two games remaining.
Callum McManaman’s goal with 10 minutes remaining gave Wigan the come-from-behind win at West Brom. Arouna Kone and James McArthur also scored for the Latics, who remain in 18th place with 35 points.
Walcott scored his 20th goal of the season after just 20 seconds as Arsenal extended its unbeaten run to eight games. The score was 12 seconds faster than Robin van Persie’s goal for Manchester United against West Ham in November
Bale’s late goal at White Hart Lane in north London helped Tottenham keep pace with the Gunners.
The Welshman, who was voted player of the year by both his fellow professionals and the soccer writers this week, took the ball on the right side, cut into the middle and curled a shot into the bottom corner for his 25th goal of the season. It came on Spurs’ first shot on target.
Arsenal has two games left, Tottenham has three and Chelsea has four, including visiting champion Manchester United tomorrow.
Hal Robson-Kanu had two goals as Reading, which was relegated along with QPR last weekend, beat Fulham to end a 10- match winless run. Adam Le Fondre and Jem Karacan also scored for the Royals, which Bryan Ruiz had both goals for Fulham.
Newcastle’s Premier League status remains in the balance following its draw at West Ham. Pappis Cisse had a shot cleared off the line in the first half for Newcastle, which is just two points ahead of Wigan in the standings.
Swansea extended its winless run to seven games with its home draw with second-place Manchester City. Liverpool hosts Everton in tomorrow’s other match, and Stoke visits Sunderland in two days.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at firstname.lastname@example.org.