LONDON, England, February 4 – Manchester City opened up a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League with 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday as Arsenal returned to form with a 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn.
City, who suffered a surprise defeat at Everton in midweek, bounced back with a straightforward victory over the Cottagers at a blizzard-hit Eastlands.
Sergio Aguero set City on the road to three points with a first half penalty before Roberto Mancini’s side eased into a 2-0 lead with a Chris Baird own goal. Edin Dzeko added a third on 72 minutes.
The win re-established City’s lead in the title race, although second-placed Manchester United can draw level with a victory at Chelsea on Sunday.
City boss Roberto Mancini said: “It was a good performance. The players were fantastic.
“It was very important to win after the defeat at Everton in midweek. It was important for our future.
“There are some difficult moments during the season. This can happen. I hope now we can continue to win all our games.”
In other games Saturday, Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick as Arsenal silenced their critics with a seven-goal humiliation of Blackburn.
Disgruntled Arsenal fans had reportedly been planning protests at the Emirates after Arsene Wenger’s side had slid to three consecutive league defeats and a disappointing draw at Bolton in midweek.
But Wenger’s side responded to the disquiet amongst their supporters with a ruthless demolition of Rovers which saw them move up to fifth in the table.
Van Persie took his tally for the season to 28 after striking in the 2nd, 38th and 62nd minutes, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (2) and Mikel Arteta getting the other goals before substitute Thierry Henry completed the scoring.
Morten Gamst Pedersen was the lone scorer for Blackburn, who also had Gael Givet sent off for a wild challenge on van Persie just before half time.
The defeat left Blackburn firmly rooted in the relegation zone, two points adrift of safety in 19th place.
Wenger meanwhile praised the contribution of teenage winger Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“Alex was not ready earlier in the season but he has made a big step in the last months, he produces team play and is not only going forward but contributes to the build up and defending,” Wenger said.
“He has improved very quickly and he is a fighter as well in his personality. He plays like a guy who had talent in September but is much more mature now.”
Rovers’ beleaguered boss Steve Kean was left bemoaning Givet’s dismissal.
“It was a tough afternoon,” Kean said. “When you try to compete with 11 men it’s hard enough. The biggest bearing was the early goal and the sending off and the referee did not have a tough deciison to make.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Norwich moved up to ninth place with a 2-0 win over struggling Bolton, second-half goals from Andrew Surman and Anthony Pilkington sealing the points for the Canaries at Carrow Road.
Queens Park Rangers striker Djibril Cisse followed up his debut goal for the club in midweek with a controversial red card as the Londoners slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Wolves at Loftus Road.
QPR had got off to a dream start when new signing Bobby Zamora opened his account for the club with a 16th-minute opener.
But Cisse’s red card transformed the game as Wolves hit back to level through Matt Jarvis before Kevin Doyle fired Mick McCarthy’s men into the lead.
QPR launched a furious late onslaught but Wolves held firm to clinch their first win in 10 games and move out of the relegation zone.
Sunderland recorded their third consecutive league victory — and their fifth in sixth games — with a 1-0 win at 10-man Stoke.
The Black Cats claimed all three points with a 60th-minute James McClean strike after Robert Huth was sent off for the home side at a snow-hit Britannia Stadium.
Newly-promoted Swansea moved into the top half of the table with a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
West Brom took the lead through a Marc-Antoine Fortune volley on 54 minutes before Swansea hit back to take the lead through Gylfi Sigurdsson and Danny Graham as the Welsh club moved up to 10th.
Everton striker Victor Anichebe grabbed a late equaliser as the Toffees battled to a 1-1 draw at bottom club Wigan.
Wigan took the lead through a Phil Neville own goal on 76 minutes, Everton keeper Tim Howard being deceived by a spinning ball after Neville had diverted Jean Beausejour’s cross goalwards.
However, Everton levelled through Anichebe in the 83rd minute to give the Toffees a share of the points.