England: Manchester City downs Newcastle, stays unbeaten
LONDON (AP) -- Manchester City maintained its relentless title charge atop the English Premier League by condemning Newcastle to its first defeat while second-place Manchester United kept up its mean streak by edging past Swansea with a third straight 1-0 win.
Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero converted penalties and Micah Richards scored the other in City's 3-1 home win that left Roberto Mancini's free-scoring team unbeaten after 12 matches.
United remains its cross-town rival's closest challenger, with Mexico striker Javier Hernandez's first-half goal keeping the reigning champions five points adrift.
The two Manchester clubs have broken away from the chasing pack, with Newcastle now four points further back in third, but Chelsea could re-ignite its title chase by going above the northeast team on goal difference with a home win over Liverpool on Sunday.
Arsenal hasn't given up hope of the title after Netherlands striker Robin van Persie's brace earned the resurgent London team a 2-1 win at Norwich, although it is already 12 points behind City.
Van Persie moved his league-leading tally to 13 goals in 12 games, three clear of City pair Aguero and Edin Dzeko.
At the other end of the table, Wigan stayed bottom after being held to a 3-3 draw by second-to-last Blackburn while Bolton also remains in the relegation zone after losing 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion.
England defender Leighton Baines scored from the penalty spot as Everton rallied to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1, Heidar Helguson's brace helped Queens Park Rangers to a 3-2 win at Stoke while Sunderland was held 0-0 by Fulham.
United, so explosive going forward at the start of the season, has tightened up since a 6-1 derby mauling by City at Old Trafford last month.
It has left City as the division's entertainers.
Averaging exactly 3 1/2 goals per game even without last season's top scorer Carlos Tevez, who is still to return from his unauthorized trip back to his native Argentina, City's attacking strength was too much for a Newcastle defense that was the sturdiest in the league before its trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Balotelli's penalty in the 41st minute came after Ryan Taylor was adjudged to have handled and the left back was at fault for Richards' goal, his failure to cut out Aguero's pass allowing the City defender to finish left-footed.
Hatem Ben Arfa and Danny Guthrie squandered glorious chances for Newcastle before Aguero made the game safe in the 71st, converting from the spot for his 10th goal of the season after Richards was hauled down by Ben Arfa.
Dan Gosling's goal was a last-minute consolation for Newcastle, whose 11-match unbeaten run had surprised pundits who largely predicted a season of struggle for Alan Pardew's team after the sale of many of its star players over the past 12 months.
Hernandez's fifth goal of the season came in the 11th minute after defender Angel Rangel gave the ball away to evergreen winger Ryan Giggs, playing a league match in his native Wales for the first time.
It settled an otherwise uneventful match, although Phil Jones nearly doubled United's lead late on when he hit the post on a counterattack.
Swansea's best chance fell to winger Scott Sinclair, who miscued in front of an open goal midway through the first half.
Van Persie is the league's in-form striker and he made it 31 goals in 29 matches in this calendar year with a well-taken brace against Norwich as Arsenal continued its revival following a dreadful start to the season.
Steve Morison capitalized on an error by Germany defender Per Mertesacker to put Norwich ahead in the 16th but Van Persie equalized in the 26th and chipped in the winner just before the hour mark.
"We all know within the club that he's an exceptional player," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said of Van Persie.
The rest of Saturday's games centered on the battle against relegation and Wigan remains the team most likely to face the drop after surrendering the lead in the ninth minute of stoppage time in a dramatic match at the DW Stadium.
Ayegbeni Yakubu converted an injury-time penalty won by his own goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who had come up for a corner and was fouled as he competed for the ball with Wigan midfielder David Jones.
Yakubu had opened the scoring after just 68 seconds only for Jordi Gomez and Gary Caldwell to give Wigan a halftime lead.
Junior Hoilett equalized in the 60th but Albert Crusat must have thought he had earned Wigan only its second win of the season by putting his side ahead again with two minutes left.
Ireland striker Shane Long returned from injury to score West Brom's winner in the 56th minute against Bolton while Baines set up international teammate Phil Jagielka in the 44th before scoring himself seven minutes from time to earn Everton a first victory in three matches.
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