Diego Costa snaffled a stoppage-time equaliser to preserve interim manager Guus Hiddink’s unbeaten record as Chelsea snatched a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United on Sunday.
United looked to be closing to within four points of the Premier League’s top four after Jesse Lingard’s 61st-minute goal set Louis van Gaal’s men on course for a third consecutive win in all competitions.
But in the first of six minutes of injury time, added on for a serious-looking knee injury to Chelsea centre-back Kurt Zouma, Costa rounded David de Gea to score, extending Hiddink’s unbeaten run since succeeding the sacked Jose Mourinho to 10 matches.
Chelsea remain 13th, 17 points below the top four, but while their Champions League qualification hopes have long seemed over, Costa’s goal dealt a weighty blow to embattled United manager Van Gaal.
Van Gaal bullishly dismissed speculation linking Mourinho with his job prior to the game, but finishes the weekend with his side six points below the top four.
Buoyed by breezy recent wins over Derby County, in the FA Cup, and Stoke City, in the league, United had made a strong start, with Anthony Martial testing Thibaut Courtois in the 18th minute.
Chelsea rallied, John Terry seeing a penalty appeal waved away after his shot hit Daley Blind on the arm, but after Zouma had been carried off following an awkward fall, United made the breakthrough.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s cross was helped on by Wayne Rooney and Lingard took a touch before slamming in his second goal in two games.
But after United goalkeeper De Gea had saved from Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas, Costa equalised in stoppage time when he gathered Fabregas’s pass, rounded De Gea and slotted home.
Know more about Sport360 Application
Arsenal returned to third place in the Premier League after Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goals ended a four-game winless streak with a 2-0 victory at Bournemouth on Sunday.
But two goals in a minute midway through the first half were enough to move them back level on points with second-place Tottenham Hotspur, five points behind leaders Leicester City, who visit the Emirates Stadium in seven days’ time.
The progress of near neighbours Tottenham has only added to Arsenal’s frustration as they have struggled to rediscover the form that took them to the head of the table.
But manager Arsene Wenger could be satisfied with the way his side showed signs of the form that took them to the league summit at the turn of the year, with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first league goal of the season a welcome bonus.
Bournemouth’s recent results showed that Wenger’s side could not afford to take anything for granted, with Eddie Howe’s team unbeaten in their previous three league games, including an impressive mid-week victory at Crystal Palace.
The presence of Benik Afobe in the home line-up also gave the Gunners cause for concern, with the 22-year-old anxious to impress against his former club after revealing his frustration at having never been given a first-team chance at the Emirates Stadium.
Afobe left 13 months ago and has already made his mark in the top flight with three goals in four games since completing a ?10 million ($14.5 million, 13.3 million euros) move from Wolverhampton Wanderers last month.
A positive start by Howe’s men meant that Arsenal were given little time to settle and the hosts were convinced that Mathieu Flamini — selected ahead of Francis Coquelin, who started on the bench — should have seen red rather than yellow for a studs-up challenge on Dan.
Wenger on mental strength: "We are in the title race. We can only control our performances and we believe in it. There is still a long way."— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 7, 2016
Referee Kevin Friend thought otherwise and having withstood early pressure, Wenger’s side exposed Bournemouth’s defensive vulnerability twice in quick succession to take control of the game.
Aaron Ramsey was the provider for the first goal, clipping a ball towards the far post for Olivier Giroud, whose headed knock-down enabled Ozil to finish smartly from 10 yards out in the 23rd minute.
Less than a minute later, the visitors added a second, with Ramsey again the architect.
This time the midfielder picked up a loose ball after Alexis Sanchez’s forward run had been halted before releasing Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right side of the area, from where the winger finished well with an angled shot that went in off the left-hand post.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has endured a frustrating run of injuries over the last couple of seasons and this was the first time he had been involved in a league goal since September 2014.
The game could have been over if the referee had not ignored Arsenal’s claims for a penalty when Nacho Monreal went down under a challenge from Matt Ritchie.
But with Bournemouth’s first-half response limited to an excellent dipping shot from Harry Arter that drew an acrobatic save from Petr Cech, there seemed little chance of a comeback.
The home side’s response after the break, however, suggested there was no lack of belief among Howe’s players.
They came close to getting back into the game when Adam Smith shot into the side netting and it took a late double save from Cech, who denied first Simon Cook and then Arter, to preserve the visitors’ clean sheet.
Pablo Zabaleta says Manchester City’s stars can’t let the prospect of an uncertain future under Pep Guardiola ruin a dream season.
But news of Guardiola’s appointment and Pellegrini’s planned departure has come at a crucial time when City are still challenging in all four competitions.
Their Premier League title bid suffered a setback on Saturday with a 3-1 loss at home to leaders Leicester City and Zabaleta said of the managerial situation: “We need to deal with it.
No excuses, but we are not going to throw in the towel. You learn from every match and from this one too. Let's forge ahead!— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) February 6, 2016
“The club decided to announce this now after so many rumours, so we really understand this. Now it’s just time to finish in the best way we can do this season.
“We are all behind Manuel. He’s been great for this football club. So he will continue in the way he has done for the last few years, nothing will change for him.
“And then we’ll see at the end of the season with the new manager coming in. We suspect changes, but it’s normal. Now is not the right time to talk about the future because there’s a lot of time for this. We just need to be 100 per cent focused on the next games.”
Those games include a home test on Sunday against a Spurs side also in contention for the title, an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea, a Champions League last-16 test with Dynamo Kiev and a League Cup final showdown with Liverpool.
Manchester City against the top six this season:— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) February 6, 2016
And, despite having seven first-team players out through injury, with David Silva the latest after an ankle knock, Zabaleta says it is time for the team to raise their game.
“It’s been a very difficult season in terms of injuries and obviously now it’s a period with big games coming up, so of course you need your whole squad fit, your best players in their best form,” he added.
“The strength of the squad is to be ready for the next three months that will be crucial for this team because we are playing in four competitions at the moment.
“I know it’s really hard but now all we can do is be focused on the next games. We have another huge game next week against Spurs so we have a long week now to rest.
“In the last 10 days we’ve played two more games than Leicester and obviously in the way we are playing at the moment it’s hard, but we need to accept that we are Manchester City, we aspire to win as many trophies as we can and we’ll see at the end of the season.
“In this league you cannot give up so early, we need to keep working hard and just try to be back in our best form to win the games. We have the Champions League coming up as well so we need to reach again our best form and obviously you need your best playing their best football.”
City have not won against a top-six side this season, but Zabaleta added: “Every single game in this league is very hard. There’s nothing mentally, or nothing to talk about not winning the big games.
“We must give credit to Leicester. I think they were a really solid team, they deserve the three points.”