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Arsenal edge past Spurs

London: Arsenal guaranteed themselves Christmas dinner as Premier League leaders after they beat north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at the Emirates on Saturday to open a four-point lead.

Arsenal, below their best for much of the game, won with a 76th-minute header by Nicklas Bendtner to move to 43 points, four ahead of Manchester United, who play in-form Everton on Sunday.

Chelsea, also in action on Sunday at Blackburn Rovers, are third on 34.

Manchester City, who drew 1-1 at Aston Villa, remain fourth on 34 with Liverpool fifth on 33 after Fernando Torres scored twice in their 4-1 home win over Portsmouth that ended the south coast club’s six-game run of away league wins.

West Ham United and Reading claimed late goals to secure 2-1 wins over Middlesbrough and Sunderland, respectively, while Bolton Wanderers beat Birmingham City 3-0.

Fulham, who sacked manager Lawrie Sanchez on Friday, drew 1-1 at home with Wigan Athletic, who ended a run of seven consecutive away defeats.

Tottenham, who have now gone 20 league and Cup games without beating Arsenal, missed their chance on Saturday.

Arsenal took the lead three minutes into the second half when a backheel by Cesc Fabregas set up Emmanuel Adebayor for 10th league goal this season.

Dimitar Berbatov levelled from a tight angle in the 66th minute but, after the Bulgarian was then tripped in the box, Robbie Keane had his penalty saved by Manuel Almunia.

Arsenal took almost immediate advantage when 19-year-old Danish striker Bendtner came off the bench to power home a header from a Fabregas corner with his first touch.

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