Everton was denied a fourth successive Premier League victory as Jonjo Shelvey’s 69th-minute penalty earned Swansea City a 1-1 draw at a sunny Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
Aaron Lennon gave Everton the lead four minutes before half-time, but Swansea, which lost striker Bafetimbi Gomis to injury, equalised when Shelvey scored from the spot after Seamus Coleman had been penalised for handball.
The result preserved Swansea’s nine-point advantage over Everton and allowed the Welsh club to equal its best-ever Premier League points tally of 47m which it achieved in the 2011-12 campaign.
But Garry Monk’s side is running out of time to close the gap on the Europa League places, while Everton’s hopes of a top-half finish are beginning to fade.
Gomis had scored three goals in his previous two games and he was the first player to threaten, drawing a full-stretch save from Tim Howard with a shot on the turn from 25 yards. But the France international appeared to injure his hamstring in the act of shooting and had to be replaced by Marvin Emnes.
Everton was also forced into an early change, with Steven Pienaar replacing Leon Osman.
The visitors began to assert themselves and after Lukasz Fabianski had saved a daisy-cutter from Coleman, Lennon put Roberto Martinez’s men ahead by firing home from James McCarthy’s left-wing cross.
Fabianski had to save at his near post from Arouna Kone moments later, but Swansea succeeded in forcing its opponents back in the second half and with just over 20 minutes remaining, it levelled.
Under pressure from Emnes as he attempted to shepherd the ball out for a goal-kick, Coleman fell to his knees inside his own box in the hope of winning a free kick, but referee Michael Oliver allowed play to continue.
The Irishman reacted by swiping the ball away from the Swansea substitute with his left hand, leaving Oliver no option but to award a penalty, and Shelvey sent Howard the wrong way from the spot.
The two teams could muster only long-range efforts thereafter, with Ross Barkley and Everton substitute Kevin Mirallas shooting straight at Fabianski and Howard tipping a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick over the crossbar.
Aston Villa downs Spurs
Tim Sherwood returned to haunt former club Tottenham Hotspur as Aston Villa improved its chances of avoiding relegation with a 1-0 away victory.
Christian Benteke scored the game’s only goal, nodding in an inviting right-wing cross from Leandro Bacuna in the 35th minute to register his eighth goal in six games.
On his return to White Hart Lane following his sacking by Spurs at the end of last season, Sherwood saw his Villa side open up a six-point cushion over the relegation zone.
But victory came at a price for the Midlands club, with Ciaran Clark and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who hit the post, forced off by injury and Carlos Sanchez sent off in stoppage time after receiving two yellow cards
Spurs’ defeat saw them lose ground in the battle for European places, with Southampton moving two points above them — and leapfrogging Liverpool — by winning 2-0 at home to Hull City.
Aaron Ramsey scored the only goal of the game as Arsenal gave leader Chelsea food for thought with a scrappy 1-0 win at second-bottom Burnley.
The results: Burnley 0 lost to Arsenal 1 (Ramsey 12); Swansea 1 (Shelvey 69-pen) drew with Everton 1 (Lennon 41); Southampton 2 (Ward-Prowse 56-pen, Pelle 81) bt Hull 0; Sunderland 1 (Wickham 90) lost to Crystal Palace 4 (Murray 48, Bolasie 51, 53, 62); Tottenham 0 lost to Aston Villa 1 (Benteke 35); West Brom 2 (Fletcher 8, Gardner 26) lost to Leicester 3 (Nugent 20, Huth 80, Vardy 90+1); West Ham 1 (Cresswell 7) drew with Stoke 1 (Arnautovic 90+5).
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