LONDON - Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United celebrated the festive season with victories on Friday while Arsenal, the other member of the 'big four', squandered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at Aston Villa. Liverpool beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0 at Anfield with Robbie Keane scoring twice to give the leaders 42 points, one ahead of Chelsea as the Premier League season reached the halfway point. Manchester United won 1-0 at Stoke City to go third on 35 points, ahead of Villa on goal difference after they equalised in stoppage time in the evening match to hold Arsenal who remained fifth on 32. Chelsea briefly went top when they beat bottom club West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in an early kickoff with goals from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. Liverpool ended the day in first place after two goals from Keane and one by Albert Riera sank Bolton. Carlos Tevez struck in the 83rd minute to give Manchester United victory at Stoke who were reduced to 10 men with 18 minutes to go when Andy Wilkinson was sent off. Arsenal took a 2-0 lead at Villa Park through Denilson and Abou Diaby before Villa hit back in a thriller with a penalty from Gareth Barry and a late equaliser by Zat Knight. There was an unusual incident at Manchester City as the home side raced into a 4-0 halftime lead against Hull City before eventually winning 5-1. Felipe Caicedo and Robinho scored twice apiece in a blistering 21-minute spell to make a mockery of Manchester City's miserable run of two wins in 13 league matches. Hull manager Phil Brown ordered his team to sit in front of the away supporters at the start of the halftime break and gave the players a public dressing down before allowing them to return to the changing room. Substitute Craig Fagan pulled one back for Hull 10 minutes from time before man of the match Stephen Ireland added Manchester City's fifth. It was the second successive heavy defeat for promoted Hull, after they lost 4-1 against Sunderland last week. "We collapsed like a pack of cards in the first half," Brown told BBC radio. "We didn't perform as individuals or a collective unit. "You must have pride to wear the Hull City badge but we let ourselves down in the first half." West Ham United came from behind to win 4-1 at Portsmouth while Fulham drew 0-0 at Tottenham Hotspur. Everton maintained their good away form with Tim Cahill securing a 1-0 triumph at Middlesbrough while Wigan Athletic beat Newcastle United 2-1 and Sunderland drew 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers. KEANE DOUBLE Liverpool played superbly at Anfield, where they had drawn their last three matches, and were well worth the victory over Bolton as Keane scored twice in five minutes early in the second half to take his tally to three in two matches. Riera had opened the scoring in the first half and only desperate defending from Bolton denied Liverpool more goals. Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari started Drogba and Nicolas Anelka up front against West Brom and the recalled Drogba took only three minutes to make an impact as he firmly headed in a Joe Cole cross. The Londoners were on top throughout and only goalkeeper Scott Carson, who tipped an Ashley Cole effort on to a post, kept them out. Joe Cole was also involved in the second goal just before halftime when Frank Lampard neatly dinked the ball over Carson from close range. Manchester United, back in league action after winning the Club World Cup in Japan last weekend, crushed Stoke 5-0 at Old Trafford six weeks ago but were made to work much harder for a 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium. Things swung United's way when Wilkinson hacked down Cristiano Ronaldo and was sent off for a second booking. The visitors took advantage as Gary Neville crossed to substitute Dimitar Berbatov, who flicked on for Tevez to thump the ball home from close range. Rio Ferdinand was injured in the warmup and United manager Alex Ferguson said the defender could be out for around 10 days.
26 December 2008
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