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Villa blow chance to pull away from Arsenal
March 02, 2009 09:45 IST
Aston Villa blew a chance to go eight points clear of Arsenal [Images] in the race for England's [Images] fourth Champions League [Images] berth Sunday after conceding two late goals against relegation-threatened Stoke City.
The 2-2 draw, with Stoke cancelling out their hosts' 2-0 lead in the final three minutes, left fourth-placed Villa six points ahead of Arsenal and three adrift of second-placed Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League.
Arsenal, who beat AS Roma 1-0 in the Champions League in midweek, had stumbled to a 0-0 draw at home to Fulham on Saturday.
Bulgarian Stilian Petrov put Villa ahead on the stroke of halftime and John Carew added the second in the 79th, only three minutes after replacing Emile Heskey.
Stoke then grabbed what looked like a consolation goal through Ryan Shawcross in the 87th before Glenn Whelan struck the equaliser in stoppage time.
"It's desperately disappointing," Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who rested several key players after their UEFA [Images] Cup last-32 defeat by CSKA Moscow [Images] Thursday, told Sky Sports television. "We got a bit slack."
The draw still left Stoke deep in trouble, dropping to 19th place after Blackburn Rovers beat Hull City 2-1 to claw their way out of the bottom three on goal difference.
Hull and Blackburn both ended their match with 10 men after the home side's Dean Marney was sent off in the 63rd and Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen followed eight minutes later for a second booking.
Blackburn also scored twice in quick succession, taking the lead in the 34th when Roque Santa Cruz punished an error by goalkeeper Matt Duke and set up Stephen Warnock to side-foot into the top of the net.
Warnock then crossed from the left for Keith Andrews to tap home. Hull pulled a goal back through Ian Ashbee in the 79th.
Blackburn moved up to 17th place on 26 points, ahead of Middlesbrough on goal difference.
West Ham United beat mid-table rivals Manchester City 1-0 at Upton Park while Bolton Wanderers, fresh from signing a new contract with manager Gary Megson, beat Newcastle United by the same scoreline.
City's Craig Bellamy, booed by the home fans on his return to his former club, set up a good chance for Robinho in the first half but the Brazilian poked it wide.
West Ham saw midfielder Valon Bahrami suffer a serious-looking injury in the first half. The Swiss international was given oxygen and then carried off on a stretcher with his knee in a brace.
Jack Collison side-footed the winner with 19 minutes remaining to send the Hammers up to seventh with 36 points.