LONDON (AP) - Cesc Fabregas scored a penalty on his return to the Arsenal lineup after injury to help his 10-man team beat West Ham 2-0 on Saturday to take the provisional lead at the top of the Premier League.
Denilson gave Arsenal a fifth-minute lead with a low shot after swapping passes with Nicklas Bendtner, but teammate Thomas Vermaelen was sent off just before halftime for giving away a penalty when he was adjudged to have fouled goalbound striker Guillermo Franco.
Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia saved Alessandro Diamanti’s spot-kick and Fabregas, back from a hamstring injury, made sure of victory with a penalty for Matthew Upson’s handball in the 83rd minute.
"We want to go all the way with the squad we have," said Arsenal captain Fabregas, whose club has not won the title since 2004. "We have a quality squad and we want to prove that."
Arsenal’s sixth win in a row in all competitions put the team a point above Manchester United and three above Chelsea, although they can reverse the positions by winning on Sunday. United faces Liverpool and Chelsea visits Blackburn.
Niko Kranjcar scored the winner as Tottenham beat 10-man Stoke 2-1 to strengthen its hold on fourth place in the league.
Eidur Gudjohnsen came off the bench to replace Roman Pavlyuchenko, who had a hamstring injury, in the first half and fire Spurs ahead at the Britannia Stadium before the home side then had Dean Whitehead sent off.
Stoke hit back through Matthew Etherington’s penalty against his former club but Kranjcar’s 77th-minute strike captured three more points for Spurs, which has 55 from 30 games.
"(Pavlyuchenko) got injected at halftime and we will have to see what the scan says," said Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, who is also without Jermain Defoe for several weeks with a hamstring tear. "We thought Defoe was OK until he had his scan but it was the end of him for a few weeks.
"We are so short of players it’s unbelievable. The number of players we’ve got out injured or on loan we could pick a terrific team out of."
Aston Villa lost ground on Tottenham in the race for fourth place after it was held 2-2 at home by relegation-threatened Wolves. Villa has 50 points from 29 games.
John Carew put Villa ahead after 16 minutes at Villa Park. Jody Craddock equalized and an own goal by James Milner gave Wolves a 2-1 lead which it held until the 82nd minute, when Carew scored his second.
Villa manager Martin O’Neill said he didn’t expect his players to be booed off at halftime by their own fans.
"The opening 20-odd minutes was as good a display as we have produced in recent times," he said. "It was scintillating stuff and you should have got long odds on us being booed off at halftime.
"But that’s the nature of things. I suppose a Carling (League) Cup final appearance, the semifinals of the FA Cup and battling for a top-four place in the league is maybe what is expected to happen here every year. Does it upset me? I expect it. It is more the nature of the game nowadays than ever before."
Almost certain to be relegated, last-place Portsmouth scored two goals in the last three minutes to beat next-to-last Hull 3-2.
In Iain Dowie’s first game in charge of Hull, which fired Phil Brown on Monday, his players led 2-1 at Fratton Park until late strikes by Jamie O’Hara and Nwankwo Kanu denied them three points and kept them deep in trouble.
Burnley stayed 18th after losing 1-0 at Wigan thanks to a last-minute winner by Hugo Rodallega.
Everton beat Bolton 2-0 with goals by Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar to make it seven Premier League home wins in a row, and Sunderland edged Birmingham 3-1 after Darren Bent took his tally of league goals to 20 with two strikes.
Newcastle’s bid to return straight back to the top flight after last season’s relegation was hit by a 2-2 draw at Bristol City in the League Championship. Chris Hughton’s team did, however, come from two goals down to capture a point.
Second-place West Bromwich Albion is now only two points behind Newcastle after a 3-2 victory over Preston although the leader still has a game in hand. With two automatic promotion spots at stake, West Brom stayed eight points clear of Nottingham Forest, which beat last-place Peterbrough 1-0.