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Arsenal hang on to EPL lead but rivals Manchester City keep up pressure

updated 5:33 PM EST, Sat January 18, 2014
Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla scores twices to ensure Arsenal hang on to their slim EPL lead.
Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla scores twices to ensure Arsenal hang on to their slim EPL lead.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Second half goals help Arsenal to 2-0 win over Fulham
  • Victory sees London club hang on to English Premier League lead by one point
  • Manchester City beat Cardiff 4-2 to stay close to Arsenal in second place
  • Real Madrid join Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga after 5-0 win

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(CNN) -- Defense or attack? Is there a preferred way to clinch the English Premier League title?

Arsenal and Manchester City, the two title rivals in action Saturday, displayed opposing tactics as both recorded victories.

Anxious Arsenal fans had to wait for the London club to beat rivals Fulham and hang onto their English Premier League lead by a single point from City.

Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla struck twice in quick succession in the second half to seal a 2-0 win for Arsene Wenger's side.

But the Arsenal manager was quick to praise the defensive bedrock of the team, which had done well to deny Dimitar Berbatov and Ashken Dejagah in the first half and Pajtim Kasami late on.

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"That stability is vital to us," Wenger told Sky Sports after the match. "We were seriously defensive for 90 minutes today. Our defenders deserve credit."

It was a different story further north in Manchester where free-scoring City raced to a 4-2 victory over Cardiff.

Edin Dzeko scored City's 100th goal of the season -- a neat feat so early in the campaign -- as he opened the scoring with 14 minutes on the clock.

The bobbling goal was verified by goal-line technology, making its debut in the EPL this season, as an electronic signal sent to referee Neil Swarbrick's watch confirmed the ball had crossed the line.

Although Cardiff pulled back a surprise equaliser thanks to Craig Noone, City were undeterred and Jesus Navas soon nosed them back in front.

In the second half, Yaya Toure and the returning Sergio Aguero linked up to help each other score and put the game beyond Cardiff.

City's attacking game had done enough to keep the 2011/2012 EPL champions snapping at Arsenal's ankles but manager Manuel Pellegrini felt his side deserved more.

"The score does not reflect the match," he told Sky Sports. "It was one of the matches where we missed more chances to score.

"It's very important to score 100 [goals] because this moment in the season the team has a clear style of play and we continue exactly what we're doing so far."

Chelsea, third in the table, invite defending champions Manchester United to Stamford Bridge on Sunday when Swansea also host Tottenham.

This season the Premier League is fiercely competitive not only at the top of the table but throughout the swathe of 20 teams. The bottom 10 teams are separated by just five points.

A late 1-0 victory for Crystal Palace against Stoke helped the south London club move up to 16th while struggling Sunderland also scored late on to salvage a 2-2 draw against Southampton.

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Real Madrid were on the move in the Spanish La Liga as they drilled five goals past bottom club Real Betis to join Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table on 50 points.

Cristiano Ronaldo proved why he was picked to receive the prestigious Ballon d'Or this week as he set Real on their way with a stylish long range strike.

Read: Emotional Ronaldo receives Ballon d'Or

Gareth Bale sailed in a free-kick for 2-0 before Karim Benzema hit home his 100th goal for Madrid. Angel di Maria and Alvaro Morata rounded off the scoring in the second half.

"Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema were very effective," coach Carlo Ancelotti told reporters. "The whole team gave them a lot of chances to score because we played quickly up front.

"This match was important because we were trying to get into first place. It may only be for one night, but we'll sleep well tonight."

Barcelona and Atletico have a chance to pull clear Sunday when they return to domestic action.

In Italy, Juventus pulled eight points clear of rivals Roma at the top of the table as they ticked off their 12th straight Serie A win Saturday.

Arturo Vidal scored twice -- once from the penalty spot after he had been brought down in the box -- while Fernando Llorente and Paul Pogba also found the net to seal a 4-2 win over a dogged Sampdoria side.

Earlier, Roma had beaten Livorno 3-0 to send them back to the bottom of Serie A.

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