Arsenal stretch their lead
Chelsea gained another 3 points with a 1-0 home win against West Ham with Joe Cole scoring against his old club in the 76th minute when he found himself marginally onside and rounded the keeper to despatch the ball into the roof of the net. Arsenal earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Aston Villa. Graig Gardner gave Villa the lead in the 14th minute, but 9 minutes later Mathieu Flamini lashed in the equaliser and Emmanuel Adebayor scored the winner in the 36th minute with a towering header which John Carew almost equalled in the second half, but was denied by the crossbar. David Bentley helped Blackburn to a 3-1 win over Newcastle. Obafemi Martins got his head to a cross at the start of the 2nd half to put the visitors in front, but Bentley equalised with a stunning free kick in the 54th minute and scored again with a low shot off the inside of the post in the 67th minute. Tugay Added to Newcastle's sorrows with a goal at the end of the match. Anthony Stokes turned the ball over the line for the only goal of the match after Stephen Bywater had made a double save in stoppage time as Sunderland sent Derby home with nothing to show for. Titus Bramble gifted Geovanni the opportunity to put Man City ahead at Wigan after less a minute of play, but the hosts earned a point under new manager Steve Bruce when the unmarked Paul Scharner flung himself to head the ball in after 25 minutes. Wigan were reduced to 10 men late in the match when Mario Melchiot received his marching orders for a 2 footed tackle. At Reading Dave Kitson lifted the ball over Ross Turnbull in the 54th minute, but Tuncay salvaged a point for Middlesbrough with a late header. Everton returned from Portsmouth with a 0-0 draw. On Sunday Liverpool eased past Bolton with a 4-0 win at Anfield. Sami Hyypiä opened the scoring with a glancing header in the 17th minute and Torres doubled the score with a cool dink over the advancing Jääskeläinen just before the interval, but not before Nicolas Anelka had somehow missed an open goal for the visitors. Steven Gerrard sent the Bolton keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 56th minute and with 4 minutes remaining Jääskeläinen parried a shot from Dirk Kuyt into the path of Ryan Babel who rolled the ball in for the fourth. Having given up his post as Scotland Manager, Alex McLeish saw his new club Birmingham take the lead through a 24th minute Gary McSheffrey penalty at Tottenham, but Robbie Keane converted a 50th minute spot kick and gave his side the lead 3 minutes later. Berbatov should have extended Tottenham's lead but struck the post from close range, and Birmingham levelled the score in the 62nd minute when Cameron Jerome fired a low shot into the corner of the net. Robbie Keane was controversially shown a straight red in the 68th minute for what the referee deemed to be a dangerous tackle. Ex Arsenal youngster Sebastian Larsson scored the winner for Birmingham in stoppage time unleashing an absolute screamer into the top corner to give McLeish a 3-2 win in his first managerial match in English football. On Monday Cristiano Ronaldo scored a goal in each half to give Manchester United a 2-0 home win against Fulham. After a poor defensive header in the10th minute the ball fell to Ronaldo who found the top corner of the net and in the 58th minute he doubled his tally for the night with a header. On Wednesday evening Newcastle fought back to earn a point against leaders Arsenal. Emmanuel Adebayor chested a cross and scored with a majestic volley in the 4 minute, but Steven Taylor turned in the box to score off the inside of the post on the hour mark giving the home crowd something to celebrate and his team a valuable 1-1 draw.
