LONDON, April 2 – With the pressure off, Arsenal and Manchester City each breezed to one-sided 4-0 victories on Saturday as they kept their Premier League titles hopes flickering.
Nigerian teenager Alex Iwobi scored for the second game running as Arsenal crushed their FA Cup conquerors Watford, while Kevin De Bruyne netted on his return from injury as City eased to victory at Bournemouth.
Both teams remain some distance below leaders Leicester City, whose lead could be trimmed to two points if Tottenham Hotspur win at Liverpool later on Saturday. Leicester host Southampton on Sunday.
West Ham United dropped points in the race for Champions League qualification after Cheikhou Kouyate was sent off in a 2-2 home draw against London rivals Crystal Palace.
Meanwhile, Newcastle United were left six points adrift of safety after Martin Olsson’s dramatic 93rd-minute goal earned Norwich City a potentially pivotal 3-2 win in a relegation tussle at Carrow Road.
Watford’s 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium last month ended Arsenal’s two-year reign as FA Cup holders and Arsene Wenger’s side claimed a measure of revenge as the teams resumed hostilities in north London.
Alexis Sanchez broke the deadlock in the fourth minute, scoring at the second attempt after Heurelho Gomes had parried his header from Iwobi’s cross.
Sanchez returned the favour to Iwobi by teeing up the 19-year-old for a cool finish seven minutes before half-time and second-half goals from Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott completed victory.
City had a similarly straightforward afternoon at Dean Court as Manuel Pellegrini’s men tuned up for their mid-week trip to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals by steamrollering Bournemouth.
Fernando opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a neat finish from a Jesus Navas corner before De Bruyne — back in the team after two months out with a knee problem — volleyed home sweetly from David Silva’s flick.
Sergio Aguero added a third goal in the 19th minute with a header from Navas’s cross before Aleksandar Kolarov slammed home a fine fourth in stoppage time.
– Pato opens account –
City trail Leicester by 12 points, with Arsenal four points better off in third place.
West Ham are now three points below City in fifth after dropping points against Palace, who went ahead through Damien Delaney’s 15th-minute header.
Manuel Lanzini swiftly equalised before Dimitri Payet put West Ham ahead with another sublime free-kick, but Kouyate was then contentiously dismissed for a high foot on Dwight Gayle, who netted Palace’s equaliser.
Rafael Benitez’s mission to steer Newcastle to safety received a serious setback at Carrow Road.
Twice Norwich went ahead, through Timm Klose’s header and Dieumerci Mbokani’s rasping strike, only for substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic to equalise on each occasion, the second time with an 86th-minute penalty.
But deep into added time Olsson drove home from Jonny Howson’s lay-off to earn Alex Neil’s men a vital victory.
Newcastle are now six points below Norwich, albeit with a game in hand, while northeast rivals Sunderland are two points above them after drawing 0-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion.
Bottom club Aston Villa are 15 points from safety after their wretched season continued with an abject 4-0 home defeat by Chelsea, for whom Pedro Rodriguez scored twice.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek opened the scoring with his first league goal and Alexandre Pato crowned his long-awaited debut following his January loan move from Corinthians with a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
Villa, who parted company with manager Remi Garde on Tuesday, lost Alan Hutton to a late red card following a pair of bookings.
In the day’s remaining game, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alberto Paloschi scored as Swansea City came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Stoke City.