Manchester Clubs Continue Dominance
Saturday, December 29
Sunderland 1-2 Tottenham Hotpsur
Aston Villa 0-3 Wigan Athletic
Fulham 1-2 Swansea City
Manchester United 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Norwich City 3-4 Manchester City
Reading 1-0 West Ham United
Stoke City 3-3 Southampton
Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle United
Sunday, December 30
Everton 1-2 Chelsea
Queens Park Rangers 0-3 Liverpool
The final weekend of 2012 had a full slate of Premier League games on Saturday and Sunday with plenty of drama. The two teams from Manchester are atop the table as United held onto its seven point lead over cross town rivals City. Chelsea continues its improvement under Rafael Benitez, moving into third place with its fourth straight league victory. At the bottom of the table, Wigan moved out of the relegation zone where QPR, Reading and now Southampton reside.
Manchester United had just its fourth clean sheet of the 2012-2013 season, beating West Brom 2-0 at Old Trafford and keeping its lead atop the Premier League at seven points. Although United dominated the first half, the only goal in the opening stanza was own goal by West Brom’s Garth McCauley. As the game was winding down, Robin Van Persey scored his 17th goal of the season to wrap up the points for United.
Last year’s champions, Manchester City, overcame Samir Nasri’s red to beat Norwich 4-3. Edin Dzeko scored a brace for City in the opening five minutes and a rout looked to be on. However, Norwich’s Anthony Pilkington put the Canaries back in the game with a 15th minute free kick that took a deflection into City’s goal. Just before the half, Nasri was shown red for putting his head into the face of Sebastien Bassong in altercation that could have seen both men sent off. After the break, Segio Aguero extended City’s lead with his seventh league goal of the season, a perfectly placed chip. Norwich’s Russel Martin put in a second half brace, his two wrapped around a City goal that bounced off the back of keeper Mark Bunn for an own goal, off of Dzeko’s shot.
Arsenal and Newcastle put on a scoring demonstration at The Emirates, with Arsenal hammering in four late goals to earn the 7-3 win. Theo Walcott, who had a hat-trick on the day, opened the scoring with a 20th minute goal for the home side. Just before the half, Newcastle equalized on Demba Ba’s 43rd minute strike. After the break, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put the Gunners back ahead, scoring from 20 yards. Newcastle again tied the game when Sylvain Marveaux scored. Arsenal’s Lukas Podalski and Newcastle’s Demba Ba traded goals, leaving the score tied at 3 and 20 minutes to play. Olivier Giroud and Walcott then put the game away for Arsenal as they each scored two goals. Arsenal goes into 2013 in a tie for 5th place, while Newcastle finds itself in 15th place, just three points clear of the relegation zone.
Fulham gifted both goals to Swansea in their 1-2 loss at Craven Cottage. In the 18th minute, recently recalled keeper David Stockdale pushed the ball back into danger instead of out, and Swansea’s Danny Graham pounced for the opening goal. Stockdale again was the culprit in the 52nd minute, clearing the ball right back into danger. Swansea’s Pablo Hernandez squared for Jonathan De Guzman, who side footed the ball into the net. The Cottagers got one back in controversial fashion, though, which made for an exciting game down the stretch. Bryan Ruiz’ 56th minute shot took a deflection off his offside teammate, Sascha Reither, and Fulham pressured for the tying goal but came up short in the end.
Sunderland hosted Tottenham and the visitors came away with the 2-1 win. While Spurs had the better play in the first half, John O’Shea put the hosts ahead in 40th minute. Sunderland’s Carlos Jimenez Cuellar headed in an own goal off a Spurs’ corner, tying the game in the 48th minute. Aaron Lennon was able to knock in the game winner just three minutes later, giving Tottenham the win and sole possession of fourth place.
In other action, Aston Villa hosted Wigan with both teams desperately needing a win. The Latics come away with the points on this day, with goals from Ivan Ramis, Emmerson Boyce and Arouna Kone to beat Villa 3-0. Both teams are sitting on 18 points, one place above the relegation zone. 10-man Stoke City was able to grab a share of the points in dramatic fashion at the Britannia Stadium against Southampton. Cameron Jerome volleyed in the tying goal for the home team in the 90th minute. At Reading’s Madejski Stadium, Pavel Pogrebnyak scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute as the hosts held off West Ham 1-0.
In Sunday’s games, Chelsea ensured itself of finishing the 2012 portion of the season in third place with a brace from Frank Lampard beating Everton 2-1 at Goodison Park, while struggling Queens Park Rangers were shutout at home by Liverpool 0-3.
Rumors are circulating that Chelsea’s Frank Lampard will be departing at the end of the season when his contract is up, but on this day he put on show at Goodison Park. Everton’s Steven Pienaar scored just 64 seconds into the match, drilling home a loose ball past Petr Cech. Three minutes before halftime Lampard headed in a cross from Ramires, catching Tim Howard wrong footed. Ross Turnbull took over for an injured Cech at the half, and Lampard knocked in the winner with 18 minutes left.
Sitting in last place with one win and 10 points, QPR needs goals and wins to avoid heading to the Championship next season. Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers was too sick to take his place on the bench, but Colin Pascoe and coach Mike Marsh took the reins and had an easy time of it. Luis Suarez hit two early goals, one in the tenth minute and the second in the 16th minute. Daniel Agger struck the third goal for Liverpool in the 27th minute, ensuring the three points for Liverpool, who enter the 2013 tied for ninth place with 28 points.