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Monday, Jan. 21, 2013

Man City wins to keep pressure on Red Devils


LONDON — Manchester City kept up its stubborn pursuit of Manchester United with a routine 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, with David Silva's double reducing the champions' deficit to four points in the Premier League title race.

The Spain playmaker secured City's fourth straight league win by scoring in the 2nd and 69th minutes for his first goals in two months, increasing the pressure on United ahead of its testing visit to Tottenham on Sunday.

"All we can do is win our games," City assistant manager David Platt said. "We have to make sure we keep getting victories so if United do slip up, we are in a position to take advantage of that."

Liverpool thrashed Norwich 5-0 to revive hopes of qualifying for European competitions next season, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge striking up a good combination up front and both getting on the scoresheet at Anfield.

France striker Loic Remy scored on his debut for Queens Park Rangers but a 1-1 draw at West Ham kept the club bottom of the standings, four points adrift of safety after nearest rival Reading came from behind to beat struggling Newcastle 2-1.

Wigan provisionally replaced Reading in second-bottom position after losing 3-2 at home to Sunderland, while Swansea beat Stoke 3-1 in the other match.

With United winning the last four games in its bid for a 20th league title, City knows it cannot afford any more mistakes in the run-in and the defending champions did their job against Fulham, without ever finding their best form.

Silva provided the cutting edge, following up Mark Schwarzer's save from a long-range shot from Edin Dzeko to plant a rebound into the bottom corner after just 95 seconds to make it 1-0. He then ensured there was no way back for Fulham by running onto Carlos Tevez's flick and chipping home a deft finish.

"David Silva was the best player on the pitch and he was fantastic, a quality player," said Fulham manager Martin Jol, who acknowledged his team is in a "relegation battle."

"To concede in the second minute is a horrific scenario."

With Chelsea and Arsenal not meeting until Sunday and fifth-place Everton in action on Monday at Southampton, Liverpool had a chance to pull closer to the teams above it in the race for the remaining European spots behind the Manchester clubs.

It had no trouble, with Norwich meekly surrendering and taking the number of goals the team has conceded against Liverpool in its last three matches to 13.

Suarez, back in the headlines for the wrong reasons this week after admitting diving in an early-season league match, showed his good side by helping set up Jordan Henderson's spectacular opener and then slotting in the second for his 16th of the campaign.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers reserved special praise, however, for Sturridge after the striker continued his goal-a-game start to his Liverpool career by scoring in the second half along with Steven Gerrard and an own goal by Ryan Bennett.

"He is terrific outside the box but he is a real killer in it," Rodgers said. "It's three goals in three games for him and I think there will be many to come. We have played well for most of the season but Daniel coming in adds that extra threat."

Bafana Bafana held


JOHANNESBURG — The African Cup of Nations couldn't provide a goal in two indifferent matches on the opening day on Saturday — and Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes didn't mind one bit.

Antunes saw his inexperienced team of second-leaguers from the tiny island nation hold host South Africa to 0-0 in front of around 80,000 frustrated home fans at Soccer City in a resilient debut at the tournament.

"Today, I can hold my head up high," Antunes said as the Cape Verdeans earned their first point in their first appearance at a major tournament.

Morocco and Angola also couldn't score in the second of back-to-back games in Group A at the 2010 World Cup final venue, but by then most of South Africa's dispirited fans had trudged off — vuvuzelas dragging behind them — having sat through persistent rain to have their hopes dampened by a discouraging display from the host.

"The first half was a complete waste of 45 minutes," South Africa coach Gordon Igesund said. "We got a point. I don't think we deserve too much more than that, to be honest."

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