* Newcastle seal sixth straight win
* Arsenal and Chelsea stalemate
Newcastle United surged towardsChampions League qualification with a 3-0 home win over StokeCity to move into fourth spot in the Premier League on Saturdayas rivals Arsenal and Chelsea ground out a 0-0 draw andTottenham Hotspur lost 1-0 at lowly Queens Park Rangers.
Two goals by Frenchman Yohan Cabaye and one from PapissCisse gave Newcastle a sixth straight victory to put them threepoints above Tottenham Hotspur and three behind third-placedArsenal with a game in hand.
Chelsea, who dug in for a point at Arsenal despite makingeight changes from the side that beat Barcelona in midweek, arenow four points behind Newcastle with four games left andstruggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Tottenham’s dismal run, which has brought only one win innine league games, continued as former player Adel Taarabtscored QPR’s winner with a free kick before halftime to liftthem three points clear of the relegation zone.
Taarabt was later shown a red card but QPR held on.
Blackburn Rovers gave themselves fresh hope of avoiding thedrop with a 2-0 home defeat of Norwich City, even though they stayin the bottom three, while fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderersdrew 1-1 at home to Swansea City.
Wigan Athletic came down to earth after back-to-back winsagainst Manchester United and Arsenal by losing 2-1 at Fulham,while Aston Villa are still looking over their shoulder afterdrawing 0-0 at home to Sunderland.
Sandwiched between the first and second legs of Chelsea’sChampions League semi-final against Barcelona, the lunchtimeLondon derby at the Emirates proved unappetising with a draw notmuch use to either club in the light of Newcastle’s victory.
Newcastle took full advantage of the stalemate with Cabayeheading them in front from close range before Cisse, whose goalshave fired Newcastle upwards, combined with the Frenchman tomake it 2-0. Cabaye curled in Newcastle’s third after the break.
In the battle to finish in the top four, Arsenal have 65points from 35 matches, Newcastle have 62 from 34 whileTottenham have 59 from 34. Chelsea, who will try to defend a 1-0lead in the Nou Camp on Tuesday, are sixth with 58 from 34.
“It’s been a great season,” stated Newcastle manager AlanPardew. “We targeted the last 10 games and stated if we could bein and around it. Now we have just got four left and we will try andwin every one of them.”
Robert Di Matteo’s Chelsea, playing their third game in sixdays, reshuffled their side with Didier Drogba, scorer againstBarca, not included because of a knee injury.
They were resolute at the back, with John Terry and GaryCahill, who repelled everything Barca could throw at them inmidweek, again impressive, restricting Arsenal to few chances,the ideal of which was a Laurent Koscielny header that smackedthe crossbar in the opening period.
“It was a brilliant team performance,” Di Matteo told SkySports. “The organisation, team spirit, effort and commitmentwas great. It was a magnificent point.
“This was our third game in six days, which personally Ifeel is crazy but we showed there is a great quality in thisteam.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger stated he was surprised the gamehad not been more open as fans at the Emirates witnessed a firstgoalless draw this season, following his side’s 2-1 home defeatby Wigan Athletic.
“It was a strange game, they decided to lock it up and catchus on the break,” Wenger, who watched Theo Walcott limp off witha hamstring injury, stated on Sky. “They waited for us in theirhalf of the pitch and we were not sharp enough to open them up.”
Robin van Persie had a frustrating day for Arsenal as hefailed to add to his league haul of 27 goals.
The Dutchman, one of seven players booked, failed to connectproperly from close range early on and fired another shot tooclose to Petr Cech when well placed. His ideal chance arrivedafter the break when he sliced a right-footed effort wide.
Tottenham had plenty of possession at Loftus Road but thegoals have dried up for the north London side, whose season isin danger of ending in failure having spent most of the seasonin the top four and at one stage challenging for the title.
Taarabt beat Tottenham’s veteran keeper Brad Friedel,playing his 300th consecutive Premier League match, with acurling free kick after 24 minutes and the visitors were left torue missed chances by Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale.
“It’s all to play for, we have got four games and we have got towin them,” Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. “We’re still apoint in front of Chelsea and if we win our games it doesn’tmatter what they do – it is up to us now.”
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