The Premier League really served up something special for us all this weekend although that may differ dramatically depending on your loyalties. Here is a quick round-up of each game over the final weekend of 2012.
Sunderland 1 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham started well and both Emanuel Adebayor and Gareth Bale went close early on before Adebayor missed the target from 5 yards after some sloppy Sunderland defending. The home team then proceeded to punish the Londoners wastefulness five minutes before the break as they failed to clear a free-kick before John O’Shea prodded home. Spurs started the second half as they did the first and their pressure paid off as Carlos Cuellar headed into his own net to restore parity. The away side grabbed what turned out to be the winner just six minutes into the second half as Aaron Lennon showed lightening pace to race clear of the defence before finishing brilliantly. Despite plenty of attacking promise from both sides this was the way the game ended and Tottenham gratefully took all three points back to London.
Aston Villa 0 – 3 Wigan Athletic
After being hammered by London’s two highest placed clubs it was imperative Villa started this game well but must have feared the worst after just 2 minutes when they fell behind. Following a penalty appeal that was waved away for the visitors they took the lead from the resulting corner as Ivan Ramis rose unchallenged to head home. It took a disallowed goal by Christian Benteke to spark Villa into life but they found themselves two down 7 minutes after the break after a brilliant run by Emmerson Boyce was finished equally well into the bottom corner. Arouna Kone rounded Brad Guzan four minutes later and coolly slotted into the empty net to compound the home fans grief sending the most upset of them for the exits with 35 minutes left to play.
Fulham 1 – 2 Swansea City
Dimitar Berbatov should have given Fulham the lead after showing good strength to shrug off his marker only to volley over the bar from six yards from a corner. David Stockdale will shoulder responsibility for Swansea’s first goal as he failed to clear a Nathan Dyer cross before Danny Graham tucked the ball into the back of the net. Brian Ruiz hit a free-kick just wide early in the second half but minutes later Stockdale scuffed a clearance that fell to Pablo Hernandez, rebounding off Brede Haangeland in the process, and the Spaniard teed up the ball for Jonathan De Guzman to slot home. Fulham got back into the game four minutes later as Brian Ruiz shot against offside team-mate Sascha Riether but were unable to grab an equalizer and Berbatov headed over in stoppage time to make the defeat a little more painful for the hosts.
Manchester United 2 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
West Brom had a confident penalty appeal turned down before they fell behind with only nine minutes played as Ashley Young drilled a low cross into the box which Gareth McAuley unfortunately turned into his own net. Ben Foster brilliantly denied United twice on the half-hour mark to keep his side in the game going in at half time. The Baggies tried hard to get back into the game but rarely troubled David De Gea in the United goal and a bitty game was finished by Robin Van Persie, who curled a sublime left foot effort past a helpless Foster into the far corner to wrap up all the points.
Norwich City 3 – 4 Manchester City
Machester City were two up in four minutes thanks to an Edin Dzeko brace to seemingly end the game early, but ten minutes later Anthony Pilkington’s deflected free-kick gave Norwich hope in a game that offered plenty of twists and turns. Samir Nasri was sent off a minute before the break accused of clashing heads with Sebastien Bassong leaving the away dug-out fuming. Five minutes into the second half a wonderful Yaya Toure ball found Sergio Aguero who delicately lifted the ball over an onrushing Mark Bunn. Refusing to lay down The Canaries cut the deficit once more with a good move finished off by Russell Martin but City scored a fourth as a Dzeko shot rebounded off the post and in off unlucky Bunn. Martin set up a tense finish by scoring his second goal from close range with 15 minutes to play but City held on to claim all three points.
Reading 1 – 0 West Ham United
This scrappy affair was won on five minutes as James Collins’ horrendous back-pass was easily picked up by Pavel Pogrebnyak who gratefully slotted past the exposed Jussi Jaaskelainen with his left foot. With both teams operating with a lone striker chances were few and far between, with both front men appearing to need back-up whenever they had the ball. Despite dominating second half possession The Hammers almost found themselves two down as Jem Karacan thundered a shot past Jaaskelainan only to see it cannon off the underside of the bar. West Ham should have been level late on but Ricardo Vaz Te headed wide from three yards despite being unchallenged and the game ended 1-0 to the home side.
