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BPL: Arsenal Go Clear, Rooney's Landmark Saves United

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Laurent Koscielny scored as Arsenal edged Newcastle United 1-0 on Saturday to pull two points clear of Leicester City at the top of the Premier League table.
Koscielny stabbed home a flick-on from France teammate Olivier Giroud in the 72nd minute at a rain-lashed Emirates Stadium and Leicester were held 0-0 by Bournemouth, with Riyad Mahrez squandering a penalty.
“We were not at our best, but we had to dig deep and we can do that when needed,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Manchester City, third, can close to within a point of Leicester if they win at Watford later on Saturday. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney scored as Manchester United ended an eight-game winless run by beating Swansea City 2-1.
Arsenal were bidding to build on the 2-0 win over Bournemouth that had sent them top of the table on goal difference, but Newcastle went close to going ahead several times.
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech had to produce smart saves to thwart Georginio Wijnaldum either side of halftime, while Aleksandar Mitrovic diverted a volleyed cross from Ayoze Perez over the bar from close range.
With the home fans growing restless, Koscielny supplied the breakthrough 18 minutes from time, sneaking in behind Perez to toe the ball past Rob Elliot after Giroud had got his head to a high ball.
“It was about solidarity, tired legs and taking a chance from a set-piece,” Wenger added.
“We were not at our best today, but over Christmas in four games we took nine points so we can look back and say we did 75 percent of our job as we lost at Southampton.”
Leicester have now gone three league games without winning or scoring after their stalemate against 10-man Bournemouth at the King Power Stadium.
Jamie Vardy hit the post in the first half and was then fouled by Simon Francis in an incident that saw the Bournemouth defender sent off and yielded Leicester’s 60th-minute penalty.
For once this season Mahrez’s radar betrayed him, the Algerian’s penalty parried by Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
However, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri was eager to underline the positives, pointing out that his side have now reached the 40-point mark usually required to avoid relegation.
“A draw is not OK, it is only one point, but it is OK as we have 40 points, which was the goal,” said the Italian. “It’s champagne for my players!”
ROONEY MILESTONE
At Old Trafford, Rooney scored a milestone winner against Swansea, which made him the second-highest outright goal-scorer in both Premier League (188 goals) and United (238) history.
Anthony Martial headed United in front from Ashley Young’s right-wing cross early in the second half, only for Gylfi Sigurdsson to head Swansea level in the 70th minute from a Modou Barrow cross.
But Rooney converted a cut-back from Martial with a sumptuous near-post back-heel 13 minutes from time as United claimed a first win in seven league games to further ease the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal.
“I am very happy for the players because they had to play under big pressure and now we have won,” Van Gaal told the BBC.
“I hope this is a fantastic starting point for us in the New Year and we can continue against Sheffield United (in the FA Cup).”
The result lifted United to fifth place, two points below Tottenham Hotspur, who visit Everton on Sunday.
West Ham United are a point back in sixth after Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll scored headed goals in a 2-0 home win over Liverpool.
Aston Villa spurned another chance to close on safety after losing 3-1 at second-bottom Sunderland, with Jermain Defoe scoring twice to leave Remi Garde’s side seven points adrift at the foot of the table.
Patrick van Aanholt put Sunderland in front with a deflected effort and Villa were momentarily level courtesy of a brilliant Carles Gil volley in the 63rd minute, only for Defoe to net twice in the last 18 minutes.
“It’s a great relief,” said Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce, whose side closed to within four points of safety.
“Hopefully it will give us confidence going forward. We’re still very much in trouble, but this win was critical.”
Jonny Evans’s stoppage-time goal earned West Bromwich Albion a last-gasp 2-1 win over Stoke City, who had Geoff Cameron sent off after an altercation with Claudio Yacob.
Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama was dismissed as Southampton went down 1-0 at Norwich City, where Alexander Tettey scored a 76th-minute winner.

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