Manchester City lost major ground in the title race after losing at Sunderland watching local rivals Manchester United sneak past Newcastle in a seven goal thriller at Old Trafford. QPR returned to the bottom of the Premier League after losing at home to West Brom and Chelsea continued their fine run under Rafa Benitez
Manchester United 4-3 Newcastle United
Javier Hernandez’s 90th minute goal settled a seven goal thriller United came from behind three times to beat Newcastle. James Perch gave the Magpies a shock third minute lead when capitalising on a spill from David De Gea to tap home but Jonny Evans scored in similar circumstances at the other end to equalise in the 25th minute. Evans then put through his own net in controversial circumstances as the away side took their lead into half time.
But just before the hour Patrice Evra drove home from the edge of the box to peg Newcastle back again. Parity didn’t last long as Alan Pardew’s men took the lead for a third time courtesy of Papiss Cisse’s thumping effort from Gabriel Obertan’s cutback. But United aren’t top of the table for no reason and after Robin Van Persie fired home to make it 3-3 with 19 minutes to go, Hernandez popped up sweep home from six-yards to earn a vital three points.
Everton 2-1 Wigan Athletic
Everton survived a late scare to beat Wigan at Goodison Park and intensify their push for a Champions League spot. The Toffees stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches and took the lead just after half time when Leon Osman’s long range strike flicked off Gary Caldwell and looped over Ali Al-Habsi. The win was all but wrapped up when Phil Neville, playing his 500th Premier League game, crossed for Phil Jagielka to head home with 13 minutes to go, before Arouna Kone bundled the ball into the net to set up a tense finale.
Fulham 1-1 Southampton
Rickie Lambert’s late penalty salvaged an important point for Southampton and deny Fulham a crucial win. After losing 4-0 to Liverpool on Sunday the Cottagers were straight out of the traps and broke the deadlock with only minutes on the clock. Sascha Riether’s cross wasn’t dealt with by Kelvin Davis and Dimitar Berbatov accepted the invitation to notch his sixth of the season before being booked for revealing a t-shirt saying ‘keep calm and pass to me’ as he celebrated. But the Saints are made of sterner stuff nowadays and when Chris Baird handled in the penalty area five minutes from time, Lambert stepped up to bury his spot kick and keep his side out of the bottom three.
Norwich 0-1 Chelsea
Juan Mata scored the only goal maintained Chelsea’s fine run under Rafael Benitez and consigned Norwich to a second consecutive defeat. After smashing eight past Aston Villa on Sunday the Blues could only managed to find the net once at Carrow Road but it was a veritable peach from Mata. Oscar created it, wriggling away from two Norwich players, finding the Spaniard 20-yards from goal and his rasping 20-yard drive beat Bunn to chalk up a third league win in a row for Benitez.
QPR 1-2 West Brom
Harry Redknapp’s salvage job at QPR got even harder on Boxing Day as they returned to the foot of the table after losing to West Brom at Loftus Road. Despite kick off being delayed by 15 minutes due to the Baggies coach hitting Boxing Day traffic Chris Brunt gave them a deserved lead on the half hour with a delicious 30-yard drive, before Rangers keeper Robert Green palmed the ball into his own net from Brunt’s corner four minutes into the second half. Djibril Cisse offered some hope of comeback when he cooly lifted the ball over Ben Foster with 22 minutes left but the visitors held on to remain sixth and within earshot of a Champions League spot.
Reading 0-0 Swansea City
A point was enough to lift Reading off the bottom as they nipped a run of seven straight defeats in the bud by drawing with Swansea at the Madjeski Stadium. The Royals had an effort ruled out in the 74th minute when Adam Le Fondre was adjudged to have handled the ball while Chico Flores’ goal line clearance secured a point. Swansea’s best chance of the game came when he took advantage of a poor chest back to his goalkeeper by Chris Gunter but the 13 goal Spaniard could only lift his effort over from six-yards. He limped off late in the game to give manager Michael Laudrup a major injury concern.
Sunderland 1-0 Manchester City
Adam Johnson scored the only goal at the Stadium of Light against former club Manchester City to hand Sunderland a third win in four games to move them clear of the relegation zone. Just under a year after Ji Dong Won’s last minute winner earned the Black Cats a surprise victory against the eventual Premier League champions, Johnson was the match winner on this occasion. The England winger’s left footed strike somehow found its way past Joe Hart in the City goal as the visitors protested that it shouldn’t have stood after Craig Gardner fouled Pablo Zabaleta int he build-up. But, despite their best efforts, the Robert Mancini’s men couldn’t force an equaliser and now have a seven point mountain to climb if they’re to peg back United at the top of the tree.
Aston Villa 0-4 Tottenham Hotspur
Gareth Bale struck a second half hat-trick as Tottenham showed no mercy on Aston Villa to regain fourth place in the table. After conceding eight without reply at Chelsea on Sunday manager Paul Lambert expected a mean response from his players but they were powerless to resist Bale and Spurs as they ran riot at Villa Park. It as actually Jermain Defoe who opened the scoring just before the hour, beating Brad Guzan with the outside of his boot after being picked out by Kyle Naughton. It then turned into the Bale show as he put the finishing touches to a rapid counter attack in the 61st minute to round Guzan and flick the ball home. The Wales winger doubled his personal tally 12 minutes later with a sharp finish before completed the scoring six minutes from time, hammering home a cross from Gylfi Sigurdsson to record his first top-flight treble.
Stoke City 3-1 Liverpool
Stokes unbeaten run now stands at nine games after they came from behind to beat Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium and move to within five points of the top four. A frantic opening first quarter hour saw Steven Gerrard open the scoring from the penalty spot in the third minute after Ryan Shawcross fouled Luis Suarez. John Walters restored parity within two minutes, beating Pepe Reina with a powerful strike after a slip from Martin Skrtel opened the chance up to the Potters striker. The Reds couldn’t cope with their trademark aerial power and Kenwyne Jones took full advantage to power home a header from Glenn Whelan’s 12th minute corner. And just after the break Walters applied the seal with a spectacular volley that left Reina clutching at air.