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Arsenal crushed by City to throw open title race

MANCHESTER, England -- Arsenal felt the full force of Manchester City’s rampant attack to slump to a wild 6-3 loss in the English Premier League on Saturday, cutting its lead over Chelsea to two points and throwing the title race wide open.

Chelsea pounced on Arsenal’s implosion at Etihad Stadium by edging past Crystal Palace 2-1 at home, with Ramires scoring the winner to lift Jose Mourinho’s team provisionally into second place.

But approaching the halfway stage of the campaign, City is likely to be most people’s favorite for the title after following up big home wins over Manchester United and Tottenham already this season with another masterful attacking display against Arsenal.

What had been the tightest defense in the league was ripped apart, with City’s eighth straight home win sealed by goals from Fernandinho (two), Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, David Silva and Yaya Toure.

City enhanced its tag as the league’s entertainers it has 35 goals in eight home matches, including six past Spurs and four past United and is a point adrift of Chelsea in third.

"It was a very complete game in attacking," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "It is not easy to score six goals against Arsenal, the best defense in the Premier League."

Everton brushed past Fulham 4-1 with three late goals to jump to fourth, while Newcastle drew 1-1 with Southampton in a match that saw the referee receive a bloody nose after accidentally colliding with a player, and ended in a scuffle between the two benches.

West Bromwich Albion fired head coach Steve Clarke hours after a 1-0 loss at Cardiff, the visitors’ fourth reverse in a row, and there were 0-0 draws for West Ham-Sunderland and Hull-Stoke.

Arguably the standout match this season lived up to its billing, with weary Arsenal run ragged by City less than three days after the Gunners’ grueling defeat in the Champions League at Napoli.

Arsenal’s title credentials were always going to be tested in this crucial three-game period, starting with last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Everton and ending with a home match at Chelsea on Dec. 23, and cracks have been found.

"We made too many mistakes," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "Our strength until now was our defensive discipline but that went as the game went on."

The prolific strike pairing of Aguero and Negredo put City 2-1 up by halftime, with Theo Walcott’s goal having made it 1-1.

Fernandinho scored in the 50th, moments after Aguero went off with a calf injury only for Walcott to score again, but Arsenal’s creaking defense was breached in the final 24 minutes by Silva, Fernandinho and Toure’s penalty. Per Mertesacker netted Arsenal’s other goal in injury time.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere could face disciplinary action after being pictured raising his middle finger toward City’s fans during the second half.

With Liverpool not playing until Sunday, Chelsea is Arsenal’s closest challenger after an unconvincing win over Palace at Stamford Bridge.

Associated Press


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