Southampton Beats Manchester City 3-1 in English Premier League

Southampton beat Manchester City 3-1, damaging the defending English Premier League soccer champion’s title chances, while Chelsea won to take pressure off manager Rafael Benitez.

Scores from Jason Puncheon and Steven Davis and an own goal by Gareth Barry gave new Southampton manager Mauricio Ponchettino his first victory.

“I think that was our best performance,” Southampton’s Rickie Lambert told ESPN. “I’m over the moon because we got three points. That’s what I was looking for today.”

Ramires, Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard and Marko Marin scored as Chelsea beat Wigan 4-1 for its second win in seven matches in all competitions.

Tottenham beat Newcastle 2-1 to extend its unbeaten run in the league to 10 games, 10-man Arsenal held on for a 1-0 win at Sunderland, Swansea defeated Queen’s Park Rangers 4-1, Stoke beat Reading 2-1, while Fulham and Norwich finished goalless.

Manchester City’s loss gives Manchester United a chance to increase its lead at the top of the standings to 12 points by beating Everton at home tomorrow.

“I think now it’s 10 percent,” City manager Roberto Mancini said of his team’s title chances. “I think now it’s really difficult.”

Southampton, which had one loss and two draws since Ponchettino replaced the fired Nigel Adkins on Jan. 18, went in front in the seventh minute as Puncheon put in the rebound after his shot was blocked by Yaya Toure.

Increased Lead

The Saints increased their lead 15 minutes later as City goalkeeper Joe Hart dropped Lambert’s shot and Davis poked the ball into the net.

Edin Dzeko scored for City in the 39th minute but Southampton once again went two goals up early in the second half as Barry, trying to direct the ball back to Hart, put it into the net for an own goal.

Chelsea’s recent poor run increased the heat on interim manager Benitez, whom the Sun reported today faced being fired if the Blues lost to Wigan, which is 18th in the 20-team league.

Ramires gave Chelsea the lead midway through the first half at Stamford Bridge in west London with a shot into the top right corner. Hazard, in his first game back from a three-match ban after kicking at a ball-boy during a League Cup match last month, then scored early in the second half.

Wigan struck back just two minutes later as Shaun Maloney put a shot past onrushing goalkeeper Petr Cech. Lampard scored his 198th goal, moving him within four of Bobby Tambling’s club record, in the 86th minute and Marin clinched the victory in stoppage time.

Bale scored with a free kick in the fifth minute to give Tottenham the early lead at White Hart Lane in north London. Newcastle then tied the game in the 24th minute as a Yoan Gouffran shot deflected off defender Michael Dawson and past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Loose Ball

Bale put the Spurs back in front with 12 minutes left as he picked up a loose ball and went in alone to fire a shot past Tim Krul for his team-best 13th league goal of the season. The win keeps Tottenham four points ahead of Arsenal in the race for fourth place and the final qualifying spot in the Champions League.

Arsenal moved above Everton into fifth place with its win at Sunderland as Santi Cazorla scored in the 35th minute. Carl Jenkinson was sent off for the Gunners for a second yellow card in the 63rd minute and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny made late saves against Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson to preserve the victory.

Miguel Michu scored twice, ending a seven-game goalless run, as Swansea routed last placed QPR. Michu now has 15 goals, the third-most in the league.

Robert Huth and Cameron Jerome scored in the second half as Stoke beat Reading for its first win in seven games, while Norwich is now winless in nine games after a home draw with Fulham.

West Ham is at Aston Villa in tomorrow’s other match and Liverpool hosts West Brom in two days.

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