As usual the Premier League action on Boxing Day produced a host of goals, action and controversy. Leaders Manchester United defeated Newcastle 4-3 in a pulsating encounter at Old Trafford.
It was the visitors that drew first blood though.
United keeper David de Gea failed to deal with Demba Ba’s effort and midfielder James Perch was on hand to fire home the rebound.
The home side were back on level terms in the 25th minute. Tim Krul could only palm out a Javier Hernandez effort and United centre-back Jonny Evans was well-placed to level the scores.
Three minutes later and the Northern Ireland international went from hero to villain. Magpies full-back Danny Simpson’s cross-cum-shot was turned past his own keeper by Evans. The linesman flagged Papiss Cisse offside, but after a short conversation with his assistant the referee gave the goal.
United equalised in the 58th minute, as full-back Patrice Evra fired home a superb low effort from the edge of the penalty area. Ten minutes later and the visitors regained the lead yet again. Former-United winger Gabriel Obertan produced a superb cross to find Papiss Cisse, who fired past De Gea in the United goal.
The home side didn’t lie down though and equalised in the 71st minute. Robin Van Persie’s initial effort was blocked, but the Dutchman scored with the rebound. The game could have gone either way, but in true United fashion the Red Devils stole the three points in injury-time.
Michael Carrick’s cross was met by Mexican striker Javier Hernandez, who scuffed the ball past Tim Krul in the Magpies goal. The victory took Sir Alex Ferguson’s side seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
Champions and arch-rivals Manchester City suffered a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. City centre-back Vincent Kompany came closest to scoring in the first period, heading against the Black Cats crossbar, before a City old boy came back to haunt them.
Former-Citizens winger Adam Johnson cut inside from his position on the wing and fired a powerful effort towards goal, which beat Joe Hart. The England international should probably have done better with the effort.
It turned out to be the only goal of the game, as City lost ground on Manchester United at the top of the table. Meanwhile Sunderland have moved seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Elsewhere, Chelsea won 1-0 at Norwich to move within four points of the champions. The only goal of the game came in the 38th minute, Spanish maestro Juan Mata producing a superb 20 yard effort, after Oscar had found him with a good pass.
Everton defeated Wigan 2-1 at Goodison Park to move into fourth in the Premier League table. The first half was a tight affair and the first goal didn’t come until early in the second half. Wigan-born Leon Osman’s shot taking a deflection and beating Ali Al Habsi in the Wigan goal.
Everton doubled their lead in the 77th minute. Phil Neville produced a superb cross and Toffee’s centre-back Phil Jagielka rose superbly to powerfully head past Al Habsi. Wigan got a goal back in the 82nd minute, as Arouna Kone toe-poked an effort home, but the Latics couldn’t find an equaliser.
The result leaves Everton still fighting for the Champions League spots. Wigan meanwhile are in the relegation zone, 18th in the top flight.
Fulham and Southampton drew 1-1 at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers were ahead on eight minutes. Sascha Reither’s low cross was slid home by Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov. It looked like the one goal would be enough to secure maximum points.
However in the 85th minute the Saints equalised. Chris Baird was adjudged to have handled a Gaston Ramirez corner and Rickie Lambert made no mistake with the resulting spot kick. The draw leaves Southampton just outside the relegation zone, with the Cottagers not clear of danger just yet.
Struggling QPR lost 2-1 at home to West Brom. The Baggies looked the better side in the first half and took the lead through a well-taken arrowed effort from midfielder Chris Brunt. Just after the break Hoops keeper Robert Green palmed the ball into his own net to double the away sides lead.
Djibril Cisse scored a consolation goal for Rangers late-on, but the goal made very little difference to the final result. Harry Redknapp’s team are now bottom of the Premier League table on goal difference. The visitors stay in the hunt for fourth place.
Reading moved above Rangers in the table with a 0-0 draw with Swansea at the Madejski Stadium. The result was a fair one with both chances missing chances. The result leaves the Royals six points away from safety.
In the 5:30PM kick-off Tottenham hammered Aston Villa 4-0 at Villa Park, with Gareth Bale the star of the show. The visitors dominated the first half, but couldn’t find a way past Brad Guzan. The second half was a completely different affair though.
Villa came out stronger in the second half than the first, but were hit by a sucker punch on 57 minutes, Jermain Defoe firing home the opener for the visitors. Tottenham doubled their lead just four minutes later. The home side got caught out on the counter-attack, Gareth Bale then rounded Guzan and rolled into an empty net.
Bale scored his brace in the 73rd minute, collecting the ball inside the penalty area from an Aaron Lennon cut-back and firing low past Brad Guzan. The Welsh wing wizard completed his hat-trick on 84 minutes.
Bale fired high into the roof of the net, after being setup by substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson’s. The victory took Tottenham above Everton into fourth place on goals scored.
In the final game of the day Stoke defeated Liverpool 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium. It all started so brightly for the away side, as Luis Suarez won a penalty after being fouled by Ryan Shawcross in the first minute.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard stepped up from the spot and made no mistake. That was as good as it got for the visitors. The lead didn’t last long, as Jonathan Walters capitalised on a slip by Daniel Agger to fire the Potters level after five minutes.
Stoke went ahead on 12 minutes, as Glen Johnson was unable to prevent Kenwyne Jones’ header going into the net from a Matthew Etherington corner. The home side’s third goal came in the 49th minute.
Andy Wilkinson’s long throw was flicked on by Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters scored his second with a superb volley. The victory took Stoke above Liverpool in the Premier League table to eighth place.
Is the Britannia now one of the toughest grounds to visit in the Premier League?