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Arsenal return to top spot in Premier League

LONDON -- Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League with a scrappy 1-0 win at Newcastle on Sunday while Chelsea kept the pressure on the Gunners with a 2-1 defeat of Liverpool to stay in the hunt for the title.

Olivier Giroud ensured Arsenal will start 2014 on top of the standings after ending a personal drought of seven matches without a goal.

Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto'o meanwhile secured a fourth consecutive home win for Chelsea after Martin Skrtel had opened the scoring for the Reds at Stamford Bridge.

Elsewhere, Everton recovered from its first home loss in a year to beat Southampton 2-1 and Tottenham trounced Stoke 3-0.

Third-place Chelsea trails Arsenal by two points and Manchester City by one point. Liverpool, which was topping the standings at Christmas, is six points adrift after a second consecutive loss.

“We believe in ourselves and we are determined to give our best absolutely, and to turn back on this season at the end and think we have given our best,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “I hope it will be enough, of course, but it's a long way to go. It's too early to say that.”

Giroud boosted Arsenal's hopes of winning the title for the first time since 2004 when he scored midway through the second half with a header from Theo Walcott's free kick.

The bad news for Arsenal is that midfielder Mesut Ozil, who missed Sunday's match, is facing a short spell on the sidelines after injuring his shoulder during the win over West Ham on Thursday.

“It is an inflamed shoulder. It should be maybe one more week, maybe less. I don't know, but not a long time,” Wenger said.

Wenger's team enjoyed long periods of possession and created several chances early on. But it was unable to convert them before Newcastle almost went ahead toward the end of the first half, when Moussa Sissoko's shot was tipped over by Wojciech Szczesny. Mathieu Debuchy also headed against the bar.

Giroud had a chance to double the lead when Walcott's lob from close range was cleared by Debuchy, but the Frenchman failed to connect properly with the loose ball. Newcastle pushed forward toward the end but Alan Pardew's team slipped to just its second loss in 10 league matches.

Skrtel put the Reds in front from close range at Stamford Bridge after only four minutes, but Hazard hit back in the 17th with a superb strike. Eto'o gave Jose Mourinho's team a decisive lead from Oscar's back pass in the 34th.

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Tottenham Hotspur's midfielder Paulinho, of Brazil, jumps to win the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City in north London on Sunday, Dec. 29. (AP)

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