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Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

Manchester pair pull away from chasing pack


LONDON — Manchester City turned the Premier League into what looks like a two-horse race Sunday with a dramatic 3-2 win over Tottenham, leaving Manchester United its only likely rival for the English title.

News photo
Staying the course: Manchester United's Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring a goal against Arsenal on Sunday. United won 2-1 to keep pace with Premier League leader Manchester City. AP

Third-place Tottenham fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Etihad Stadium, but Jermain Defoe missed an injury-time chance for the visitors and Mario Balotelli won the game for City with a penalty he had earned himself.

Fouled by Tottenham captain Ledley King, the Italy striker took a step, paused and shot calmly past goalkeeper Brad Friedel to give City an 11th win from 11 home matches in this season's Premier League.

City is eight points clear of Spurs but defending champion United is still only three behind after a 2-1 win at Arsenal.

Antonio Valencia gave his best impression of former United great Cristiano Ronaldo to score United's first goal and set up the winner over an Arsenal side that slipped 18 points behind City and five behind the final Champions League qualifying berth.

"We are still behind City but we have to keep winning games," United captain Patrice Evra said.

That isn't a problem for City, which has now scored 66 goals from 22 matches, one more than it managed in the whole of last season.

But Balotelli was fortunate to still be on the field to score after referee Howard Webb missed an apparent stamp by the already-booked striker on the head of grounded Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker.

"Shouldn't have been on the pitch," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "He kicked Scott Parker in the head. He does it a lot. He backheeled him in the face and cut his head. No one can make excuses that he didn't do it.

"Anyone can see he did do it."

The game came to life in the 56th with a flurry of four goals in 10 minutes.

David Silva split the visiting defense with a pass into Samir Nasri's feet, leaving the France midfielder to rifle a rising shot past Friedel from about 12 meters. Joleon Lescott then bundled the ball across the line from close range following a cross from Nasri.

But Defoe got a goal back within a minute with a shot into an unguarded net from a narrow angle and it was 2-2 five minutes after that, Bale equalizing with a spectacular left-foot shot from a central position that curled away from diving goalkeeper Joe Hart and into the top right corner.

Spurs could have closed to within two points of City had Defoe managed to knock in Gareth Bale's low injury-time pass across goal, but the England striker could only poke the ball past the far post at full stretch.

Cote d'Ivoire claims win


MALABO — Cote d'Ivoire began its quest for a second African Cup of Nations title with a jittery 1-0 victory over Sudan, and Angola also won in Group B by beating Burkina Faso 2-1 on Sunday.

Cote d'Ivoire striker Didier Drogba scored with a powerful header in the 39th minute, but Sudan refused to be cowed and gave the pre-tournament favorite some nervous moments in the second half.

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