Football: Liverpool Stay Top As Villa Threaten Old Order
Posted December 27, 2008on:
LONDON: Premier League leaders Liverpool were still looking down on their rivals after a 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers during Friday’s Boxing Day programme.
Chelsea, who had briefly gone top after an early kick-off victory, remained a point behind in second place after beating basement club West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Reigning champions Manchester United, in their first domestic match since winning the Club World Cup in Japan, stayed seven points off top spot, with two games in hand, after winning 1-0 away to Stoke City.
But it was a frustrating day for the other member of the ‘Big Four’ as Arsenal surrendered a two-goal lead in stoppage-time in a 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa, the Midlanders retaining their place amongst the leading quartet.
Earlier, Manchester City moved out of the bottom three with a spectacular 5-1 win over Hull.
Their victory was an ideal response to fellow strugglers West Ham’s 4-1 win over Portsmouth earlier in the day.
Wigan beat Newcastle 2-1 while Everton defeated Middlesbrough 1-0.
The London derby between Fulham and Tottenham and Sunderland’s game against Blackburn both ended in goalless draws.
Albert Riera volleyed Liverpool into a sixth-minute lead at Anfield when he got on the end of a Steven Gerrard corner.
Liverpool captain Gerrard also played a key role in making it 2-0, the England midfielder’s pass to Robbie Keane the prelude to a powerful shot.
Keane then took his personal tally to three goals in two games when he turned in a Yossi Benayoun cross.
The former Spurs striker had been under pressure but Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee said: “We have had no doubts in Robbie’s ability or his work-rate, and what he adds to this club is immense.”
First-half goals from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard sent Chelsea on their way to a comfortable victory.
“It was a classic centre-forward’s goal – a powerful header,” Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins said of Drogba’s opener.
United had to wait until seven minutes from time for their goal at the Britannia Stadium.
It was only after Stoke right-back Andy Wilkinson was sent off for a second bookable offence that Carlos Tevez scored for United.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said victory left his side well-placed to maintain their title-bid. “If we could get to New Year’s Day a couple of points adrift of the leaders we would be very happy,” Ferguson said.
Villa hit the woodwork three times in the first half only for Arsenal to open the scoring through Brazil midfielder Denilson in the day’s late kick-off.
The visitors were 2-0 up at Villa Park nine minutes after half-time when a brilliant exchange of passes between Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue ended with the France midfielder beating Brad Friedel.
Villa, however, grabbed a lifeline when England midfielder Gareth Barry scored a 65th minute penalty after Gabriel Agbonlahor was brought down by William Gallas.
Arsenal, not for the first time this season, couldn’t see out the game with Villa’s Zat Knight scoring in stoppage time.
Two-goals apiece from Felipe Caicedo and Robinho at Eastlands helped Manchester City end a run of six games without a win in all competitions.
Caicedo put City ahead in the 15th minute when he turned in Stephen Ireland’s cross. The Ecuadorian had his and City’s second 12 minutes later, with Ireland again the provider.
Ireland also laid on City’s third, releasing Robinho.
The Brazil forward made it 4-0 in the 36th minute with a picture-book goal after a superb cross from Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Craig Fagan pulled one back for Hull before Ireland got the goal his play deserved eight minutes from time.
“The quality of our attacking play is there for all to see,” said under-pressure City manager Mark Hughes. “But what we haven’t been able to do is produce that on a consistent basis. Now we have to make sure we do that from this point onwards.”
Portsmouth took the lead through Nadir Belhadj before Jack Collison equalised.
Before half-time Pompey missed a penalty when former West Ham forward Jermain Defoe shot wide and, after the break, the visitors pulled away thanks to a goal from Carlton Cole and two from Craig Bellamy.
Everton’s Australia international Tim Cahill again scored from a corner, following-up after his header was saved.
Ryan Taylor put Wigan in front with a 25-yard free-kick just before the half-hour mark.
Amir Zaki added a second from the penalty spot 17 minutes from time after Newcastle’s Sebastien Bassong was sent-off for bringing down Emile Heskey.
Danny Guthrie’s penalty two minutes from time came too late for Newcastle.
Aston Villa 2 Arsenal 2
Chelsea 2 West Brom 0
Liverpool 3 Bolton 0
Man City 5 Hull 1
Middlesbrough 0 Everton 1
Portsmouth 1 West Ham 4
Stoke 0 Man Utd 1
Sunderland 0 Blackburn 0
Tottenham 0 Fulham 0
Wigan 2 Newcastle 1
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