Manchester City and Arsenal both won their New Year’s Day fixtures in the English Premier League to keep up the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table.
Manchester city picked up the expected three points with a 1-0 victory at home to Blackpool, but they made hard work of it. Adam Johnson, on from the start after several appearances as a substitute, scored what proved to be the winner for City with a low shot through a crowd of players on 33 minutes.
The victory should have been a comfortable one, but Carlos Tevez unusually missed at least three sitters including a penalty. In the end City was hanging on to their slender advantage for dear life as Blackpool tried to salvage something from the game.
By contrast Arsenal did what Manchester United had failed to do in midweek and comfortably disposed of Birmingham City 3-0 at St Andrews. Dutch striker Robin Van Persie fired the Gunners’ first salvo from a set piece in the 13th minute, after he himself had been brought down just outside the penalty area. The Dutchmen’s free kick took a deflection and flew past Ben Foster into the net opening the visitors’ account.
Birmingham tried manfully to match Arsenal for the rest of the half, but it was an unequal contest, and Alex McLiesh was no doubt grateful to get his troops back into the rooms for the half time pep talk only the one goal adrift.
But if anything, Arsenal were even more dominant after the break, and it was no surprise when after 57 minutes Cesc Fabregas, playing his 200th league game, combined with Samir Nasri to carve open the Blues' defense, allowing the exciting young French star to drive the ball home from just inside the area. It was Nasri’s 13th goal of the season.
Only eight minutes later, further Arsenal pressure forced an own goal from Roger Johnson and the home side was well-beaten. Indeed, it could have been a real flogging for Birmingham if not for another fine performance from shot-stopper Ben Foster and Arsenal’s profligacy in front of goal.
Their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur beat Fulham 1-0 to re-take possession of fourth spot, thanks to another slice of magic from Gareth Bale. The Welsh wizard diverted Rafael Ven der Vaart’s 42nd minute free kick dexterously past Mark Schwarzer, who seemed to have the trajectory of the original shot covered. The one goal proved enough to consign struggling Fulham to another defeat.
Sunderland Back to Winning Ways While Bolton Lose
Sunderland enjoyed a 3-0 success at home to Blackburn, and with Bolton losing 2-1 away to Liverpool, took sole possession of 6th place on the ladder. The Black Cats were always in control and never looked like losing from the moment Danny Welbeck pounced to put them ahead after 10 minutes.
Darren Bent ended his personal six game goal drought with a header 8 minutes later. Sunderland remained in control for the most part although Blackburn did fashion a couple of good chances that were not taken. One minute from the end of normal time Asamoah Gyan sealed it for the home team with a third.
Bolton took the lead at Anfield 2 minutes from half time thanks to a Kevin Davies header and there would have been plenty of disgruntled mutterings on the Kop during the break. However, second half goals from Fernando Torres (49 minutes) and Joe Cole two minutes from the end gave beleaguered Reds’ boss Roy Hodgson something to celebrate at the start of the New Year.
It was a joyous New Year’s Day for the Upton Park faithful as West ham United secured a 2-0 victory over fellow strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers, which propelled the Hammers up to sixth from bottom, albeit having played a game or two more than their nearest rivals.
Nonetheless, most managers will say that points on the board are always preferable to games in hand, and Avram Grant might even have let the hint of a smile crease that taciturn visage at the final whistle. To be fair, Wolves competed well for most of the match, but it was the London club that got the breaks where it mattered.
Their first goal came on 51 minutes when Carlton Cole completely missed his kick directly in front of goal. Frederic Piquionne’s cross went through to surprised Wolves defender Ronald Zuber—bouncing off his knee and into the net. But there was no element of luck about Freddie Sears’ well taken clincher in the 79th minute that put the game beyond the visitors.
At the Britannia Stadium, Stoke city accounted for Everton 2-0. Kenwyne Jones headed Stoke into the lead with 22 minutes gone, before an own goal by Phil Jagielka gave the home team the cushion of a second on 68 minutes. Stoke now look relatively comfortable in eighth position, while Everton are down in 13th only a game above the relegation places.