Arsenal claimed their first victory after two straight defeats in the league as they comfortably dispatched Stoke City. It was a result that prompted Tony Pulis to allegedly drag his players into training today, much to the irritations of the Christmas party organiser, James Beattie.
Goals from Andrey Arshavin and Aaron Ramsey helped the home side to three points as they continue to cope without Robin van Persie. It sees the Gunners reclaim third spot from north London rivals, Tottenham.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “It should have been a more comfortable victory but Stoke never gave up and we had a very good first half but in the second half, our recent defeats played on our minds and we were a bit more restricted in our play.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Stoke manager Tony Pulis: “Arsenal played some smashing football but I was really pleased with the character and the spirit of my squad.”
Phil BrownÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side have enjoyed a recent flurry of positive results in the league but their run came to an abrupt end as they were well beaten by an efficient Aston Villa.
James Milner scored the pick of the goals, lobbing the Hull ‘keeper from outside the penalty area, while goals from Richard Dunne and a John Carew helped wrap up a 3-0 win.
Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill:“The first half we were exhilarating. It was probably as good a performance as we’ve had this season.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hull manager Phil Brown:“It was very tough because of late we’ve set some high standards but today we didn’t perform as well as we have.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The pressure once again mounted on Rafael Benitez as Liverpool stuttered to another draw, this time a stalemate with Blackburn Rovers.
A determined defensive display from Rovers limited Liverpool to few chances. The closest the away side came was through David NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢gog. The young striker crashed his effort against the crossbar when he should have scored.
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce: “It was a great performance. Liverpool are not only one of the best sides in England but in Europe and we matched them in all areas.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:“It was a difficult game and we had some good chances, we could have scored. I’m disappointed because we couldn’t win but positive because we kept another clean sheet and we’re playing better.Ã¢â‚¬Â
BurnleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s poor record on their travels continued as they failed to capitalise on the chances which fell their way and allowed Portsmouth to claim a vital victory Ã¢â‚¬â€ the first of Avram GrantÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spell at the club.
Dindane missed a penalty for the home side in the first half, but Hermann Hreidarsson broke the deadlock with a driven left-footed drive. Dindane made amends for his earlier spot kick miss with a headed goal to ensure Portsmouth closed the gap on their fellow relegation candidates.
Burnley boss Owen Coyle: “We performed well but not left with any points. Our level of performance was of a high standard, our passing and moving resulted in numerous chances but we really had to get ourselves in front.
Despite a makeshift defence, United managed to overcome West Ham with consummate ease. The Hammers dearly missed the presence of the injured Carlton ColeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s up front.
Paul Scholes opened the scoring seconds before half time. Subsequently Darren Gibson, Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney added further strikes as the visitors romped to a 4-0 victory.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: “It’s always a hard place to come to. Scholes’s strike was a great goal to get at an important time. He’s capable of scoring outside the box. It was a wonderful hit.”
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola: “We have no complaints – our players gave everything. When you play the Champions it’s always difficult and if you give them something they will exploit it. The second goal killed us.”
Alex McLeishÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s men came from behind at the JJB Stadium to claim another away success and move into the top half of the table, as Wigan slip to 14th.
Charles NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Zogbia had given the Lactics an early lead with a speculative effort, but Birmingham stuck back through a Larsson brace and a Benitez effort. WiganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Gomez made it 2-3 with minutes left to play but the visitors clung on.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez: “It is difficult to explain how we lost the game, we created chance after chance and dominated the first half.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish: “We’re showing we belong in Premier League, the players are entitled to feel massively confident because they’ve earned it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 v 1 Bolton Wanderers
After a disappointing home display against Birmingham last weekend, Mick McCarthyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Wolves overcame fellow relegation contenders, Bolton.
Jody Craddock put the home side into a one nil lead. Milijas doubled the home side’s lead with a superb strike. Elmander ensured it would be an edgy final ten minutes at Moulineux when he scrambled the ball over the line.
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy: We got involved in a scrap after they scored but I thought we defended them really well. As soon as they get one they were lifted but that game should have been over long before they scored the goal.”
Bolton manager Gary Megson: “We have spoken about this before the game and talked about the fact that nine of their 11 goals have come from set-pieces so it’s soul-destroying when they score after three minutes from a set-piece.
Bobby Zamora snatched his sixth goal of the season as his strike was enough to separate the two sides. It sees Fulham edge into eighth place while Sunderland slipped down the table into 10th spot.
Fulham should have added to their lead through an Eric Nevland, but ZamoraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s goal proved sufficient as Sunderland failed to conjure up an equaliser.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson on Bobby Zamora: “In the first half he was magnificent, in the second half he didn’t get the service but he was a constant thorn in Sunderland’s side.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:“Our away form could ruin our season. I’ve got to do something different because away from home we are too easy to play against. By that I mean changing personnel.
Jermaine Defoe surrendered the chance to steal all three points for the visitors when he spurned his penalty which was well saved by Tim Howard. It ensured that EvertonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fight back would at least earn them a point.
Goals from Defoe and Dawson saw Spurs surge into a 2-0 lead. But Harry RedknappÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s men were pegged back when Louis Saha and Tim Cahill restored parity.
Everton manager David Moyes:“I thought we deserved a bit of luck and the goalkeeper helped it. The players had worked incredibly hard and had got stuck in.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp:“We had control, we were 2-0 up and we couldn’t see any danger. But suddenly they got a goal back, and Everton came on strong.Ã¢â‚¬Â
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