MANCHESTER: Manchester City missed the chance to regain the Premier League leadership when they were held 3-3 at home by Sunderland. It could have been worse. Manager Roberto Mancini’s men were 3-1 down with five minutes to play at Eastlands.

This was City’s first home failure of the season. Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland were the better team from the start, refusing to be intimidated by the occasion or depressed by the memory of their FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Everton in midweek.

Seb Larsson opened the scoring after half an hour, on an assistant from  Stephane Sessegnon. Mario Balotelli levelled just before the interval from a disputed penalty after Craig Gardner was adjudged to have floored Edin Dzeko. Nicklas Bendter put Sunderland back in front in the third minute of first-half stoppage time laid on the third for Larsson in a second-half counter-attack.

Victory, however, proved beyond them. Balotelli pulled one back before Alexander Kolarov’s long-range shot fooled keeper  Simon Mignolet. Even so, City now trail champions and neighbours United, who go to Blackburn on Monday, by two points.

Mancini said: “I’m disappointed with our performance. In the end  I’m happy with one point but it’s not enough. We were too flat in the  first half,  I don’t know why. We still have seven  games, anything  can happen.”

At one stage Balotelli arguing Carlos Tevez over a free kick and Mancini was not happy. Mancini said: “Yes Mario  scored two goals but, like the rest of the team, he played only in the  last 10 or 15 minutes.”

Third-placed Arsenal lost 2-1 at reviving Queens Park Rangers. Arsene Wenger’s team remained third ahead of Tottenham who play Swindon tomorrow. Spurs would need a clear four-goal win to pull level with Arsenal on points and overtake them on goal difference.

QPR went ahead in the 22nd minute after  Adel Taarabt held off Thomas Vermaelen but the  Gunners levelled 15 minutes later through Theo Walcott whose initial shot came back off the post directly into his path. Vermaelen was outplayed again, this time by Jamie Mackie midway through the  second half and Samba Diakite sidefooted home.

Aston Villa went down 4-2 to Chelsea in front of captain Stiliyan Petrov who announced on Friday he had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia. The Bulgarian attended the match before starting treatment in a London hospital on Monday and after watching the Blues emerge victorious to move to within two points of Tottenham.

Daniel Sturridge put Chelsea ahead in the ninth minute when he pounced on the loose ball after a close-range effort from Fernando Torres had been blocked in a last-ditch tackle by Stephen Warnock. Branislav Ivanovic made it two six minutes after the break when he bundled home Juan Mata’s corner but it was not enough to kill off Villa.

With the first of three goals in six minutes, James Collins pulled one back, heading home with 13 minutes to go, and just three minutes later, Villa levelled through Eric Lichaj’s close-range shot. Ivanovic ultimately restored Chelsea’s lead with his second goal of the afternoon from  Florent Malouda’s corner.

Torres,  in injury time, scored his first league goal since since last September.

Everton moved up into seventh place, above Liverpool, by defeating West Bromwich 2-0 on goals from Leon Osman’s in the 18th minute – his shot deflected off  Gareth McAuley – and Victor Anichebe halfway through the second half.

Clint Dempsey scored Fulham’s first goal and made the secnd for Damien Duff in a 2-1 win against Norwich who responded with a consolation from Aaron Wilbraham in the 77th minute.

Wolves fell six points adrift of the rest of the league after a 3-2 home loss against Bolton. Michael Kightly put Wolves ahead in the 53rd minute only for Bolton to level from a controversial Martin Petrov penalty after  Mark Davies was adjudged to have been fouled by Roger Johnson.

The Trotters then went ahead with little more than 10 minutes left when Martin Petrov’s left-wing cross was headed against the bar by an unmarked David Ngog only for Alonso to pounce on the rebound.

Bolton scored their third when Chris Eagles ran unchallenged and passed to Kevin Davies who slotted home. Matt Jarvis pulled one back with three minutes left but it was not enough to save Wolves from a defeat which emans almost certain relegation.

Petrov, a friend of Aston Villa’s Stilyan as well as fellow countryman, said later: “Yesterday I was in shock and thought I could not play. But ‘Stan’ said I should play for his sake. So today I told the gaffer I would play my best for Stan and do my best to score a goal and win the game.”

Fellow strugglers Wigan secured only their second home win of the season by 2-0 over Stoke. Wigan went ahead 10 minutes into the second half when Jean Beausejour’s first-time cross from the left was attacked by Antolin Alcaraz whose powerful header gave Asmir Begovic no chance. Victor Moses sealed victory in stoppage  time.

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