“These players have been brilliant and they've shown we'll be a match for anyone.”
Boxing Day in England (December 26) saw the Barclays Premier League reach its halfway stage with the title race taking different turns.
From Liverpool being top to Manchester City taking over, the year will end as most of the season has with Arsenal top of the pile.
Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United all had 1-0 victories to form a cluster at the top end of the league table, joined by Chelsea after their 2-1 win at home to Liverpool. Shahid Khan’s Fulham were hit for 6 away at Hull City.
Manchester City 1 Crystal Palace 0 – 3pm KO, Saturday
Free scoring at home, Manchester City surprisingly only managed a 1-0 win at home to brave Crystal Palace.
Despite most of the domination, there was no reward for Manchester City by the half time break. Having averaged just over 4 goals a game, Manchester City were left frustrated by a well organised defensive unit that could well have saved Palace a point.
It was just after the hour mark however, up popped Edin Džeko to score his 50th goal for Manchester City. Whilst that settled a few nerves, Crystal Palace gained their momentum and tried all they could for an equaliser that never came.
Manchester City have now scored 54 goals in 19 games and in 60 consecutive home league games.
Norwich City 0 Manchester United 1 – 3pm KO, Saturday
Norwich tried, but couldn’t repeat last season’s home win against the Champions.
Good early possession by Manchester United, who were missing Striker Wayne Rooney, set the standard. Despite the healthy possession, the teams went in goalless at half time. The second half saw the introduction of Danny Welbeck for Ryan Giggs.
A stroke of luck by way of a ricochet saw Welbeck in on goal just shy of the hour mark. Welbeck made no mistake in scoring his 6th goal of the season. The goal deflated an up-beat Norwich side and they never really recovered. Manchester United saw the game through and locked in another precious win.
Untied boss David Moyes, pleased with Welbeck said:
“Danny couldn’t score very often last season, but he looks like he will do it every time now. He changed the game when he came on.”
Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 1 – 1.30pm KO, Sunday
Title challengers Arsenal started the game well and showed no signs of being jaded from the festive period of matches.
Early dominance by the visitors gained their confidence before Newcastle United came alive and nearly took the lead. Arsenal had more of the first half opportunities, but nothing came of them and both sides went in nil-nil at half time.
Just after the hour mark, a Theo Walcott free kick found the head of Olivier Giroud who nodded home his first goal in 7 games and his 11th of the season. Newcastle United piled on the pressure in search of their equaliser, but Arsenal held firm to grab the points.
A jubilant Arsenal fan from India tweeted: “After a tough month of difficult games and congested fixtures, we’ve come back with wins against west game and Newcastle.”
Chelsea 2 Liverpool 1 – 4pm KO, Sunday
Liverpool started the match storming into the 3rd minute lead, courtesy of a rare Martin Škrtel goal.
Chelsea, to their credit, didn’t let the early setback affect them. If anything, it ignited them into life and they found their form soon enough. The midfield battle wasn’t really a contest as the home side took control of the middle of the park.
Amongst the frantic pace, Eden Hazard found the ball rolling comfortably to his feet after a deflection, and Hazard buried from range with an unstoppable drive to level for the hosts in the 17th minute. Chelsea, now inspired, only had to wait another 17 minutes for their next goal when Samuel Eto’o slotted in from an angle.
Half time saw Chelsea go in with the lead, but you could sense more was to come. The second half belonged more to the visitors with pressure reigning on Chelsea’s goal. Despite a number of opportunities, Liverpool couldn’t get through and the game ended with a valuable win for Chelsea.
The win sees Chelsea only 2 points off the top and in a healthy position to mount a serious title challenge in the New Year.
A disappointed, but encouraged Brendan Rodgers said at the end: “These players have been brilliant and they’ve shown when we’ve got everyone available we’ll be a match for anyone.”
Meanwhile a frustrated fan on Facebook said of Liverpool: “We need a player like Ben Arfa at Liverpool – attitude aggression creativity and genius.”
Elsewhere, Everton kept up their pace at the top end with a 2-1 home win against Southampton. Tottenham Hotspur hammered Stoke 3-0 as Shahid Khan’s Fulham were hit for 6 by Hull City.
West Ham & West Bromwich Albion played out an epic 3-3 draw with Aston Villa and Swansea also drawing, 1-0. Cardiff were also held at home by Sunderland in a 2-2 draw.