New year goal drought
The year started badly for Chelsea in the early kick off when they fell behind to a 10th minute Danny Murphy penalty at Fulham, but they bounced back in the second half to become the first winners of 2008 when Solomon Kalou headed an Alex header past Antti Niemi in the 54th minute and Michael Ballack converted a penalty in the 62nd minute giving Roy Hodgson a taste of defeat, losing 2-1 in his first match as Fulham manager. Arsenal began the year scoring a goal within 2 minutes against West Ham at the Emirates when Eduardo chested the ball down in the box and placed it into the bottom corner, and had the match sewn up by the 18th minute when Adebayor headed a long ball past the onrushing Rob Green to score off the post from a tight angle and make it 2-0 to the Gunners. Manchester United took all 3 points at home to Birmingham when Ronaldo back-heeled the ball into the path of Tevez who rolled it past Maik Taylor in the 25th minute for the only goal of the match. Reading were reduced to 10 men after only 3 minutes with Ibrahima Sonko sent off for a foul, but Niko Kranjcar hit the base of the post from the resulting penalty. Sol Campbell toe-poked the ball into the net for Portsmouth when Hahnemann failed to hold onto a cross in the 9th minute, and after Benjani had smashed the ball against the bar with a first half header, Utaka outpaced the Reading defence in the 66th minute to get past the keeper and round off a 2-0 away win for Portsmouth. Goals in the second half from Andrew Johnson (67) and James McFadden (72) gave Everton a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough. In the late match at Villa Park Olof Mellberg flicked the ball in with a 40th minute header, but Jermain Defoe equalised for Tottenham placing a close-range acrobatic volley past Scott Carson in the 79th minute only for Martin Laursen to score the winner with a decisive header 5 minutes from time. On the 2nd day of 2008 Man City recorded their first away win in the league since the opening day beating Newcastle 2-0. After some early pressure by Newcastle, Elano opened the scoring for the visitors with a precise shot in the 39th minute and substitute Gelson Fernandes powerfully side-footed the ball past Shay Given in the 76th minute to put the match beyond Newcastle. Wigan earned a point at Liverpool when Titus Bramble thumped the ball beyond Reina with 10 minutes to go after Torres had slid in to give the Reds a 49th minute lead. Derby suffered a cruel blow at Bolton when a long ball in stoppage time found Stelios Giannakopolous who lifted it over the keeper and headed it into an empty net for the only goal of the match. A 57th minute Benni McCarthy penalty gave Blackburn a 1-0 home win over Sunderland who had seen Dean Whitehead's weak penalty saved and were later reduced to 10 men when Dwight Yorke received his marching orders for a second yellow card in the 71st minute. The New Year fixtures produced a meagre 19 goals in total.
The Torn Army
Birmingham earned a point at Arsenal when Garry O'Connor's 48th minute header crept in after Emmanuel Adebayor had given Arsenal a deserved lead from the penalty spot 22 minutes into the match. Chelsea's Juliano Belletti punished Tottenham for giving him too much space, with a stupendous 25-yard shot in the 16th minute and Shaun Wright Phillips struck sweetly into the bottom corner from just outside the area with 10 minutes remaining to seal a 2-0 victory. Nicolas Anelka was unveiled in front off the home crowd, coming on to force Cerny into a good save and hit the underside of the bar for Chelsea. Liverpool could only manage a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough with Jeremie Aliadiere heading the ball back in the 26th minute for George Boateng to turn in for the hosts and Fernando Torres unleashing a beauty in off the post in the 70th minute to earn Liverpool a point. Everton climbed above Man City with a 1-0 home win over Sven's men. Joleon Lescott converted a low cross from close range in the 31st minute for the only goal of the match. Substitute Antoine Sibierski was the sole scorer, striking the 82nd minute winner for Wiagn at Derby who had Claude Davis sent off in the 58th minute for a second yellow card offence. Fulham took an early lead at West Ham when Simon Davies swung in an 8th minute free kick from the left side which nestled in the back of the net unaided, but Dean Ashton Levelled the score when he got his head to a Ljungberg cross in the 28th minute and when Noble raced to the by-line in the 68th minute to keep the ball in and cross it into the box, Anton Ferdinand headed in the winner for West Ham. Aston Villa enjoyed a 3-1 win at home to Reading. John Carew got on the end of an in-swinging free-kick to score with a glancing header in the 22nd minute and Martin Laursen headed in a 2nd in the 55th minute. Carew finished off a pass from Ashley Young with 2 minutes left, but James Harper slotted the ball past Carson for a last minute consolation. In the late match Manchester United tore Managerless Newcastle apart at Old Trafford. Newcastle survived the first half, but the Toon Army saw their team annihilated in the second half. Cristiano Ronaldo's 48th minute free-kick went in under the jumping wall, and a mix-up in the Newcastle defence left Tevez with an easy task to double the lead in the 54th minute. Ronaldo added another with a clinical finish in the 70th minute and with 5 minutes remaining Rooney delivered a cross onto the foot of Rio Ferdinand who volleyed home emphatically from close range. Ronaldo completed his first hat-trick to Man United 3 minutes later and Tevez made it 6-0 when his shot came off the underside of the bar and was adjudged to have crossed the line, enraging Newcastle captain Alan Smith enough to earn him a red card for dissent. On Sunday Kieran Richardson scored both goals for Sunderland to give them 3 vital home points against Portsmouth. Richardson slid the ball past David James in the 33rd minute and showed good finishing skills to double the score a minute before the break, but was denied a hat-trick in the second half when his cracking shot came off the bar. A last gasp goal gave Blackburn a 2-1 win at Bolton. The home side went ahead in the 43rd minute when Kevin Nolan turned to send a spectacular volley past Friedel, but Christopher Samba nodded the ball into the back of the net in the 53rd minute and a powerful run by Jason Roberts ended with his shot taking a slight deflection and giving the visitors a 2-1 win.
