Chelsea halts slump by beating Wigan to stay 3rd

ROB HARRIS AP Sports Writer Published:

LONDON (AP) -- Chelsea halted a two-game winless run in the English Premier League by beating Wigan 4-1 to ease the pressure on manager Rafa Benitez and hold third place ahead of London rival Tottenham on Saturday.

Eden Hazard marked his return from suspension for kicking at a ball boy by scoring Chelsea's decisive second goal, while Ramires, Frank Lampard and Marko Marin also netted against relegation-threatened Wigan.

Gareth Bale scored both of Tottenham's goals in a 2-1 victory over Newcastle to consolidate the fourth Champions League qualification place and stay a point behind Chelsea.

Arsenal is four points behind Tottenham after surviving Carl Jenkinson's sending-off to win 1-0 at Sunderland courtesy of Santi Cazorla's goal.

Queens Park Rangers' faint hopes of surviving the drop took another hit as the bottom-place team lost 4-1 at Swansea.

The upside for QPR was Wigan remaining four points ahead in the third relegation place after failing to take any points off Chelsea.

Chelsea went in front in the 23rd minute after Fernando Torres latched onto David Luiz's pass and moved the ball forward to Ramires, who calmly dinked it over Ali Al-Habsi.

The second came 11 minutes into the second half. Cesar Azpilicueta brought down Cahill's deep free kick with his chest, cut into the penalty area and squared to Hazard, who swept the ball under Al-Habsi.

But the visitors produced a response inside two minutes. James McArthur sent the ball to Maloney on the edge of the penalty area. Cech rushed off his line, but Maloney rounded him before dispatching the ball in the net from a tight angle.

But Wigan couldn't conjure an equalizer before Chelsea's late goals added gloss to the win.

From Hazard's cutback, Lampard blasted in from the edge of the penalty area. In stoppage time, Al Absi batted away a shot from Azpilicueta, but substitute Marco Marin reacted, sending a low header into the net for his first Chelsea goal.

The victory relieved the pressure on Benitez following the slump that has also seen Chelsea exit the League Cup and draw against third-tier Brentford in the FA Cup.

"Nobody is in contact with the owner to find out if he says this or that," Benitez said in response to questions about his future after less than three months at Chelsea. "It's just speculation. I have to concentrate on winning games."

Tottenham recorded a second successive win as Bale made it four goals in three games.

The Wales winger scored from a dipping free kick in the 5th, and after Yoan Gouffran equalized, he powered in the winner in the 78th.

"We are fortunate to have players of this dimension who can decide games," Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said.

At Sunderland, Cazorla put Arsenal ahead in the 35th after Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott combined.

Jenkinson was dismissed in the 62nd after being booked for bringing down Stephane Sessegnon, having already been booked for a ninth-minute foul on Jack Colback.

In south Wales, Swansea's goals all came from Spaniards, with Michu scoring twice and Angel Rangel and Pablo Hernandez also netting.

QPR, which had pulled one back at 2-0 through Bobby Zamora, is four points from safety where Reading is two points above the drop zone.

Reading lost 2-1 at Stoke, which won for the first time in 2013 after goals from Robert Huth and Cameron Jerome.

At Norwich, Fulham extended Norwich's winless run to nine games by holding out for a 0-0 draw.

Manchester United is leading the way in the title race and plays Everton on Sunday.

Second-place Manchester City was nine points behind United heading into Saturday's late match at Southampton.