The early match on Saturday saw Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth lay the Villa Park ghost to rest with a 3-1 win. Graig Gardner gave Portsmouth - who had not won at Villa for 52 years - the advantage with an own goal after 10 minutes, and with 5 minutes of the half remaining Sulley Muntari pierced the Villa net with a brilliant shot to give Martin O'Neill's men an uphill struggle in the second half. Muntari riffled in a low swerving shot from outside the area in the 61st minute, making Gareth Barry's emphatically taken penalty 11 minutes later a mere consolation fro Aston Villa. At Newcastle Cameron Jerome was allowed the get on the end of a long ball to put Birmigham ahead after only 9 minutes, but Newcastle equalised with a 37th minute Obafemi Martins penalty which Maik Taylor could only push in off the post. Milner came close with a 20 yard shot which rebounded off the bar, but it was Habib Beye who stole in at the near post to give Newcastle a 2-1 win with a header in the 90th minute. Manchester United overcame Derby 4-1 with Tevez scoring on the stroke of half time and on the hour-mark at Old Trafford. Ryan Giggs pounced on the rebound from a Ronaldo shot to score his 100th league goal for United in the 40th minute, and by the time Steve Howard had scored for Derby in the 76th minute, United were already 3 up having also hit the woodwork through Rooney and Giggs. Ronaldo sealed the victory for United with a last minute penalty. Yakubu scored a second-half hat-trick as Everton sent Fulham home with a 3-0 defeat. Frank Lampard scored from the spot in the 75th minute to add to Andriy Shevchenko's 23rd minute flying header and beat Sunderland 2-0 at Stamford Bridge where Sunderland's Liam Miller was shown red 2 minutes before time. Reading handed Liverpool their first league defeat of the season with a 3-1 home win. Stephen Hunt converted a disputed penalty for Reading in the 17th minute, but 11 minutes later Gerrard slotted the ball past Hahnemann to restore parity. Nicky Shorey's cross from a free kick in the 58th minute brushed the hair of Kevin Doyle and nestled in the back of the net, and after Gerrard had struck the bar, Liverpool were caught on the counter attack as James Harper ran past Reina to roll in the 3rd. Peter Crouch came close to reducing the deficit, but hit the base of the post. On Sunday Arsenal lost their unbeaten record with a 2-1 loss at Middlesbrough. Stewart Downing squeezed a penalty past Manuel Almunia in the 4 minute and Tuncay smashed the ball into the roof of the net from a relatively tight angle after Almunia could only parry Gary O'Neil's 74th minute shot. Rosicky pulled a goal back for the Londoners with the last kick of the match, but it was not enough to prevent Arsenal losing for the first time this season. Substitute Dean Ashton side-footed the only goal of the match in the 52nd minute to give West Ham all 3 points at Blackburn. Pascal Chimbonda touched the ball over the line to give Tottenham the lead against Man City on the stroke of half time, but the Bianchi equalised for the visitors with a thumping header in the 61st minute. Stephen Ireland received a straight red for a lunging tackle in the 82nd minute and a minute later the ball rebounded off the post for Jermain Defoe to hit the back of the net and give Tottenham a 2-1 win. Bolton enjoyed a 4-1 home win against fellow strugglers Wigan. Paul Scharner gave Bolton the advantage with an own goal in the 3rd minute, but Danny Landzaat slotted home an equaliser 11 minutes later. Nicolas Anelka lofted his penalty kick high over the bar, but Bolton went ahead when Kevin Nolan side-heeled the ball into the net on 37 minutes. Kevin Davies slid in to get on the end of a Diouf free kick and extend Bolton's lead with 20 minutes remaining, and a Kevin Nolan dummy in front of goal allowed Anelka to help himself to number four.
Despite the top 4 facing one another on Sunday, there was plenty of entertainment on Saturday. A Santa Cruz hat-trick at Wigan was not enough for Blackburn as the hosts ran out 5-3 winners with a hat-trick from Marcus Bent. Danny Landzaat broke through to side-foot the ball past Brad Friedel in the 10th minute, and 2 minutes later the ball fell to Bent who drove it into the back of the net. After Chris Kirkland had saved a Benni McCarthy penalty, Wigan went further ahead when Taylor delivered a fierce free-kick from the by line onto the head of Scharner who made it 3-0 in the 37th minute. Roque Santa Cruz chested the ball and turned to volley in a spectacular goal at the end of the first half, and 5 minutes into the second half a Kirkland save fell to Santa Cruz who reduced the deficit. The 57th minute dismissal of Brett Emerton for a second yellow seemed not to have affected the Blackburn revival as Santa Cruz completed his hat-trick 4 minutes later with a header to level the score, but Marcus Bent popped up with a firm header in the 66th minute and secured victory, tapping in his hat-trick 9 minutes from time. Manchester City overcame Bolton Wanderers 4-2 at home in another entertaining match. Bianchi diverted the ball into the net after only 7 minutes, but Bolton hit back with 2 goals before the break. El Hadji Diouf ended a neat sequence of passes with an emphatic finish in the 31st minute and Kevin Nolan struck the ball with the outside of his right foot to beat the keeper again 9 minutes later. City were back on level terms 3 minutes into the second half when Hamann's shot was deflected in