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Manchester clubs sink London rivals to move clear at summit

updated 2:07 PM EST, Sun January 22, 2012
Manchester City's Mario Balotelli celebrates his winning penalty soon after he appeared to kick out at an opponent.
Manchester City's Mario Balotelli celebrates his winning penalty soon after he appeared to kick out at an opponent.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mario Balotelli's late penalty hands Manchester City a 3-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur
  • Italian appeared to aim a stamp at opponent's head before he scored the winning goal
  • Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates to keep pace with title rivals
  • City remain three points ahead of United as both Manchester clubs move clear of third

(CNN) -- An injury time penalty from Mario Balotelli secured a dramatic 3-2 win for Manchester City as they staved off a brave fight back from Tottenham to maintain their three point lead at the top of the English Premier League.

City's main title rivals, Manchester United, also negotiated a difficult test at Arsenal by winning 2-1 to remain on the coat tails of their big-spending neighbors.

Victories for both Manchester clubs saw them pull clear from third-placed Tottenham -- City are now eight points ahead of them, and United five -- with the race for the championship now seeming like a two-horse race.

Italy striker Balotelli was involved in another contentious incident in the match as he appeared to aim a stamp at Scott Parker's head, a flashpoint that angered Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.

"What reason did he have to kick Scott in the head with his studs while he is lying on the floor? It's not a nice thing to do and it has no place in football," Redknapp told a press conference.

"It's not the first time he's done that is it? I'm sure it won't be the last. I'm the last person to talk about getting people sent off, but it's blatantly obvious if you see that, he reacts like that at times to challenges."

What reason did he (Balotelli) have to kick Scott Parker in the head with his studs while he is lying on the floor?
Harry Redknapp, Tottenham manager

Prior to Balotelli's late spot kick the game burst to life in nine second half minutes. First, Samir Nasri's emphatic finish from Silva's pass on 56 minutes gave City the lead before Joleon Lescott bundled a corner into the net three minutes later.

But City let the visitors back into the game within a minute as centre back Stefan Savic failed to deal with a long ball and Jermain Defoe took the ball round City goalkeeper Joe Hart to finish into an empty net.

And five minutes later, Tottenham were level as Gareth Bale struck a superb equalizer from the edge of the penalty area after Aaron Lennon's pass.

Defoe had a chance to win the game for Tottenham in injury time but though he stretched to connect with Bale's cross he could only poke the ball wide of the target from four yards out.

And Tottenham were made to pay for that miss as Ledley King brought down Balotelli in the final minute of added on time and the Italian made no mistake from 12 yards.

Manchester United took the lead at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in north London when Antonio Valencia headed home Ryan Giggs' cross on the stroke of half time.

Arsenal's Dutch captain Robin van Persie, who had already squandered a great chance to bring his side level, found the net on 71 minutes with an angled drive from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's pass.

Teenage winger Oxlade-Chamberlain was substituted straight after the equalizer, drawing boos from the home support.

And his replacement, Russian Andrei Arshavin, failed to close down Valencia as he got into the area late in the game to tee up England striker Danny Welbeck for the winner.

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