Premier League round-up: Chelsea hit Villa for eight as City leave it late
Another embarassing weekend in the Premier League, as European Champions Chelsea thrashed Aston Villa, Manchester City squeezed past basement club Reading, and Manchester United’s lead at the top was cut to four points after a draw at the Liberty Stadium.
Rafa Benitez could not have asked for a better way of earning his first win at Stamford Bridge. His side crushed an inexperienced Aston Villa team, by thumping eight goals past them and missing a penalty in a very much one-sided 8-0 victory.
Manchester City’s lack of cutting edge continued, despite a 1-0 victory of Reading at the Etihad Stadium. Gareth Barry scored in the 92nd minute to compound a spirited Reading to a soul-destroying defeat that leaves them bottom, going into Christmas. Manchester City now sits four points behind rivals Manchester United.
Manchester United were denied the chance to extend their lead at the top, as a resolute Swansea came from a goal behind to earn a hard fought point. Patrice Evra gave Manchester United the lead, only to be pegged back by the Premier League’s top scorer Michu.
The game ended on a sour note – after a post-match rant from Sir Alex Ferguson – who suggested that Ashley Williams could have killed Robin Van Persie following an altercation on the edge of the Swansea box.
QPR’s troubles continued, as they lost 1-0 at the hands of Newcastle United. Substitute Shola Ameobi’s fine finish was enough to dampen the recent revival staged by QPR boss Harry Redknapp.
Arsenal claimed an important victory at the DW Stadium, with the Gunners looking to break into the top four. A second half penalty from Mikel Arteta was enough to see off Wigan, who were guilty of wasting chances.
Close North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur played out a 0-0 bore draw against hard-to-beat Stoke City. Both sides lacked the finishing touches in a frustrating game at White Hart Lane.
Sunderland made the long trip South to take on Southampton at St. Mary’s. The North-East club did not disappoint their loyal following, as a Steven Fletcher goal was enough to win the game.
Liverpool shrugged off last week’s dismal defeat to Aston Villa, with an empathic win against Fulham. Notoriously poor travellers Fulham were punished four times by a Liverpool side that looked energetic and hungry for victory.
Goals from Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Martin Skrtel ensured a 4-0 victory.
The blue half of Merseyside also claimed a Christmas win – with the Toffees coming from behind – to sucker punch West Ham United with a 2-1 triumph. Carlton Cole put the Hammers in front, only to be sent off in the second half as goals from Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar helped continue Everton’s excellent start to the season.
West Bromwich Albion avenged their recent form, by overcoming Norwich City at the Hawthorns. Robert Snodgrass put Norwich City ahead from a set-piece, but was cancelled out by goals from Zoltan Gera and Romelu Lukaku.
Thomas Bradley, sports correspondent