10 of English football's most brilliant Christmas matches

Dimitar Berbatov Reading

'Tis the season of giving and goodwill – although some of the sides here took that mantra a little too far. Olly Ricketts raids the archives for these festive faves...

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Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle, Dec 2012

The oft-repeated cliché about unusually high scores around Christmas is that defenders are still half asleep having over-indulged during the previous days. Yet this match was full of fantastic finishing and some memorable attacking play that would have troubled the sharpest of defences.

At half-time the score was just 1-1, with a deflected Demba Ba free-kick cancelling out Theo Walcott’s distinctly Thierry Henry-like opener.

The second half was, frankly, bonkers. Twice more Arsenal took the lead, only to be pegged back both times by an obdurate Magpies side. Eventually the Gunners cranked through the gears, however, scoring four times in the final 17 minutes. Walcott completed his hat-trick, aided by the game’s one piece of traditional festive generosity.

Tottenham 6-4 Reading, Dec 2007

Unfortunately for Reading, who dominated the majority of this match, their striker Dave Kitson finished like a man fixated on pigs in blankets for the first hour.

Spurs had Dimitar Berbatov leading the line, whose tastes are altogether more cerebral. The Bulgarian scored four goals in one of his finest-ever performances, helping Spurs leapfrog Reading into 12th place. The north Londoners finished the season in a distinctly average 11th, while a horrendous run of form led to Reading being relegated on goal difference and wondering what might have been.

Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa, Dec 2007

A true festive gem. This had everything from the sublime to ridiculous: eight goals, three red cards, one Petr Cech howler and, in what can only be called a true Christmas miracle (at Stamford Bridge at least), two goals from Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian's second was an absolute beauty too.

Say what you like about Avram Grant – and many Chelsea supporters would rarely pass up an opportunity to do just that – but you rarely got this kind of unpredictable entertainment under Jose Mourinho. Admittedly his side would have won the game, but the point stands – this was great fun.

Chelsea 2-4 Southampton, Jan 2002

Claudio Ranieri’s side had been inconsistent in the first half of the season, but weren't out of the title race five points and six places behind leaders Arsenal. Gordon Strachan’s Southampton were outside the relegation zone on goal difference. A home banker, surely?

Er, not exactly. Chelsea led 2-1 at the break, but in the second half Southampton scored three without reply – including a classy sidefoot volley from James Beattie.

It was a warning of things to come for the Blues, who went on to finish sixth. Southampton, meanwhile, recovered to end in the dizzy heights of 11th. 

James Beattie Chelsea 2002

"Is anyone else hot in here?"

Newcastle 7-1 Tottenham, Dec 1996

Showing few signs of post-festive rustiness, Newcastle produced a mesmerising display of attacking football to sweep aside a truly woeful Spurs. Going forward, they looked like a typical Kevin Keegan side; goals of the highest quality from Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Rob Lee and even Philippe Albert made their London adversaries look as hapless as Ian Walker’s curtains.

At the back, and even in such an emphatic display, they looked like a typical Kevin Keegan side; John Beresford’s dallying on the ball during a rare Spurs foray into Newcastle territory allowed Allan Nielsen to grab a consolation.

Just over a week later, Keegan shocked Tyneside by resigning as manager, bringing an end to a trophyless but hugely enjoyable period of the club’s history.