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Monday, Nov. 21, 2011

City maintains blistering pace


LONDON — Manchester City maintained its relentless title charge atop the English Premier League by condemning Newcastle to its first defeat while second-place Manchester United kept up its mean streak by edging past Swansea with a third straight 1-0 win.

Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero converted penalties and Micah Richards scored the other in City's 3-1 home win that left Roberto Mancini's free-scoring team unbeaten after 12 matches.

United remains its cross-town rival's closest challenger, with Mexico striker Javier Hernandez's first-half goal keeping the reigning champions five points adrift.

The two Manchester clubs have broken away from the chasing pack, with Newcastle now four points further back in third, but Chelsea could reignite its title chase by going above the northeast team on goal difference with a home win over Liverpool on Sunday.

Arsenal hasn't given up hope of the title after Netherlands striker Robin van Persie's brace earned the resurgent London team a 2-1 win at Norwich, although it is already 12 points behind City.

Van Persie moved his league-leading tally to 13 goals in 12 games, three clear of City pair Aguero and Edin Dzeko.

At the other end of the table, Wigan stayed bottom after being held to a 3-3 draw by second-to-last Blackburn while Bolton also remains in the relegation zone after losing 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion.

England defender Leighton Baines scored from the penalty spot as Everton rallied to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1, Heidar Helguson's brace helped Queens Park Rangers to a 3-2 win at Stoke while Sunderland was held 0-0 by Fulham.

United, so explosive going forward at the start of the season, has tightened up since a 6-1 derby mauling by City at Old Trafford last month.

It has left City as the division's entertainers.

Averaging exactly 3½ goals per game even without last season's top scorer Carlos Tevez, who is still to return from his unauthorized trip back to his native Argentina, City's attacking strength was too much for a Newcastle defense that was the sturdiest in the league before its trip to the Etihad Stadium.

Balotelli's penalty in the 41st minute came after Ryan Taylor was adjudged to have handled and the left back was at fault for Richards' goal, his failure to cut out Aguero's pass allowing the City defender to finish left-footed.

Hatem Ben Arfa and Danny Guthrie squandered glorious chances for Newcastle before Aguero made the game safe in the 71st, converting from the spot for his 10th goal of the season after Richards was hauled down by Ben Arfa.

Dan Gosling's goal was a last-minute consolation for Newcastle, whose 11-match unbeaten run had surprised pundits who largely predicted a season of struggle for Alan Pardew's team after the sale of many of its star players over the past 12 months.

"I hope we continue like this," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "But I think in the 26 games we have left, we will reach a time when we lose a game, I'm sure of it.

"As players, as a team, we are very strong now but the season is long and there will be difficult moments ahead. For this reason, it's important we know we can score goals and win games in a row."

Hernandez's fifth goal of the season for United came in the 11th minute after defender Angel Rangel gave the ball away to evergreen winger Ryan Giggs, playing a league match in his native Wales for the first time.

It settled an otherwise uneventful match, although Phil Jones nearly doubled United's lead late on when he hit the post on a counterattack.

Kagawa helps Dortmund


Berlin — Borussia Dortmund showed it will not give up its Bundesliga title without a fight by beating league leader Bayern Munich 1-0 on Saturday.

Mario Goetze scored in the 65th minute, when the outstanding Shinji Kagawa flicked the ball toward him and over the unsighted Jerome Boateng, allowing the 19-year-old playmaker to prod it past Manuel Neuer from 10 meters.

"We played an incredibly good game," said Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp, whose side visits Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday. "But of course we also had the necessary luck. Bayern only had a few chances because we didn't allow much."

Arjen Robben had little effect in only his third league start after a season beset by groin and back problems, while Bayern also missed the influence of Bastian Schweinsteiger, out with a broken collar bone.

Neuer stood up to deny Kagawa in the 58th, when Goetze shot the rebound to the left, and Robert Lewandowski struck the post in the 74th for the visitors.

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