Newcastle await Keegan goals
Manchester United were given a stern test at Reading, but with 13 minutes remaining Rooney received the ball between 2 defenders and steered it home with an outstretched leg prompting Reading to push for an equaliser which lead to Ronaldo breaking through on the counter-attack and tucking the ball past Hahnemann to make it 2-0 in stoppage time. Emmanuel Adebayor showed his aerial supremacy with 2 headed goals in the 19th and 38th minutes at Fulham with Rosicky sliding in to volley an Eduardo pass into the bottom corner in the 81st minute giving Arsenal a 3-0 win. Birmingham held their own against Chelsea until the 79th minute when Claudio Pizarro steamed in to get on the end of a corner kick and score the only goal of the match with a bullet of a header for the visitors. Robbie Keane celebrated his 100th goal for Tottenham as the Londoners won 2-0 at home to struggling Sunderland. Spurs took a 2nd minute lead when the ball bounced in the box for Aaron Lennon to poke into the net, and sealed a 2-0 win when Keane scored his landmark goal by forcing his shot under the body of Graig Gordon in the last minute of the match. Middlesbrough picked up a point with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn. David Wheater directed Stewart Downing's free kick into the Blackburn net with a header in the 13th minute, but substitute Matt Derbyshire denied the visitors all 3 points when he side-footed the equaliser 15 minutes from time. A Benjai hat-trick against Bottom side Derby ended Portsmouth's home drought. Derby took a 4th minute lead when David James could only push Emanuel Villa's effort against the bar and Lewin Nyatanga converted the loose ball, but in the 38th minute Benjani with his back to goal turned to riffle the ball into the top corner and with 3 minutes of the half left the Zimbabwean rose to give Portsmouth a half time lead. Ten minutes into the 2nd half Benjani broke through to slot the ball past Price with an accurate finish for his hat-trick to give Portsmouth a 3-1 win. In the late kick-off Kevin Keegan's much anticipated return to St James' Park as Newcastle manager ended in a 0-0 draw against Bolton. On Sunday Everton moved up to fourth place in the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Wigan. A Titus Bramble slip-up in the 39th minute left Andrew with a clear run on goal which he ended by slotting the ball in through the keeper's legs. Only 3 minutes later Wigan failed to clear a corner and the ball was delivered to the feet of Joleon Lescott who smashed the ball home from an unmissable position. Wigan pulled a goal back when the ball went in off Jagielka for an own goal in the 53rd minute, but could not find the all important equaliser. Manchester City and West Ham met again only days after their FA Cup replay. Carlton Cole put the visitors ahead with a bicycle kick in the 8th minute, but City levelled the score 8 minutes later when Darius Vassell prodded the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box for a 1-1 draw. On Monday evening Aston Villa drew 2-2 at Anfield. Yossi Benayoun's determination got the better of the Villa defence when he reacted quickest to force the ball in, and give Liverpool the lead in the 19th minute, but shortly after coming on, Marlon Harewood levelled the score with an overhead kick in the 69th minute and 3 minutes later Olof Mellberg's volley from a tight angle went in off a defender. Peter Crouch came off the bench to rescue Liverpool when he took a swing at the ball in the box and found the back of the net with only 2 minutes remaining.
Ronaldo magic gives United top spot
On FA Cup Saturday the only Premier League match to take place was at Villa Park where Aston Villa and Blackburn drew 1-1. Scott Carson saved a 23rd minute penalty from Blackburn's Matt Derbyshire, but Carson's 68th minute save from Dunn fell to the deadly Santa Cruz who put Villa ahead only for Ashley Young to level the score 5 minutes later with a superbly taken free-kick. On Tuesday Arsenal returned to the top of the league for at least 24 hours with a 3-0 home win over Newcastle. Emmanuel Adebayor met Mathieu Flamini's cross with a header to give the Gunners the lead 5 minutes before the break and Flamini doubled the score with a 72nd minute screamer into the top corner. Eight minutes later Nicklas Bendtner brought the ball down and laid it onto Fabregas who lashed in the 3rd. Sunderland earned 3 vital points beating fellow relegation strugglers Birmingham 2-0 at the Stadium of Light. Kenwyne Jones headed a 15th minute free-kick on for Daryl Murphy to knock in and debutant Rade Prica came on in the 2nd half to intercept a header back and poke the ball over the unfortunate keeper in the 65th minute. Jeremie Aliadiere scored the only goal of the match at Middlesbrough as he collected a pass from Downing in the 19th minute to fire past Kirkland in the Wigan goal, beating him at the near post. There were no goals at Bolton as Fulham gained their first point under Roy Hodgson. On Wednesday 2 early goals from Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford gave United a 2-0 win over Portsmouth to take them above Arsenal on goal difference. Ronaldo slotted the first past David James in the 9th minute and 4 minutes later stunned James with a stupendous free kick for his second. Liverpool suffered a hammer blow at West Ham as Mark Noble scored the only goal of the match with an accurately drilled shot from the penalty spot with virtually the last kick of the match. A powerful Michael Ballack header in the 32nd minute was enough to give Chelsea 3 points at home to reading, while Tottenham picked up a point in a 0-0 draw at Everton. Man City drew 1-1 at struggling Derby with a deflected shot from Miller just after the break giving the Rams the lead, and Daniel Sturridge levelling the score for City in the 63rd minute.
January comes to an end with Manchester United leading the way on goal difference from Arsenal, followed by Chelsea and Everton.