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Rampant Newcastle closes in on Arsenal in EPL

By Steve Douglas

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 21 2012 11:30 a.m. MDT

Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse celebrates his goal against Stoke City during their English Premier League soccer match at the Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle, England, Saturday, April 21, 2012.

Scott Heppell, Associated Press

LONDON — Arsenal was held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Chelsea, allowing rampant Newcastle to trim the gap to third place to three points with an easy 3-0 win over Stoke in the English Premier League on Saturday.

Papiss Demba Cisse scored for the sixth straight match and Yohan Cabaye grabbed two goals as Newcastle claimed a sixth successive victory to climb provisionally into fourth ahead of Tottenham's match at Queens Park Rangers later Saturday.

Chelsea — playing largely a second-string team in view of Tuesday's Champions League match at Barcelona — held on for a point at Emirates Stadium after Arsenal hit the woodwork twice.

Roberto Di Matteo's team stays seven points behind Arsenal but is four adrift of Newcastle, which it meets in a potentially crucial match at Stamford Bridge on May 2.

Tottenham will go back above Newcastle on goal difference with a win at Queens Park Rangers later Saturday.

The battle against relegation took another twist thanks to Blackburn's 2-0 win over Norwich that lifted Steve Kean's team above Bolton, which fell to next to last with a 1-1 draw against Swansea.

Fifth-bottom Wigan's stunning recent run, which included wins over league leader Manchester United and Arsenal, came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Fulham, while Aston Villa drew 0-0 with Sunderland in the other match.

With Arsenal following up its shock 2-1 home loss to Wigan on Monday with a goalless draw with Chelsea, the race for the final two Champions League spots is wide open.

Arsenal has played a game more than all of its rivals and is in danger of being caught by Newcastle, which is the form team in the division.

Cisse has sparked Alan Pardew's side into life since joining from Freiburg in January and took his tally to 11 goals in 10 games with the second against Stoke.

However, most of the plaudits went to French midfielder Cabaye, who headed Newcastle in front in the 14th minute after Cisse's header came back off the bar, set up the Senegal striker's goal, then sealed the win in the 57th with a curling left-foot finish from 20 yards (meters).

Chelsea's goal led a charmed life at Emirates Stadium, with Robin van Persie hitting the post and Laurent Koscielny striking the bar with close-range efforts in two of the few chances created in a poor match between two of the giants of the league.

Chelsea will came away the happier of the sides, having made eight changes to the team that beat Barcelona 1-0 in their semifinal first leg on Wednesday.

"Under the circumstances, we have to be pleased with a point away at the Emirates," Di Matteo said.

"Two semifinals and an away match against Arsenal in the space of six days is a crazy schedule. I think we are still in the running for fourth spot and we will fight until the end of the season."

However, the result leaves Chelsea running out of games to close the gap to the three teams above them, especially considering they have an FA Cup final and potentially a Champions League final in their hectic fixture list.

Five days after Mikel Arteta was ruled out for the season, Arsenal was dealt another injury blow with Theo Walcott hobbling off with a hamstring problem that Wenger believes will end the winger's campaign.

"I think we were nervous today because we could not afford to lose the game," Wenger said.

Mauro Formica and Junior Hoilett scored Blackburn's goals against Norwich to secure their team's first win in six games.

Bolton rallied for a point against Swansea thanks to Chris Eagles' equalizer at Reebok Stadium but is still stuck in the relegation area, although it does have games in hand over all of its rivals at the bottom.

Wigan was sunk by a last-minute goal by Fulham defender Philippe Senderos and is just three points above the drop zone.

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