LONDON – Arsenal scored three times in the last five minutes to beat Norwich City 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium and leap to third place in the Premier League table on Saturday.
Michael Turner’s header looked to have consigned Arsene Wenger’s men to defeat, but Mikel Arteta equalised with an 85th-minute penalty before a Sebastien Bassong own goal and an injury-time strike from Lukas Podolski completed the comeback.
Victory takes Arsenal above Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, neither of whom play in the league this weekend, and with eight wins in nine games, their push for Champions League qualification is firmly on track.
The hosts had the best of the first half but the closest they came to scoring was an Olivier Giroud header in the 23rd minute that came back off the crossbar.
Turner put Norwich ahead in the 56th minute, ghosting in to meet Robert Snodgrass’ inswinging free-kick with a close-range header.
Arsenal, who recalled Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott after injury, saw Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn turn a Podolski shot onto the crossbar as they pushed for an equaliser.
It looked destined to be a frustrating afternoon for the home side, but Kei Kamara’s tug on Giroud allowed Arteta to equalise from the spot before Bassong turned the ball into his own goal from Podolski’s cut-back.
Podolski sealed victory in added time, beating Bunn with a low shot from Walcott’s lay-off.
“I thought we wouldn’t give in and would fight until the end,” said Arsenal manager Wenger.
“No-one could predict we would score three goals, but we have great attitude, spirit and desire – and it got us there. We deserved to win but we were against a strong side and needed something special.”
Norwich, 1-0 victors over Arsenal at Carrow Road in October, have now won just once in 16 matches and remain only four points above the relegation places.
News of Arsenal’s late rally was a blow for Everton, who closed to within three points of the top four after winning 2-0 at home to second-bottom Queens Park Rangers.
Darron Gibson broke the deadlock in the 40th minute at Goodison Park with a deflected shot from 25 yards, with Victor Anichebe flicking in a Sylvain Distin knock-down 11 minutes into the second period.
“We played well at times. The pitch is very poor at the minute and that is not helping us, but we got the goals that mattered,” said Everton manager David Moyes, whose side visit Arsenal on Tuesday.
“I think if we beat Arsenal in mid-week we can talk about the Champions League, but if we lose, we are talking about a Europa League place.”
QPR remain seven points from safety but they have played two games more than third-bottom Wigan Athletic, who faced Millwall in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday, and a game more than fourth-bottom Sunderland.
Reading are still bottom of the table but they drew level on points with QPR after withstanding a Liverpool onslaught in a 0-0 draw at the Madejski Stadium.
Chris Gunter headed an early Luiz Suarez effort off the Reading goal-line, while Philippe Coutinho saw a goal ruled out for offside and curled a shot against the post.
Aston Villa spurned an opportunity to haul themselves out of the relegation picture in a 1-1 draw at home to Fulham.
Charles N’Zogbia put Villa ahead 10 minutes into the second half with a high finish from an Andreas Weimann cutback, only for Fabian Delph to inadvertently head Bryan Ruiz’s corner into his own goal 11 minutes later.
“The point keeps the momentum there,” said Villa manager Paul Lambert, whose side are three points above the bottom three.
“I played under a great manager once and he said if you can’t win a game, then don’t lose it. I think you can sense in the stadium the fans are behind us.”
Meanwhile, Andy Carroll marked his return to the West Ham United starting XI with a second-half equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Southampton.
Gaston Ramirez gave Southampton the lead shortly before the hour when he calmly beat Jussi Jaaskelainen, but Carroll levelled the scores seven minutes later with a deflected free-kick. (AFP)