Today’s Boxing Day matches had some interesting implications for the season as it nears the end of the 2008 portion. Hull City, in sixth place for many weeks, has now been supplanted by Everton. Man United continue to find ways to win and are well situated despite having played two fewer matches than most other clubs. And Man City have shown themselves to be the ultimate up-and-down club this year. But for specifics, here’s what happened today:
After Stoke City were reduced to ten men on Andy Wilkinson’s second yellow in the 72nd minute, Man United‘s Carlos Tevez found the back of the net in the 83rd minute to push United to yet another close victory. The tough loss at the Britannia Stadium keeps lowly Stoke in the relegation zone on twenty points, sitting behind Tottenham and Middlesbrough on differential.
At Stamford Bridge, Didier Drogba scored in the 3rd minute and Frank Lampard bookended the first half with a 45th minute goal to send Chelsea to a 2-0 home victory over last place West Bromich Albion. Albion remain on just fifteen points and in dead last. The Blues keep up with Liverpool and remain in second place with 41 points.
Tottenham and Fulham played to a nil-nil draw at White Hart Lane. The draw killed Fulham’s chances of catching and passing on differential Hull City for seventh place so they remain in eighth. Spurs could have jumped to twelfth but the single point condemns them to only a differential lead out of relegation and sixteenth position.
Out at Fratton Park, Nadir Belhadj opened the scoring for Portsmouth in the 8th minute for an early home lead. West Ham United scored in the 20th minute to draw even and then poured in three goals in sixteen minutes in the second half to win 4-1. Craig Bellamy’s late brace and a Carlton Cole goal gave the Hammers the rout despite the even match through the hour. Pompey miss a chance for eighth place and stay in eleventh while West Ham escape relegation for thirteenth place.
Riera opened scoring for Liverpool at Anfield Road in the 26th minute and Robbie Keane knocked in a double in five minutes (the 53rd and 58th minutes) to crush Bolton 3-0. The three points keep the Reds out in front on the table and just a point ahead of Chelsea. Bolton sit in the middle of the table in tenth place.
At the City of Manchester Stadium, Man City destroyed Hull City 5-1. Felipe Salvador Caicedo earned a brace by the 27th minute and Robinho added a double himself within the next nine minutes for a 4-0 lead before half-time. Craig Fagan did finally score for Hull in the 80th minute but City returned fire with Stephen Ireland’s 82nd minute goal for the final tally. City, one of the best clubs at home scrape out of relegation into fifteenth place. Hull finally slip from their perch in sixth down to seventh.
Tim Cahill’s 50th minute goal earned Everton an important away victory and a clear view of European qualification just ahead of them. Winning 1-0 at the Riverside against Middlesbrough, Everton are now alone in sixth place, several points below Arsenal and Aston Villa. Boro sink to just differential out of relegation in seventeenth position.
Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers played to a nil-nil draw at the Stadium of Light. Rovers remain solidly in relegation on just seventeen points while the Black Cats inch away into fourteenth place.
Amr Zaki’s penalty following Sebastien Bassong’s red card in the 72nd minute gave Wigan a 2-0 lead over Newcastle, enough to survive and earn three points. Danny Guthrie did connect from the spot for Toon on 88 minutes after Chris Kirkland’s penalty but it was not enough to overcome Wigan at the JJB Stadium. Wigan’s victory sends them all the way to ninth place while Newcastle are denied that exact spot and remain in twelfth place.
Finally, a furious rally by Aston Villa saw Arsenal’s 2-0 lead evaporate into a 2-2 draw in the game’s final twenty-five minutes and earn a single point for each club. Denilson and Vassiriki Abou Diaby scored within nine minutes (40th and 49th) to give the visiting Gunners a solid two-goal lead. But Gareth Barry’s 65th minute penalty and Zatyiah Knight’s 90th minute equalizer saw Villa keep its three point lead over Arsenal in the standings and tie Man United on points (though not differential). Vill stay in fourth place and Arsenal remain in fifth, now a full three points clear of Everton.