Stoke City 3 – 3 Southampton
It took just ten minutes for Southampton to penetrate the Premier League’s best defence with Rickie Lambert tapping in a low cross that beat several Stoke players. Kenwyne Jones restored parity six minutes later with a brilliant piece of improvisation as he swivelled and back heeled into the bottom corner. The hosts’ normally sure footed defensive line was panicking again eight minutes later as Robert Huth’s attempted clearance hit the bar and fell to Jay Rodriguez who tapped in from a yard out. Things went from bad to worse on 36 minutes as Andy Wilkinson diverted a Lambert knock down past his own keeper. The second half was comparatively quiet until the 67th minute when Matthew Upson turned in a rebound to give the home side hope but suffered a huge setback when Steven N'Zonzi was, perhaps harshly, given a straight red card for a rash challenge. Despite having a goal ruled out Stoke continued to press for an equaliser and looked to have ran out of time before Cameron Jerome hit a goal of the season contender to snatch a dramatic point.
Arsenal 7 – 3 Newcastle United
Despite a good start Newcastle found themselves behind after 20 minutes thanks to a smart finish from Theo Walcott. Demba Ba grabbed an equaliser two minutes before half time setting the game up for a special second half. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored five minutes in but Newcastle equalised once again nine minutes later thanks to Sylvain Marveaux. Lukas Podolski scored from close range to restore the home side’s lead on 64 minutes but Newcastle were level again five minutes later as Ba grabbed his second goal of the game. Not to be out-done, Walcott then grabbed his second with a composed finish and it seemed Arsenal had finally worn down Newcastle’s resolve ten minutes later as Olivier Giroud scored a diving header, which was quickly followed by his second. Walcott had the last say in stoppage time as he appeared to be felled inside the box only to re-find his feet in time to chip the ball sumptuously past a helpless Tim Krul.
Everton 1 – 2 Chelsea
Only 62 seconds had passed when Phil Jagielka’s cross was headed against the post, falling to Steven Pienaar who finished smartly giving the home side the lead. Everton almost double their lead shortly after but Nikica Jelavic’ curled free-kick rebounded out off the post and Petr Cech brilliantly denied the Croatian before Frank Lampard headed well from inside the box to equalise a few minutes before half time. Jelavic hit the woodwork again in the second half with a brilliant header that had beaten Cech but it was Chelsea that took the lead as Lampard found himself in the right place at the right time to volley in a rebound with 20 minutes left to play. Everton threw everything at Chelsea in the closing stages in search of a deserved equaliser but Chelsea defended well and took all three points back to London with them.
Queens Park Rangers 0 – 3 Liverpool
Liverpool started the final game Premier League of 2012 brilliantly and they were rewarded for their early dominance with a goal after ten minutes with Luis Suarez showing some good footwork before firing past Julio Cesar. The Uruguayan doubled his tally and Liverpool’s lead just six minutes later after picking up the ball rather fortuitously and placing it confidently into the corner. Liverpool looked like a team possessed and Rangers had no answer to the crisp, accurate passing and forceful forward threat that was being served up. The visitors extended their lead and finished off the game before half an hour had even been played courtesy of a fine header from Daniel Agger and could of added a fourth but Steven Gerrard saw his shot cleared off the line on the second attempt. QPR looked better in the second half but never threatened to get back into the game as their opponents comfortably saw out the game.
I have decided to add a new feature to my weekend report and it is quite simply my opinion on the best player, best team performance and my Game of the Weekend.
Best Team Performance
It’s hard to tell how much was down to a poor showing by Harry Redknapp’s team, but Liverpool win this one for me despite Tottenham and Wigan also really impressing me over the weekend.
I was almost set on Luis Suarez for this one but I can’t ignore what was possibly Theo Walcott’s finest display in an Arsenal shirt. A mixture of goals and assists should be enough alone, but the style in which he delivered is much more important to me.
Arsenal v Newcastle served up ten goals, Stoke v Southampton served up the best goal I’ve seen this season but Norwich v Man City offered a bit of everything so I think it edges it for me.