Chelsea held by Spurs, Arsenal tighten grip on 3rd
LONDON (AP) -- Rampant Arsenal pulled clear in the race for third place in the Premier League on Saturday, beating Aston Villa 3-0 for a seventh straight win as Chelsea and Tottenham slipped further behind their London rival by drawing 0-0.
Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott scored first-half goals at Emirates Stadium and Mikel Arteta added a stunning third for Arsenal, which is now three points clear of Tottenham in third.
With eight matches remaining, Spurs stayed five points ahead of Chelsea after their draw at Stamford Bridge, leaving the hosts in danger of missing out on Champions League football for the first time since 2003.
Bolton marked its first match since Fabrice Muamba's on-field cardiac arrest last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Blackburn on an emotional day at the Reebok Stadium to climb out of the relegation zone.
Queens Park Rangers replaced Bolton in the bottom three after a 3-1 loss at Sunderland, with French striker Djibril Cisse sent off for the visitors for the second time since his January move from Lazio.
Wolverhampton Wanderers stayed bottom after losing 2-1 at Norwich - their fourth straight loss - but next-to-last Wigan boosted its survival hopes with a surprise 2-1 win at seventh-place Liverpool, whose dire form has seen it win just once in seven games.
Everton won 2-0 at midtable rival Swansea in the other match.
At the start of February, Arsenal's top-four hopes looked in serious jeopardy when the team was 10 points behind north London rival Tottenham.
However, a sensational upturn in form leaves Arsene Wenger's side favorites to claim third place, which brings an automatic entry into next season's Champions League group stage.
Robin van Persie's goals have propelled Arsenal's recovery but the Netherlands striker - the league's top scorer with 26 goals - let his teammates grab their share of the limelight against Villa.
Gibbs' 16th-minute strike was the left back's first league goal for the club while Walcott latched onto Alex Song's chipped pass for the second, meaning two Englishmen scored for Arsenal in the same match for the first time since 1997.
Arteta added gloss to the scoreline late on with a brilliant free kick.
Tottenham remains without a win at Chelsea since 1990 but still left Stamford Bridge happy after keeping the Blues at arm's length in the race for Champions League qualification.
Juan Mata struck the post with a free kick for Chelsea but Tottenham shaded the match, with Gareth Bale heading an effort against the bar and Rafael van der Vaart wasting a couple of golden chances.
"It's going to be difficult for us now,'' interim Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said, when asked about his team's top-four hopes.
Liverpool's faint chances of joining the race for the Champions League spots is surely over after a limp loss to Wigan, for whom Gary Caldwell scored the winner in the 63rd.
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez had canceled out Wigan's opener from the penalty spot by Shaun Maloney.
"We had to suffer at times but we limited Liverpool to very little. It is a historic victory,'' said Wigan manager Roberto Martinez.
Bolton claimed a second straight league win for the first time this season at the end of an emotionally draining week for the club after Muamba's collapse during an FA Cup match against Tottenham at White Hart Lane last Saturday.
Fans held up cards as part of a mosaic that spelt out "Muamba 6'' before kickoff while there was a period of applause for the midfielder, who has recovered miraculously according to doctors after his heart stopped beating on its own for 78 minutes.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle said Muamba sent a message via a consultant to his teammates ahead of the Blackburn match, which was settled by two goals by Bolton defender David Wheater in the first half.
"Football is very emotional and passionate but when something like that happens to someone you hold dear then it pales into insignificance,'' Coyle said. "The players are out on their feet physically and mentally.''
Bolton is a point clear of QPR and Wigan, with Wolves three points further adrift.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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