EPL Weekend Round-Up
Arsenal will be top of the English Premier League standings going into the New Year after emphatically seeing off Everton.
The Gunners overtook title rivals Manchester United at the summit, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side went down to defeat at West Ham United.
Liverpool and Manchester City played out a goalless draw, while Chelsea are third after beating Newcastle United in the last league games of 2007 over the weekend.
Derby County 1-2 Blackburn Rovers
Derby’s desperate fight against the drop suffered another blow with Blackburn grabbing a 2-1 win at Pride Park.
The home side were given hope when they took the lead on 27 minutes following Matt Oakley’s shot past Brad Friedel. A frantic five-minute spell was heralded by Derby missing the chance to double the lead when Steve Howard’s penalty was saved by the American goalkeeper ten minutes later.
Rovers drew level thanks to Roque Santa Cruz’s 39th minute tap in, and three minutes later, David Bentley unleashed a 25-yard screamer to put Mark Hughes’ side back on the winning trail.
Manchester City 0-0 Liverpool
Liverpool were left frustrated after a goalless draw at Manchester City which extended the hosts' home festivities into the New Year.
The team with the best home record taking on the side with the best record away from home hinted at something spectacular.
But the last time City drew 0-0 at the City of Manchester Stadium, Liverpool were also the visitors and the parsimonious policies of Messrs Benitez and Eriksson prevailed here, even if it was more by luck than tactical judgment.
Birmingham City 1-1 Fulham
Roy Hodgson will know just how much of a job he has on his hands after 10-man Fulham escaped with a 1-1 draw away at Birmingham.
The new Fulham manager watched from the stands as Ray Lewington took caretaker charge, and he played witness to some imaginative attacking play from The Cottagers, as Carlos Bocanegra gave them an early lead.
However, their defensive frailties were all too clear in the second period, as Sebastian Larsson strode free to equalize before Fulham survived something of a barrage, despite losing Hameur Bouazza to a second bookable offence.
Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United
A patched-up Chelsea side heaped more pressure on Sam Allardyce as The Blues claimed a 2-1 win over Newcastle - courtesy of a late goal from Salomon Kalou.
Chelsea were without the spine of their side, as Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba were in the treatment room alongside a clutch of other stars, but they did enough to claim all three points.
Nicky Butt had cancelled out an early goal from Michael Essien and Newcastle looked like they could end Chelsea’s long unbeaten home run, but they have had little good luck of late and Kalou was on hand to prod home after a shot from John Obi Mikel had fallen into his path.
Everton 1-4 Arsenal
Arsenal returned to the top of the EPL with a 4-1 win at Everton, as both sides finished the game with ten men.
There was little of Arsenal’s flowing football evident in wintry conditions, with hailstones pelting Goodison Park at one point, and Everton were good value for their halftime lead - given to them by Tim Cahill.
However, Eduardo Da Silva scored twice after the interval, Emmanuel Adebayor was gifted a third and substitute Tomas Rosicky got in on the act, as referee Martin Atkinson also dished out red cards to Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner and Everton’s Mikel Arteta.
Portsmouth 0-1 Middlesbrough
Tuncay Sanli stole the spotlight from Gary O’Neil upon his return to Portsmouth, as the Turkish striker scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win for Middlesbrough at Fratton Park.
O’Neil had naturally been the focus of attention building up to the game, having swapped life on the South Coast for The Riverside over the summer, and looked to have made a decisive impact against the club that handed him his break in professional football when David James failed to stop his effort on 20 minutes.
However, Tuncay sneakily poked the ball over the line to claim his fourth goal in six games and deny O’Neil the moment that he must have desired so badly.
Sunderland 3-1 Bolton Wanderers
Sunderland ended a torrid run of results and ensured they will head into 2008 outside of the relegation zone with a hard-earned 3-1 win at home to Bolton.
The victory came largely courtesy of a professional first-half display, in which Kieran Richardson and Kenwyne Jones put them two up with little more than half an hour on the clock.
Bolton offered little attacking menace throughout and were fortunate to head into halftime just one behind after El Hadji Diouf had scored an undeserved, and fortunate, free kick. However, Gary Megson’s side did little to merit a point and their fate was sealed after the clock had ticked past 90 minutes when substitute Daryl Murphy stayed strong and stroked past Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Tottenham Hotspur 6-4 Reading
Four goals from Dimitar Berbatov helped Tottenham to an incredible 6-4 win over Reading at White Hart Lane.
After Spurs took the lead through Berbatov in only the seventh minute, Reading’s Kalifa Cisse levelled matters on 16 minutes before Ivar Ingimarsson gave the visitors the lead eight minutes into the second half with an unmarked header from a corner. Berbatov equalized 10 minutes later, and Reading then regained the lead through Dave Kitson.
The two strikers then exchanged goals again inside a minute, as Reading went into a 4-3 lead, and Steed Malbranque quickly made it 4-4 with a curling shot as an amazing 20 minutes continued to unfold. Jermain Defoe gave Spurs the lead for only the second time on 79 minutes and Berbatov added his fourth of the game to complete a pulsating second half in North London.
West Ham United 2-1 Manchester United
West Ham United inflicted a big twist into the EPL title race after coming from behind to beat Manchester United 2-1 at Upton Park.
Central defenders Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Upson headed home the goals that meant United failed to remain at the top of the standings.
Cristiano Ronaldo had headed United in front, but then sent a penalty wide at 1-0 as a below-par United, who were missing Wayne Rooney, suffered their third league defeat of the season.
Wigan Athletic 1-2 Aston Villa
Second-half goals from Curtis Davies and Gabriel Agbonlahor were enough to spare Aston Villa’s blushes after Titus Bramble had given Wigan a shock lead.
Wigan came into this game two points above the relegation zone, Aston Villa meanwhile, started the game looking to keep a clean sheet after conceding four goals at Chelsea on Boxing Day.
The JJB Stadium looked half empty as the game kicked off and both sides were finding it difficult to keep their feet on the ground. Bramble headed Wigan ahead, but Davies' first goal for Villa and Gabriel Agbonlahor's effort took all three points to the Midlands.