Aston Villa and Southampton won away games today to improve their chances of avoiding relegation from English soccer’s Premier League.
Villa defeated Stoke 3-1 to move out of the three relegation positions at the bottom of the 20-team league. Southampton defeated last-place Reading 2-0 to go seven points clear of the teams that will be dropped to the second-tier Championship.
Arsenal helped its chances of qualifying for the Champions League with a 2-1 win at West Brom and Swansea drew 2-2 at Norwich.
Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke scored in the final three minutes as Aston Villa won for the third time in four games to move up to 16th place, three points clear of relegation.
Gabriel Agbonlahor gave Villa the lead after nine minutes at the Britannia Stadium before Michael Kightly tied the game for Stoke with 10 minutes remaining.
Lowton put Villa in front in the 87th minute with a shot into the top corner from about 25 yards and Benteke clinched the victory in the final minute.
Stoke has won just one of its past 17 league matches to fall into 14th place, four points above the relegation zone.
Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana scored at the Madejski Stadium in Reading to give Southampton its third straight win. The Saints move up to 11th place, seven points clear of the drop zone.
Southampton took the lead in the 34th minute when Rodriguez slid to poke a ball through the legs of goalkeeper Adam Federici. Lallana then converted a pass from Rodriguez to clinch the victory with 18 minutes left.
Reading’s chances of avoiding the drop are dwindling after a seventh straight loss. The Royals remain at the bottom of the standings with 23 points, seven points from safety with six matches left in the season.
Tomas Rosicky scored both goals as 10-man Arsenal held off West Brom to move above Chelsea into fourth place. Rosicky scored once in each half to give the Gunners, who’ve won six of their past seven in the league, a 2-0 lead.
Arsenal went down to 10 men in the 71st minute as Per Mertesacker was red-carded for a foul on Shane Long in the area. James Morrison converted the penalty kick to pull West Brom within a goal but the home side was unable to tie the score.
Arsenal moved one point ahead of Chelsea, which plays Sunderland tomorrow, and trails third-place Tottenham, which hosts Everton tomorrow, by a point as the three battle for the final two qualifying places in the Champions League.
Luke Moore’s goal in the 75th minute earned Swansea the draw at Norwich. Miguel Michu also scored for the Swans, while Robert Snodgrass and Michael Turner had the Norwich goals.
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