Boxing Day always seems to throw up some amazing football and this year was no exception. Although London Underground strikes saw West Ham’s trip to Arsenal called off there was still plenty on offer to keep us all entertained. Here I offer a quick run-down of each game as it happened just in case your weary eyes were unable to take it all in after a busy Christmas period.
Everton 2 – 1 Wigan Athletic
Everton shaded a quiet first half with Steven Pienaar’s deflected shot the closest either team came to breaking the deadlock before the break. The second half was a much more exciting affair though and just two minutes in Thomas Hitzlsperger crashed a long range shot against the bar. Five minutes later Everton took the lead as Leon Osman’s shot was deflected past a helpless Ali Al-Habsi. Wigan had a penalty appeal waved away on the hour mark and as they pushed hard for an equaliser but with 15 minutes left Phil Jagielka wrapped up the 3 points for the home side with a good header. Arouna Kone gave Wigan hope five minutes later but Everton held on to win.
Fulham 1 – 1 Southampton
Fulham started brightly and almost took the lead within 3 minutes but Steve Sidwell’s shot whistled just wide. They did take the lead five minutes later though as Sascha Riether’s low cross was turned in by Dimitar Berbatov at the far post. Southampton were much better in the second half and went close just two minutes in but Jason Puncheon narrowly missed the target. The home side looked like taking all three points until Chris Baird handled in the box and Rickie Lambert converted the resulting penalty to equalise. There was time for one last chance and it fell to Gaston Ramirez but his shot was saved by Mark Schwarzer and the game ended level.
Manchester United 4 – 3 Newcastle United
This game was explosive from beginning to end, and James Perch tucked in a rebound after just four minutes to give Newcastle the lead. Jonny Evans equalised 20 minutes later after reacting first to a Tim Krul save that let the ball at the defenders feet six yards out. Just three minutes later Evans put the ball into his own net in extremely controversial circumstances giving the away side the half time lead. Patrice Evra scored a great goal to level things up just before the hour mark but ten minutes later Papiss Cisse restored the lead with an even better finish. Three minutes later Robin Van Persie scored to draw things level once again leaving 20 minutes in which anything really could happen. But we had to wait until the 90th minute for a winner and it Manchester United that got it with Javier Hernandez sliding to snatch all three points.
Norwich City 0 – 1 Chelsea
Following the 8-0 drubbing Chelsea dealt Aston Villa a few days before this was always going to be a tighter affair and so it turned out, with Chelsea taking half an hour to create a clear-cut chance, but Juan Mata could only find the side netting. The Spaniard atoned for this eight minutes later though by scoring a cracking goal from 30 yards with seemingly nothing on to give the away side the half time lead. The Blues pushed for a goal to seal the points in the second half but a combination of good defending and good goalkeeping from Mark Bunn kept The Canaries in the game. The final ten minutes saw the home side push everyone forward in search of an equaliser but despite a stoppage time header from Sebastien Bassong going just over the bar the game finished 1-0.
Reading 0 – 0 Swansea City
Swansea had the best of a bitty game with Michu curling just wide early on before putting the ball into the net only to be judged to have fouled Adrian Mariappa in the build-up. Jimmy Kebe volleyed well wide for the home team before Michu again went close but volleyed over from six yards. Adam Federici saved brilliantly to deny a Nathan Dyer header in the second half and Adam Le Fondre thought he had scored for Reading but the goal was rightly disallowed for handball and even had a goal bound volley headed off the line by Chico late on as the game ended goalless.
Sunderland 1 – 0 Manchester City
Manchester City could have taken the lead with only eight minutes on the clock but Vincent Kompany saw his header cannon back off the cross bar and Yaya Toure was unable to turn in the rebound. Sunderland were playing well but had to wait until the 58th minute to really test City’s Joe Hart as Adam Johnson picked the ball up and fired past the keeper to give the Black Cats the lead. They almost doubled their lead two minutes later but Stephane Sessegnon fired just wide with City in disarray. Sunderland grew into the game more and more and Hart denied Frazier Campbell after Simon Mignolet had kept them in the lead by stopping Sergio Aguero in a one-on-one. City threw everything at their opponents as the clock ran down but were unable to breach a well organised Sunderland defence and the game finished 1-0.
Queens Park Rangers 1 – 2 West Bromwich Albion
QPR looked most likely to take the early lead but just before the half hour mark Chris Brunt fired a brilliant shot past Rob Green to give West Brom the lead. West Brom almost doubled their lead straight away but Rangers composed themselves and had a few chances to equalise before half time. West Brom did get a second goal four minutes after the restart but QPR were outraged as Marc-Antoine Fortune appeared to lean into Green as the keeper dropped the ball into his own net. QPR got themselves back into the game with 20 minutes left as Djibril Cisse delicately chipped the ball over Ben Foster but were unable to find an equaliser despite plenty of pressure in the closing stages.
Aston Villa 0 – 4 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham dominated the first half but Brad Guzan was in inspired form and denied a curling effort from Gareth Bale and a close range header from Emmanuel Adebayor to keep the scores level. Villa could have scored against the run of play but Brett Holman failed to hit the target from a low cross late on in the half. Villa started the second half brightly but found themselves behind twelve minutes in as Jermain Defoe nut-megged Guzan and Spurs continued to over-run the home side. Four minutes later Bale rounded the American keeper to score and doubled his tally twelve minutes later as he placed the ball into the bottom corner. Six minutes from time the Welshman completed his hat-trick as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s squared ball was emphatically smashed into the roof of the net to finish the rout.
Stoke City 3 – 1 Liverpool
With just 30 seconds on the clock Ryan Shawcross pulled down Luis Suarez in the box and Steven Gerrard converted the resulting penalty to give Liverpool the lead. Stoke weren’t behind for long as Martin Skrtel’s slip allowed Jon Walters in on goal to beat Pepe Reina with a good finish. The home side then took the lead on twelve minutes as Kenwyne Jones scored a free header from a corner and almost extended their lead as Reina brilliantly denied Matt Etherington’s powerful shot. Suarez tested Asmir Begovic late in the half but the keeper did well to block the shot and the Uruguayan hit the post early in the second half as The Reds pushed for an equaliser. Walters then gave Stoke a third after chesting the ball down and volleying brilliantly past the helpless Reina. Despite Liverpool pressing for a route back into the game Stoke held on comfortably for a well-deserved win.