Man City leapfrog Liverpool into fourth

Manchester City added to the pressure on the shoulders of Newcastle United manager Sam Allardyce with a 2-0 Premier League away win at St James’s Park on Wednesday that saw them leapfrog Liverpool into fourth place on the table.

Defeat meant Newcastle had taken just one point from a possible 12 as high-flyers City, managed by former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson, went fourth after their first away league win since the opening day of the season.

Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw by Wigan.

The result was a huge blow to Liverpool’s title hopes as it left them 12 points behind leaders Arsenal, but saw Wigan move out of the relegation zone.

In the day’s other Premier League matches, basement club Derby appeared close to a precious away point only to concede a late goal in a 1-0 defeat against Bolton Wanderers.

Elsewhere, South Africa international Benni McCarthy scored the only goal of the game as Blackburn Rovers beat Sunderland, a result that saw the visitors, who finished the match with 10 men, return to the bottom three.

Elano gave City the lead shortly before half-time when he shot low past Shay Given after the ball was played into his path by Darius Vassell.

Allardyce, who recently received backing from United chairperson Chris Mort amidst reports he was about to be replaced by former Newcastle and England forward Alan Shearer, brought on injury-prone striker Michael Owen at half-time.

England international Owen had been on the field for less than a minute when he had a shot saved by Joe Hart.

Instead it was City substitute Fernandes Gelson, who made an immediate impact when, moments after coming on, he made it 2-0 in the 76th minute.

”We didn’t convert some great chances in the first-half,” Allardyce, who was adamant Elano should have been sent off after he scored for a challenge on Abdoulaye Faye, told Sky Sports.

He added: ”I thought Elano’s tackle was a straight red, it was career-threatening. It may sound like an excuse but it was a turning point.”

Eriksson said: ”We played very well defensively and on the counter-attack too. Of course I am very happy — it has been a long time since we last won a game away from home and it is a very nice way to start 2008.”

Liverpool were kept waiting for a goal until the 49th minute before in-form striker Fernando Torres scored his 16th goal of the season.

Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, then saw a 20-yard shot parried by Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.

But Liverpool were made to pay for their failure to dominate this match when Wigan defender Titus Bramble scored his second goal in as many games to make it 1-1 with 10 minutes left.

Kirkland — who had an injury-marred spell at Liverpool — then made a brilliant double-save from Gerrard as the England midfielder followed up his own long-range strike.

”It was immensely frustrating,” said Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. ”When you have chances you need to take them and finish the game. They had just one chance and took it.

”We needed to do everything perfect before this game and this makes it even more difficult,” Benitez added when asked about Liverpool’s title hopes.

Derby twice hit the woodwork and saw Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen make several fine saves at the Reebok Stadium. It seemed they were on course for a point only for a defensive lapse to let in Stelios Giannakopoulos late on as he lifted the ball past Lewis Price and snatched victory.

Sunderland missed a chance to take a 50th-minute lead at Ewood Park when, after Christopher Samba fouled Daryl Murphy, Dean Whitehead’s poorly struck penalty was saved by Brad Friedel.

Shortly afterwards McCarthy showed Sunderland how it should be done, when after Danny Higginbotham hand-balled in the box, he scored from the penalty spot.

Sunderland were then reduced to 10 men when experienced former Blackburn striker Dwight Yorke — a former teammate of Sunderland manager Roy Keane and Rovers boss Mark Hughes at Manchester United — was sent-off for a second bookable offence 19 minutes from full-time. — Sapa-AFP

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Julian Guyer
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