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Liverpool lose fourth spot
January 03, 2008 04:58 IST
Liverpool's English Premier League title aspirations all but vanished on Wednesday with a 1-1 home draw against relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic which left them languishing 12 points behind leaders Arsenal.
Rafael Benitez's side were booed off the field at Anfield after Wigan defender Titus Bramble fired a late equaliser to cancel out a classy opener from Fernando Torres.
Liverpool have now dropped out of the Premier League's top four, Sven-Goran Eriksson's Manchester City rising above them after a 2-0 victory at troubled Newcastle United.
Brazilian Elano opened the scoring for City shortly before the interval and not even the second-half introduction of Michael Owen [Images] could inspire the Magpies as City doubled their lead through Fernandes Gelson.
City are fourth with 39 points, one more than Liverpool who have played a game fewer. Arsenal, who beat West Ham United 2-0 on Tuesday, are top with 50 points, two ahead of champions Manchester United.
Wigan's surprise draw lifts them out of the bottom three where they are replaced by Sunderland who were beaten 1-0 at Blackburn Rovers. Dwight Yorke was sent off for Sunderland.
Bolton Wanderers boosted their survival chances after a last-minute 1-0 defeat of bottom club Derby County who are 10 points adrift of safety.
Liverpool's draw will turn the spotlight back on coach Benitez as the Anfield club appear no closer to ending their long wait for a league title stretching back to 1990.
With Torres playing as a lone striker Liverpool huffed and puffed until the Spaniard started and finished a sweet move involving Steven Gerrard after 49 minutes for his 16th goal of the season.
Liverpool had chances to wrap up the points but an uncharacteristic mistake from Gerrard gave Wigan their first point against one of England's [Images] so-called big four.
His weak clearance fell straight at the feet of Bramble and the burly defender smashed the ball past Pepe Reina to leave Anfield in stunned silence.
"We need to do everything nearly perfect now," Benitez told Sky Sports News when asked if his side's title challenge is over. "When you lose points like today it's very difficult.
"They had just one chance and drew. In games like this you sometimes just need some luck."
Newcastle were also booed off at St James' Park after a third consecutive defeat over the holiday fixtures left them marooned in mid-table and facing a tricky FA Cup tie away at second division Stoke City on Sunday.
Elano's neat finish gave City the lead and after Owen had wasted a great chance to equalise Gelson Fernandes capped City's first away league victory since the opening day of the season.
Stelios Giannakopolous struck a stoppage time winner for Bolton against luckless Derby to lift them three points above the drop zone.