Soccer: Arsenal moves four points clear

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud, center, celebrates scoring a penalty and his second goal of the game during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Southampton. Photo / AP
Arsenal's Olivier Giroud, center, celebrates scoring a penalty and his second goal of the game during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Southampton. Photo / AP

Surprise package Southampton was brought back down to earth by Arsenal as the Gunners provisionally extended their Premier League lead to four points with a 2-0 win over the Saints and Liverpool was held to a 3-3 draw at Everton in a pulsating Merseyside derby this morning (NZT).

Arsene Wenger's team bounced back from defeat against defending champion Manchester United with a dominant display, capped by two goals from Olivier Giroud the first after Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc bizarrely lost the ball to the France striker in the box.

At Goodison Park, substitute Daniel Sturridge salvaged a deserved draw for the Reds and last-place Crystal Palace reacted to the hiring of Tony Pulis as manager by beating Hull 1-0 to climb off the bottom.

Also, Fulham lost 2-1 at home against Swansea and dropped into the bottom three, Newcastle beat Norwich 2-1 and Stoke won 2-0 against Sunderland, which replaced Crystal Palace at the foot of the standings.

``I'm very happy because we were against a good team and they showed why they made good results before,'' Wenger said after giving Southampton its second league loss this season. ``We couldn't take our chances but we took advantage of their mistakes. It's a very good win against a difficult team. They stopped us well from playing.''

Arsenal was sluggish at the start but then dominated before Boruc lost the ball after trying to dribble Giroud, who easily won the ball before scoring from close range.

``It happens. Players are quick to close down. Maybe he was a bit too confident and Olivier Giroud did very well,'' Wenger said.

Southampton has been praised for its free-flowing football this season but struggled against Arsenal. The Saints played as high on the pitch and pressed as usual but failed to create clear-cut chances.

Liverpool had plenty of chances in a thrilling Merseyide derby which they came close to losing for the first time since October 2010.

But Sturridge equalized with a glancing header from Steven Gerrard's free kick just 10 minutes after coming off the bench to cap an action-packed game. The result left Liverpool four points behind Arsenal with 24 points from 12 games while Everton has 21, one point behind Southampton.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the second half as Everton took a 3-2 lead. The Belgian forward thought he had given the three points to his team when he headed home in the 82nd minute, just 10 minutes after taking advantage of some confusion in the Liverpool box to slide the ball past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring in the fifth minute before Kevin Mirallas equalized for Everton three minutes later in a thrilling start. Luis Suarez put the Reds in front with a free kick in the 19th minute.

``That is the best experience I've ever had in club football. It's a pity we didn't win but hopefully we will next time,'' Lukaku said.

Mirallas was lucky to escape a straight red card in the 33rd minute after an ugly foul on Suarez, with the Belgium forward stamping his studs on the striker's thigh. Suarez screamed in pain and lied on the pitch for several minutes but was able to return to the game.

``It was a terrific game, I've been involved in a few and they are real heart-stoppers,'' Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers said. ``We again showed our resilience and ability to fight back. This is a difficult place to come and they haven't lost at Goodison Park this year.''

Stoke ended an eight-match winless streak against Sunderland, which had Wes Brown sent off in controversial circumstances. The hosts scored either side of the interval at the Britannia stadium with goals from Charlie Adam and Steven Nzonzi.

Sunderland players were furious after referee Kevin Friend deemed a sliding tackle from Brown on Adam that appeared to win the ball fairly for the defender to merit a straight red card in the 36th minute.

Substitute Jonjo Shelvey scored a late winner to give Swansea a 2-1 victory over Fulham, leaving the London club struggling in the relegation zone.

Shelvey slotted a shot past Maarten Stekelenburg in the 80th minute to give Swansea its first league win in six games and heap further pressure on Fulham manager Martin Jol. Swansea has 15 points from 12 games while Fulham is stuck on 10 and in 18th place.

At Hull, Palace overcame the 78th-minute sending-off of Yannick Bolasie to score the only goal three minutes later, with Barry Bannan netting from close range following Cameron Jerome's cross.

Caretaker manager Keith Millen hands over to Pulis with Palace now above Sunderland on goal difference, and the new coach's record of never having been relegated will give the Londoners renewed hope of staying up.

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