off the head of Michalik for an own goal, and Darius Vassell put his side ahead side-footing the ball over the line in the 77th minute with Etuhu finishing the game off in the last minute. Goals at the end of each half saw Everton win 2-0 at West Ham. Yakubu steered in a header for the first and Andy Johnson caught Robert Green off his line to score the second at the end of the match. Dimitar Berbatov got on the end of a cross to score the only goal of the match for Tottenham at Portsmouth. A stunning free-kick from Shaun Maloney in the 73rd minute left keeper Darren Ward rooted and salvaged a point for Aston Villa at Sunderland who had taken a 10th minute lead when Danny Higginbotham had risen in a crowded penalty area to score with a header. Tuncay hit a cross on the volley in the 38th minute for Middlesbrough at Derby to give Paul Jewell a 1-0 home defeat in his first match in charge of the Rams. A stoppage time penalty converted by Joey Barton for Newcastle was the only incident worth reporting at Fulham. A 51st minute penalty by Stephen Hunt gave Reading a point at Birmingham after Mikael Forssell had forced the ball over the line for the Blues in the 4th minute. Birmingham came close to winning the match when a McSheffrey shot rattled the bar and an effort from the rebound was cleared off the line by Sonko and came off the bar again. On Sunday a well-planned corner kick saw Ryan Giggs pass the ball to Rooney who drove it into the box for Tevez to turn in 2 minutes before the break giving Manchester United an important win at Liverpool. Willam Gallas scored against his former club with a header on the stroke of half time to see Arsenal beat Chelsea 1-0 at the Emirates.
Tottenham pay the penalty
The North London derby came to life in the second half when Emmanuel Adebayor slotted the ball past Robinson 3 minutes after the break. A minute after Robbie Keane had struck the Arsenal bar, Dimitar Berbatov powered the ball past Almunia from a tight angle in the 66th minute. Almunia Denied Tottenham the lead saving a 71st minute Keane penalty and 5 minutes later substitute Nicklas Bendtner made an immediate impact running onto the pitch and scoring the winner for the Gunners with a leaping header. Fernando Torres showed his class scoring a brace as Liverpool beat Portsmouth 4-1at Anfield. Harry Kewell crossed the ball for Yossi Benayoun to volley in the first in the 13th minute and 3 minutes later the Reds were further ahead courtesy of an own goal. Benjani gave Portsmouth some hope in the 57th minute bringing the ball under control in the box before firing past Reina, but 10 minutes later when David James' block fell to Torres the Spaniard picked his spot. With 5 minutes remaining Gerrard headed the ball back across the area for Torres to volley home and secure an impressive win for Liverpool. A controversial goal in stoppage time gave Reading a 2-1 win at home to Sunderland. Reading had taken the lead through a 69th minute Ivar Ingimarsson tap-in, but Michael Chopra sent the Reading keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot with 8 minutes left only for Sunderland to be denied a point when the referee adjudged Stephen Hunt's effort to have crossed the line deep into stoppage time. Aston Villa and Manchester City shared 2 goals early in the first half at Villa Park. Ronaldo Bianchi slid in to get on the end of a cross and put City ahead in the 11th minute, but 3 minutes later a determined run by John Carew and a powerful finish by the Norwegian made it 1-1. West Ham enjoyed a 2-1 win at Middlesbrough with a late goal from Scott Parker. Aliadiere knocked the ball back for David Wheater to bundle over the line for the hosts in the 40th minute, but Dean Ashton struck a crisp low shot into the corner of the net just before the break. In the final minute of the match Scott Parker scored the winner for the Hammers after some individual skill in the box. Marcus Bent gave Wigan a 70th minute away lead , but Clint Dempsey riffled in a shot in the 78th minute to earn Ray Lewington a point in his first match in charge of Fulham after the sacking of Lawrie Sanchez. Bolton beat Birmingham with 3 goals in the second half. El Hadji Diouf showed good finishing skills to open the scoring in the 72nd minute and Nicolas Anelka accepted a gift to round the keeper and extend Bolton's lead 6 minutes later. Anelka finished Birmingham off in the last minute with his 2nd of the night to make it 3-0 to the home side. On Sunday Everton Threw away a point conceding a late penalty at Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo stunned Tim Howard with a swerving shot in the 22nd minute, but Tim Cahill equalised with a header 5 minutes later. Everton gave away a needless penalty 2 minutes from time which Ronaldo converted with aplomb to give his side a 2-1 victory over the Toffees. Mark Viduka scored twice to deny bottom club Derby their second win of the season. Giles Barnes had given the visitors a 6th minute lead with a low shot from outside the area and also cleared off the line at the other end, but Viduka fired in the equaliser in the 27th minute. A clinical finish by Kenny Miller gave the Rams the advantage in the 52nd minute, but Viduka came to rescue in the 87th minute to earn Newcastle a 2-2 draw. A quick Chelsea attack at Blackburn resulted in Joe Cole emphatically despatching the ball into the roof of the net in the 22nd minute for the only goal of the match in which keepers from both sides made several vital saves.
