The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bolt from Blue for Arsenal
- Premier league l Gunners squander two-goal advantage

London, April 26 (Reuters): Arsenalís title hopes suffered a potentially fatal blow on Saturday when they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at relegation strugglers Bolton Wanderers.

Goals from Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires midway through the second half had put the champions on course to take over at the top of the table from Manchester United.

But Youri Djorkaeff pulled one back for Bolton and Arsenalís substitute defender Martin Keown then scored an own goal in the 84th minute.

The draw left Arsenal in second place with 72 points from 35 games, trailing United, who have 74 points also from 35 games and play at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday in the first of their final three games.

In the race for the third and fourth places, which mean a slot in the Champions League qualifiers, Chelsea slipped up in a 1-1 west London derby draw with Fulham but rivals Newcastle United and Liverpool both secured victories.

A Nolberto Solano penalty gave Newcastle United a 1-0 win over bottom club Sunderland, while Michael Owen scored four times, including his 100th League goal, as Liverpool crushed already-relegated West Bromwich Albion 6-0.

With two games to go, Newcastle are now third on 65 points and Chelsea are fourth on goal difference ahead of Liverpool, with both teams on 64 points. Significantly, Chelsea host Liverpool in their final game of the season.

Bolton, whose French defender Florent Laville was sent off in the closing minutes, earned a valuable point in their battle against the drop ó giving them 40 points, five more than third-from-bottom West Ham United, who play at Manchester City on Sunday.

Hammer blow

But the result is a hammer blow to Arsenalís hopes of retaining their title, which now rest on Manchester United slipping up in their final games against Spurs, Charlton Athletic and Everton.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed the setback on his defence, citing a lack of concentration after his team had taken what looked like a comfortable lead.

ďWith 15 minutes to go, we looked safe and with the experience we had at the back we should have been secure...we were punished.Ē

As for the title race, he said: ďThe problem is that itís not in our hands and we now need some good results for us. Of course, we will support Tottenham tomorrow.

Arsenal had been hoping to win a Treble this season, but were dumped out of the Champions League at the second group phase and have now handed United the initiative in the title race.

They defend their FA Cup in this seasonís final against Southampton on May 17 in Cardiff, but face mounting injury and suspension problems.

In other games, Everton strengthened their grip on a Uefa Cup place after 17-year-old England striker Wayne Rooney scored a stoppage time winner as they beat Aston Villa 2-1 at home.

Everton stay sixth but move on to 59 points, still three ahead of rivals Blackburn Rovers who won 3-2 at Leeds United.

Defeat for Leeds kept them hovering above the relegation zone on 41 points, fifth from bottom.

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