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Merry Christmas for City, Giggs Continues Record for United
Looks bleak for Blackburn
Posted Dec 23, 2011 by Chris White
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For the first time since 1929, Manchester City will be top of the English Premier League at Christmas after a comfortable victory in midweek. Rivals Manchester United kept up the pressure with a crushing victory away from home, while Tottenham and Chelsea played out a 1-1 draw at the Lane. At the opposite end, it’s looking increasingly likely that Blackburn will be dropping down to the Championship after suffering their eleventh defeat of the season.
A brace from Sergio Aguero and a 25-yard strike from Adam Johnson made light work of Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium, as City made sure they stayed clear of their neighbours at the top. In a first half that Stoke were never really in, it took half an hour for the home side to break the deadlock, with Aguero tapping in from all of a yard out. That lead became two before the break, as Johnson was allowed time to pick his spot and fire low into the bottom corner. Aguero had the simple task of making it 3-0 before the hour mark, as he swept in a cross from Samir Nasri as an injury and suspension ravaged Stoke side folded.
It was almost as simple, if not more so, for United away at Fulham. In what has been a difficult fixture for the champions in recent years, Danny Welbeck put them on their way to a 5-0 victory inside five minutes. Nani was allowed to run unchallenged down the left wing, and his pull back found the waiting Welbeck who guided his effort into the bottom corner. Nani made it two on the twenty minute mark, heading in from a Ryan Giggs cross, and the Welshman made sure he continued his run of scoring in every season of the Premier League, with his deflected effort looping over the helpless David Stockdale, making it 3-0 before the break. With time running out and it looking like a 3-0 win for United, Wayne Rooney unleashed a thunderbolt from 30 yards which flew into the corner of the net, and Dimitar Berbatov rounded off proceedings with an audacious back heel to make it 5-0 on 90 minutes.
The pick of the week’s games at White Hart Lane ended with a 1-1 draw between third placed Tottenham and fourth placed Chelsea. Emmanuel Adebayor gave Tottenham the lead early on, slotting home from a Gareth Bale cross. Daniel Sturridge wasted a glorious chance to equalise soon after, blazing over from eight yards out, but he made amends on the half hour mark, tapping home unchallenged. Spurs could have won the game late on, but John Terry managed to clear Adebayor’s effort on the line.
Arsenal kept the pressure up on those around them with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa. The Gunners were given an early opportunity to take the lead and Robin van Persie duly obliged from the penalty spot. Theo Walcott raced into the Villa box, only to be pulled down inside the area, and the Dutchman slotted home. Villa got their deserved equaliser ten minutes after the break, when Per Mertesacker’s back pass fell short, and Marc Albrighton raced through to equalise – scoring the 20,000th goal in the Premier League. With the game seemingly destined to end 1-1, Yossi Benayoun popped up to turn in a van Persie corner, sealing all three points. Villa’s night was made worse in stoppage time when Alan Hutton was sent off for a second yellow card.
Ali Al-Habsi was the Wigan hero in their game with Liverpool, saving a Charlie Adam penalty in the second half as the game ended in a goalless draw. With Luis Suarez making all the headlines before the game for picking up an 8-game ban, Al-Habsi was the talking point afterwards for saving his side and earning them a deserved point.
That point for Wigan allowed them to move a further point clear of rock bottom Blackburn, who were beaten 2-1 at home by Bolton in a clash of the bottom two that neither side could afford to lose. Mark Davies put Bolton ahead after just five minutes at Ewood Park, and Nigel Reo-Coker doubled the advantage on the half hour. Yakubu managed to pull one back for Blackburn on 67 minutes, but the home side couldn’t find the crucial equaliser, and the pressure continues to mount on Steve Kean.
A late strike from Paul Scharner gave West Brom the points from their trip to Newcastle, who have now failed to win any of their last six league matches. Peter Odemwingie gave the Baggies the lead on 16 minutes, before a free kick from Demba Ba brought the home side level. That didn’t last long, however, as Gareth McAuley scored his first of the season to put the visitors back in front just before half time. Ba looked to have rescued a point for Newcastle when he fired in on 81 minutes, but Scharner’s volley with five minutes to go proved to be the winner.
Everton recorded picked up three vital points from their home game with Swansea. Leon Osman scored his second goal in four days, guiding a cross from Royston Drenthe into the back of the net for the only goal of the game. The home side wasted a host of chances, but the Swans never posed them too many problems.
Wolves came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Norwich at Molineux. The visitors went ahead through Andrew Surman, who headed in his first of the season, but Sylvan Ebanks-Blake followed up a Stephen Hunt effort to level. Simeon Jackson put Norwich back in front, but the home side fought back again, and got a deserved equaliser through Ronald Zubar eight minutes from time.
Wes Brown headed in a late winner for Sunderland against QPR, with his side having thrown away a two-goal lead. Martin O’Neill’s side were two up shortly after half time, thanks to goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon, but Heidar Helguson continued his good form in front of goal this season to pull one back, and Jamie Mackie levelled four minutes later. But with two minutes remaining, Brown headed in a Kieran Richardson corner to win it 3-2.
This week’s results:
Aston Villa 1 – 2 Arsenal (Albrighton 54; van Persie pen 17, Benayoun 87)
Blackburn 1 – 2 Bolton (Yakubu 67; M Davies 5, Reo-Coker 30)
Everton 1 – 0 Swansea (Osman 60)
Fulham 0 – 5 Manchester United (Welbeck 5, Nani 28, Giggs 43, Rooney 88, Berbatov 90)
Manchester City 3 – 0 Stoke (Aguero 29, 54, Johnson 36)
Newcastle 2 – 3 West Brom (Ba 34, 81; Odemwingie 20, McAuley 44, Scharner 85)
QPR 2 – 3 Sunderland (Helguson 63, Mackie 67; Bendtner 19, Sessegnon 53, Brown 89)
Tottenham 1 – 1 Chelsea (Adebayor 8, Sturridge 23)
Wigan 0 – 0 Liverpool
Wolves 2 – 2 Norwich (Ebanks-Blake 37, Zubar 82; Surman 12, Jackson 76)