EPL Weekend Round-Up
The top three all claimed victories in the English Premier League, as the Holiday fixture period began over the weekend.
Leaders Arsenal took the bragging rights in the North London derby with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, while United and Chelsea kept pace with wins of their own on Sunday.
Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Chelsea
Prolonging a poor run of form that now reads one win from eight EPL games, Blackburn deservedly got Cole for Christmas, as Chelsea midfielder Joe struck a first-half winner in a 1-0 win at Ewood Park.
Even Santa, Roque Santa Cruz that is, with five goals in his last two games, could not deliver Mark Hughes the present of three points he wanted so desperately, as the Rovers manager’s former side kept in touch with their title rivals to move six points behind leaders Arsenal and five behind Manchester United.
Manchester United 2-1 Everton
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 87th-minute penalty gave Manchester United a 2-1 win over a dogged Everton side at Old Trafford.
The result brought The Toffees’ 13-game unbeaten run to an end after they had for so long looked like they would hold out for a point.
Ronaldo gave The Red Devils the lead in the 22nd minute with a sumptuous 25-yard effort before Tim Cahill restored parity shortly after with a thumping header.
Newcastle United 2-2 Derby County
A late strike from Mark Viduka denied Derby County a much-needed win, as Newcastle United fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at St James' Park.
The Rams went ahead in the sixth minute when Giles Barnes drilled a low shot past Shay Given in the Newcastle goal before Viduka hit back with a well-taken goal on 27 minutes.
After the interval, Derby took advantage of slack Newcastle defending, as Kenny Miller put them back in front on 52 minutes, but Viduka popped up with his second of the game on 87 minutes to earn a draw.
Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
In Saturday’s early kick-off, Arsenal's win in a thrilling clash against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur saw The Gunners remain one point clear at the top of the EPL standings going into Christmas.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored - as he usually does against Spurs - to put Arsenal in front just after the break, but Dimitar Berbatov’s equalizer threatened to ruin derby day for the home side.
However, a crucial few second half minutes saw Manuel Almunia save Robbie Keane’s penalty before substitute Nicklas Bendtner headed a powerful winner past Paul Robinson.
Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester City
Aston Villa and Manchester City shared the points at Villa Park following an entertaining 1-1 draw in Birmingham.
A slick inception from the visitors saw City take an 11th-minute lead. Martin Petrov's cross from the left was sliced home not altogether clinically, but nevertheless effectively, by Rolando Bianchi inside the six-yard box.
Less than three minutes later, however, Villa were level. A long ball forward tempted Richard Dunne out to challenge John Carew and, when the Norwegian turned his embarrassed man, the danger increased with each giant stride the Norwegian made towards goal. Though Dunne made a desperate attempt to make amends, Carew's bobbling shot was enough to beat City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Bolton Wanderers 3-0 Birmingham City
Bolton managed an important home win over Birmingham at The Reebok Stadium.
El-Hadji Diouf's second-half opener was added to by a double from Nicolas Anelka in a 3-0 win.
It was not a game that will live long in the memory, but Johan Djourou may well have nightmares for some time after gifting Bolton the crucial second goal to seal Blues' fate.
Fulham 1-1 Wigan Athletic
Fulham began life after Lawrie Sanchez with a hugely encouraging and entertaining 1-1 draw with Wigan, although a point will do little for either side’s prospects for avoiding relegation.
Marcus Bent followed his hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers with another goal, as Wigan took an arguably undeserved lead at Craven Cottage, but USA international Clint Dempsey equalized to ensure Fulham did not begin life under caretaker boss Ray Lewington with defeat.
Liverpool 4-1 Portsmouth
Liverpool overcame Portsmouth 4-1 at Anfield, but it wasn't easy for Rafa Benitez and his troops.
The Reds raced into a two-goal lead after just 16 minutes, with Yossi Benayoun volleying home the first and the unlucky Sylvain Distin deflecting an attempted clearance from Sol Campbell into his own goal.
Portsmouth got themselves right back into the game when Benjani Mwaruwari drilled home his ninth league goal of the season shortly after half time, but Fernando Torres replied by slotting home in characteristically confident fashion in the 67th minute before scoring a second with five minutes remaining after tucking away Steven Gerrard’s knockdown.
Middlesbrough 1-2 West Ham United
West Ham United earned all three points at The Riverside Stadium with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.
Scott Parker scored a late winner for The Hammers after David Wheater hit the net for Boro in the first half and West Ham’s Dean Ashton equalized before the break.
Reading 2-1 Sunderland
A dramatic and controversial last-gasp goal from Stephen Hunt gave Reading a 2-1 victory against relegation-threatened Sunderland.
The Royals had the majority of the possession and led through an Ivar Ingimarsson tap-in midway through the second half. Michael Chopra brought the visitors level with a penalty eight minutes from time, and shortly afterwards, Kenwyne Jones and Chopra both went close to scoring a second goal.
However, with time almost up, Hunt saw his shot scooped away by Black Cats goalkeeper Craig Gordon, but the ball had crossed the line according to the officials, to break Sunderland hearts.