LONDON: Arsenal strengthened their prospects of finishing again in the four after beating West Bromwich 2-1 despite Per Mertesacker collecting the first red card of his Premier League career.

Mertesacker was dismissed with 19 minutes after bringing down Shane Long for the penalty with which James Morrison brought Albion back into the game. Earlier Arsenal had taken command with two goals from Tomas Rosicky in the Czech playmaker’s best game of another injury-hit season.

This was Arsenal’s sixth win in their last seven league games.

A ‘goal of the season’ volley from Matt Lowton inspired Aston Villa to the relief of a 3-1 win at Stoke. Manager Paul Lambert regained hope of Premier League survival as Villa moved three points clear of the drop zone and 10 points clear of the bottom two.

Robert Huth and Stoke are now in serious relegation danger themselves after their worst display of the season. Stoke have won only one of their last 13 games and were saved from a heavier defeat by the brilliance of keeper Asmir Begovic.

Nigel Adkins was cheered by fans of both teams before Reading’s 2-0 home defeat by Southampton. Adkins was sacked by Saints before Christmas after bringing them up through two divisions. He was then appointed last month by struggling Reading.

Adkins will gave to repeat his promotion trick again next season: Reading are heading straight back down to the Championship [second division] after a club record eighth successive defeat.

Michu opened the scoring with his 17th goal of term in League Cup-holders Swansea’s 2-2 draw at Norwich. He is now third-equal top scorer in the Premier League, level with Tottenham’s injured Gareth Bale.

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