Chelsea and Aston Villa shared 8 goals in a thrilling match at Stamford Bridge that included 2 penalties and 3 sendings off. Carew headed the ball down on a plate for Shaun Maloney to score in the 14th minute. A Petr Cech howler allowed Maloney to double the score a minute before half time, but a minute later a foul by Zat Knight resulted in a red card and penalty which Andriy Shevchenko converted. The Ukrainian thumped the ball home 5 minutes into the second half and sent Alex on his way to skilfully find the bottom corner and give Chelsea the lead for the first time in the 66th minute. Within 6 minutes Villa were on level terms again when Martin Laursen got on the end of a free-kick to steer the ball past Cech. Despite Chelsea losing their man-advantage with the dismissal of Carvalho for a two-footed tackle in the 80th minute, Michael Ballack scored for the Blues with an accurate free-kick in the 88th minute, but when Ashley Cole cleared a header off the line in stoppage time the referee produced a red card for hand-ball and pointed to the spot, allowing Gareth Barry step up and earn Villa a 4-4 draw. Robbie Keane and Tom Huddlestone scored twice each as Tottenham trounced Fulham 5-1 at White Hart Lane. When Steed Malbranque smashed the ball against the post in the 27th minute Keane rolled the rebound in, and Huddlestone made it 2 just before the break wrong-footing Niemi with a shot from outside the area. A cross in the 59th minute pinballed in off Clint Dempsey to give Fulham momentary hope, but 3 minutes later a Berbatov header went in off Keane to restore Tottenham's 2 goal advantage. Huddlestone drove the ball in with a fine shot in the 71st minute and after Moritz Volz had picked up a second yellow late on in the game, Jermain Defoe rounded off a great 5-1 win for Spurs in the 90th minute. Having seen his side reduced to 10 men with the 29th minute dismissal of Brynjar Gunnarsson for a two-footed lunge, Dave Kitson hooked the ball into the top corner on the hour-mark to give Reading a 1-1 draw at West Ham after Nolberto Solano had scored for the Hammers 3 minutes before the break. Second-half goals from Phil Neville (51) and Tim Cahill (70) condemned Bolton to a 2-0 defeat at Everton, while Birmingham enjoyed a 3-0 home win over Middlesbrough with the help of a 22nd minute own-goal, a 45th minute effort from Forssell and a last minute Gary McSheffrey penalty. Derby were seconds away from claiming a home point against Liverpool, but Steven Gerrard popped up to give Liverpool a 2-1 win. Fernando Torres eased his way past the Derby defence to find the net in the 12th minute, but James McEveley equalised for the Rams when a free-kick fell to him in the 67th minute. Moments after rattling the underside of the crossbar, Gerrard got in the way of a last minute clearance to give Liverpool the win. Ryan Taylor bent the ball beautifully over the wall from a 65th minute free-kick to give Wigan a 1-0 home win over Newcastle. Manchester United moved to the top of the table with a 4-0 victory against Sunderland as Arsenal drew 0-0 at Portsmouth in the evening kick-off. Rooney collected a long pass and side-footed the ball past Graig Gordon in the 20th minute and picked out Saha in the box 10 minutes who duly obliged. Cristiano Ronaldo scored with an exquisite free-kick on the stroke of half time and Saha added another with a penalty 4 minutes from time to give United an emphatic 4-0 win. On Thursday evening Manchester City failed to make it 10 home wins in a row when they drew 2-2 against Blackburn. A swift move from the left in the 27th minute resulted in a cross which Darius Vassell nodded firmly into the back of the net. A minute later Roque Santa Cruz met a free-kick with his head to flick it past Hart in the City goal, but the hosts responded immediately with the speedy Petrov on the left flank delivering another dangerous cross which Ryan Nelsen turned into his own net. Santa Cruz levelled the score with a near post header in the 84th minute to end City's 100% home record for the season.
