EPL Boxing Day Round-Up
Manchester United moved above Arsenal at the top of the English Premier League standings following an action-packed Boxing Day round of games.
United cruise to victory at lowly Sunderland, while The Gunners were held to a draw at Portsmouth.
The game of the round was at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea and Aston Villa played out a thrilling eight-goal stalemate that also had three red cards issued.
Birmingham City 3-0 Middlesbrough
Birmingham helped themselves to a comfortable 3-0 win over Middlesbrough at St Andrews.
A Stewart Downing own-goal midway through the first half was followed by a Mikael Forssell strike and a very late Gary McSheffrey penalty.
It proved a vital three points for Alex McLeish’s Blues, with both sides still hovering just above the EPL’s relegation zone.
Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa
Chelsea and Aston Villa shared the points in a wonderful 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge, with three players sent off and Gareth Barry scoring a late penalty to earn the draw.
Shaun Maloney scored a double in the first half, while Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech made a memorable blunder. Andrei Shevchenko put his side back on track with a penalty and then leveled with a wonderful drive.
Alex fired Chelsea ahead, but Martin Laursen leveled with a fine volley, only for Michael Ballack to score a free kick. Villa refused to wilt, though, and Gareth Barry equalized from the spot after Ashley Cole had handled on the line.
Derby County 1-2 Liverpool
Steven Gerrard once more came to Liverpool's rescue by salvaging a 2-1 victory at Derby with an instinctive 90th minute close-range strike that keeps their title ambitions alive.
Fernando Torres put Liverpool one ahead with a sublime run and finish after 12 minutes, but Liverpool were far from their best after this point and it was difficult to argue that The Rams did not deserve their second-half equalizer through James McEveley.
However, in the closing stages as Liverpool pushed on for a winner, their long-time inspiration and captain once more came to the fore.
Everton 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Everton may have lost their 13-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford on Sunday but David Moyes’ side showed the progress they have made under his tutelage by bouncing back with a 2-0 win over Bolton at Goodison Park.
Phil Neville scored his first goal of the season early in the second half after an opening 45 minutes to forget.
On 70 minutes, Tim Cahill continued his stunning form with his second goal in as many games to ensure all three points.
Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal
Arsenal were unable to break the deadlock against a well-organized Portsmouth side at Fratton Park.
The Gunners enjoyed periods of dominance, but had to wait until the final few minutes to create their two best chances - both missed by William Gallas and Tomas Rosicky.
The result means Arsene Wenger's side slip a point below champions Manchester United at the top of the standings.
Sunderland 0-4 Manchester United
Roy Keane endured a miserable reunion with Sir Alex Ferguson, as he saw his Sunderland side go down to a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at The Stadium of Light - a result that eased the champions to the top of the table.
Keane’s side displayed none of the hunger and desire instilled in him by Ferguson as a player, as they crumbled to a three-goal deficit at halftime before a late Louis Saha penalty acted as the final nail in the coffin.
If Sunderland’s first-half performance - in which Wayne Rooney, Saha and a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick had put their visitors out of sight - was abject, their efforts in the second 45 minutes were dismal, if at least a touch more courageous.
Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 Fulham
Two goals-a-piece for Robbie Keane and Tom Huddlestone, and a late effort from substitute Jermain Defoe eased Tottenham past London rivals Fulham 5-1 at White Hart Lane.
Spurs looked the better bet throughout while Fulham, under the stewardship of caretaker manager Ray Lewington, were poor from the first whistle to the last and saw a bad day made worse when Moritz Volz was dismissed late on for a second yellow card.
Lady Luck was shining on Fulham earlier, however, when they reduced the score to 2-1 via USA international Clint Dempsey, but the hosts eased up a gear, as the second half wore on to cruise to victory.
West Ham United 1-1 Reading
A fine second-half strike from Dave Kitson saw ten-man Reading claim a deserved 1-1 draw against West Ham United in an exciting encounter at Upton Park.
Reading played the better football in the first half, but Brynjar Gunnarsson saw red for a two-footed tackle on Hayden Mullins just before the half-hour mark and then Nolberto Solano put the home side a goal up with a superb finish three minutes before the break.
However, Reading, to their credit, continued to force the issue after the restart and drew level when Kitson fired home after getting on the end of a sumptuous chipped pass from Nickey Shorey.
Wigan Athletic 1-0 Newcastle United
Ryan Taylor provided a rare bright moment to light up an otherwise shocking encounter, as Wigan claimed a 1-0 win over Newcastle.
The watching public could be forgiven for thinking the two sides had overindulged on Christmas Day, as there was little to catch the imagination aside from Taylor’s stunning free kick on 65 minutes which handed The Latics the three points they needed to climb out of the relegation zone.
Defeat for Newcastle puts manager Sam Allardyce back under pressure, with Magpies owner Mike Ashley - decked out in his team shirt - left disappointed by what he saw at The JJB Stadium.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27
Manchester City 2-2 Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Rovers stopped the rot and ended Manchester City’s 100 percent home record in somewhat controversial circumstances, as a Roque Santa Cruz brace gave them a 2-2 draw at Eastlands.
Remarkably, the first three goals came in the space of three first-half minutes and both of City’s goals came via the gifted feet of Martin Petrov, as he first teed up Darius Vassell for a header on 27 minutes before then seeing another cross diverted into his own net by Rovers centre back Ryan Nelsen.
In between, Blackburn had somehow found time for a headed effort from Santa Cruz before the Paraguayan hit-man earned his side a point late in the second half.