Jack’s Festive Fixtures Premier League Wrap

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Tuesday Night’s Action:

Midweek matches a plenty during the weather-permitting hectic Christmas and new year schedule in the Barclays Premier League. Manchester United will go into 2011 as league leaders after drawing 1-1 at Birmingham City. A point at St. Andrews is certainly a respectable result but United will feel a little cheated not to have taken all 3 here. Dimitar Berbatov had earlier fired the away side in front, and minutes later struck the frame of the goal, but without the security of the second goal the Red Devils were always vulnerable to a sucker punch. It came in the form of veteran Lee Bowyer in the 89th minute.
United will rightly have claims to feeling hard done by, given that in the lead up to the goal giant Blues striker Nicola Zigic appeared to foul Rio Ferdinand, before the ball struck his arm, which fell to Bowyer who appeared to be in an offside position to slot home.

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But sure, apart from those 3 reasons it was a perfectly good goal.

Manchester City kept up the heat on their city rivals by thumping a hopeless Aston Villa outfit 4-0 at Eastlands. Homesick and seemingly eternally grumpy Italian Mario Ballotelli slotted a hat-trick for the hosts, albeit with two penalties and a 3 yard tap in, and there were unconfirmed reports out of Manchester overnight that he had, in fact, smiled upon scoring his third goal.

West Ham United clawed their way off the foot of the table, albeit briefly, with a 1-1 draw with Everton at Upton Park. Seamus Coleman canceled out Tony Hibbert’s earlier own-goal in a match that failed to ever really get going.

Tottenham Hotspur cruised to a 2-0 win over Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United at White Hart Lane. Second half goals to wingers Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale typified the way Spurs play under Harry Redknapp as they finished what has been a fantastic year for the club in style.

It made total sense that Fulham, fresh on the back of being beaten at home by a West Ham side that had not won away from home in 27 attempts, would go away to the Britannia Stadium and defeat Stoke City 2-0 for their first away win in 27 attempts. And of course it would be done via the help of fullback Chris Baird, who scored his first ever Premier League goal, shortly followed by his second Premier League goal with two quality strikes.

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Makes perfect sense. Gotta love this game sometimes.

Surprise packets Blackpool continue to defy the bookies as they added Sunderland to an ever growing list of teams that have seen the tiny seaside club come to their stadium and leave with the 3 points. Two goals from DJ Campbell in the second half were enough to see off the Black Cats, who had 30 goal attempts to the Tangerine’s 4, but couldn’t put any away.

Blackburn Rovers tasted success for the first time in the post-Sam Allardyce era with a 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. A brace from Croatian striker Nikola Kalanic, shortly before being sent off, was the difference.

Wednesday Night’s Action:

Chelsea celebrated their first win in seven matches after scraping out a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge. Manager Carlo Ancelotti later admitted that had Chelsea failed to win again it would have spelled the end of their title defence, but the win will have them hoping they have turned the corner.

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Florent Malouda’s second half goal was enough to take the points.

Arsenal once again shot themselves in the foot after drawing 2-2 with Wigan Athletic at the WD Stadium. After triumphantly beating Chelsea 3-0 a few days earlier, Arsene Wenger got too cocky and made 8 changes to his team only for it to backfire as the Gunners threw away a 2-1 lead thanks to a late own goal from one of those 8 changes, Sebastian Squillaci.

Players once went to Anfield to play Liverpool to soak up the atmosphere and play at such a historic venue against a great team. Now teams look forward to going to Anfield so they can pick up easy points. Bottom of the Table Wolverhampton Wanderers were never really troubled by a toothless Reds outfit that could have played for an hour after Wolves left the pitch and still wouldn’t have scored.
Stephen Ward’s goal effectively confined Liverpool to defeat even though it was scored in the 56th minute. Liverpool will do well to finish above Blackpool this season, who would have said that 5 years ago when Steven Gerrard held the European Cup aloft in Istanbul?
Strange times indeed.

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