Reversal of fortunes
Manchester United were knocked off their perch falling 2-1 at West Ham after going a goal up in the first half. After Hayden Mullins struck the woodwork and Mark Noble blazed the ball over the open goal from the rebound West Ham fell behind when Ryan Giggs crossed the ball onto the head of Ronaldo who put the visitors ahead in the 14th minute, but Ronaldo's penalty miss in the second half was punished when Anton Ferdinand headed in a 77th minute equaliser and Matthew Upson grabbed the winner 5 minutes later with a accurate header past the despairing Kuszczak. Reading scored another 4 goal away from home but found themselves on the losing side going down 6-4 to Tottenham. Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring in the 7th minute with a tap in, but when Paul Robinson's weak punch fell to Kalifa Cisse in the 16th minute Reading were level and took the lead with a 53rd minute Ivar Ingimarsson header. Berbatov smashed in an equaliser after a poor defensive clearance in the 63rd minute, but Dave Kitson scored for Reading with a near post header in the 69th minute with Berbatov restoring parity 4 minutes later. Reading responded immediately when Kitson dinked the ball over Robinson, but within 2 minutes Malbranque had wiped out their lead. Hahnemann saved a Robbie Keane penalty in the 79th minute, but Defoe headed in the follow-up and 4 minutes later Berbatov got on the end of a long ball to score his 4th and make it an unforgettable 6-4 to Spurs. Chelsea scored a contentious late goal to beat Newcastle 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea took the lead when the ball fell to Essien in the 29th minute, but Nicky Butt bundled the ball over the line for Newcastle in 56th minute who held on to the draw until 3 minutes from time when Kalou who seemed to be offside, collected the ball and slotted in the winner. Portsmouth once again failed to score at home as Tuncay helped Gary O'Neil's volley over the line in the 20th minute for a 1-0 Middlesbrough win. Sebastian Larsson's deflected shot in the 59th minute gave Birmingham a 1-1 home draw after Carlos Bocanegra had given Fulham an 8th minute lead with a near post header in a match that saw Fulham's Hameur Bouazza sent off for a second yellow in the 79th minute. Sunderland moved out of the drop zone with a 3-1 home victory over Bolton. Kenwyne Jones skilfully played the ball to Kieran Richardson who slammed it past Jääskeläinen in the 13th minute and Jones doubled Sunderland's lead with a powerful header in the 32nd minute. El Hadji Diouf pulled a goal back from a free-kick 4 minutes before the break, but in the last minute of the match Daryl Murphy shrugged off a defender to riffle the ball past the Bolton keeper and secure the points for Sunderland. Aston Villa came from behind to win 2-1 at Wigan. Titus Bramble had scored for Wigan with a header in the 28th minute, but headers from Steven Davis (55) and Gabrieal Agbonlahor 20 minutes from time reversed the outcome. In the late kick off Arsenal regained their top spot with a 4-1 triumph at Everton. Tim Cahill forced the ball over the line when Arsenal failed to clear a corner in the 19th minute, but 2 minutes into the second half Eduardo Da Silva got on the end of a long ball and punished Everton with his first league goal of the season and doubled his tally with a cool finish 11 minutes later. Nicklas Bendtner who had already been booked was given his marching orders for an ugly tackle in the 74th minute, but 5 minutes later Emmanuel Adebayor stole the ball off Tom Howard and walked it into an empty net. Everton's Arteta was shown a straight red for elbowing an opponent in the 84th minute, but Arsenal refused to sit on their laurels and Tomas Rosicky completed the score with a strike in stoppage time. On Sunday Derby suffered another home defeat, losing 2-1 to Blackburn. Derby took the lead when Matt Oakley powered the ball in through the legs of Brad Friedel against the run of play in the 27th minute and could have gone further ahead in the 37th minute but Friedel foiled Steve Howard's spot kick and 2 minutes later when Lewis Price got down to keep out Benni McCarthy's effort, Santa Cruz tapped in the rebound for a Blackburn equaliser. Another 3 minutes and Derby were trailing to a David Bentley low shot which found the corner of the net from outside the area. Bentley struck the post midway through the second half, but there were no further goals. Manchester City and Liverpool played out a goalless draw at Eastlands in the last match of the year.
The year ended with Arsenal at the top followed by Manchester United Chelsea and Liverpool.