By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
And so 2012 draws to a close. An incredible sporting year comes to an end and there’s one more set of Premier League fixtures to be fulfilled before the bells toll.
The early kick off was at the Stadium of Light as Spurs visited Sunderland. Emmanuel Adebayor missed from two yards out during a spell of Spurs pressure before John O’Shea gave the Black Cats the lead five minutes before half time, collecting a rebound from a Hugo Lloris save. It was the Sunderland captain’s first goal for the club.
After beating City on Boxing Day, it looked like Martin O’Neill’s men could claim another scalp. It wasn’t to be, however, as a Carlos Cuellar own goal on 48 minutes got the visitors back into the game.
Aaron Lennon’s 51st minute strike completed the comeback as AVB’s men ended the year with a win. The only negative will be Gareth Bale picking up his fifth booking of the season – and it was yet another one for diving, an offence which the Welshman vehemently denied in the post-match interview.
Poor old Aston Villa have been leaking goals of late, and with Wigan the visitors they’d hope to stop that to avoid embarrassment. Within three minutes, however, the Latics were in front and many a Villa fan began to weep. It was returning defender Ivan Ramis who headed in Jean Beausejour’s corner to give Paul Lambert’s side an early dose of misery.
Emmerson Boyce doubled Wigan’s lead in the 52nd minute, slotting home after a neat one-two with Arouna Kone. Kone was to provide Wigan’s third on 56 minutes, as all around the ground suicide notes with the words “we lost to Wigan 3-0” on them were frantically scrawled.
Like Villa, Fulham have been struggling in the past few games and fell to another defeat at home to Swansea. With the Swans missing Michu through injury, Danny Graham started up front and he provided the opening goal after 19 minutes in acrobatic fashion.
In the second half, Jonathan de Guzman added a second on 52 minutes, Cottagers keeper David Stockdale didn’t clear the ball well enough and the Canadian rifled in a shot.
Bryan Ruiz pulled a scrappy goal back for the home side after 56 minutes but the Swans held on to consign Martin Jol’s men to another defeat.
Reading managed to win a game for only the second time this season against West Ham. Pavel Pogrebnyak got the only goal of the game, capitalising on a poor backpass from James Collins before finishing past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
It was a vital win for the Royals and they battled hard to earn it. The Hammers did have chances to snatch a point, the best of which came to an unmarked Ricardo Vaz Te three yards out, but the Portuguese striker sent his header wide. He used to play for Hibs, which explains it.
Stoke and Southampton served up a sizzler at the Britannia, a place not renowned for sizzlers. Rickie Lambert opened the scoring for the Saints after 10 minutes from close range before Kenwyne Jones equalised on 16 minutes with a cheeky back-heel.
Southampton were the better side in the first half, Jay Rodriquez pouncing on poor defending from Robert Huth to tap into an empty net after 24 minutes. The Saints’ third came from more poor Stoke defending, an Andy Wilkinson own goal in the 36th minute putting the Tony Pulis Rollicking Machine into full gear just in time for the break.
The Potters got themselves back into the game in the second half, but could have conceded a fourth goal as Guly do Prado fired wide from the edge of the box as Asmir Begovic left his net unattended.
It was a miss that was to prove costly, as Matthew Upson stretched out in the box to net in the 67th minute and Stoke launched themselves back into the game.
Stoke had two penalty claims waved away and Steven N’Zonzi harshly sent off before Cameron Jerome netted a stunning late equaliser on 90 minutes, firing a half volley into the top corner from 25 yards.
Manchester United emerged victorious in the rain at Old Trafford against West Brom in a game that left United seven points clear of their city rivals.
The Baggies fell behind to a goal of their own making, Gareth McAuley deflecting Ashley Young’s cross past Ben Foster at his near post.
United had to weather both the actual storm and also a metaphorical one as West Brom tried their best to get into the game, but Robin Van Persie sealed the victory in the 90th minute with a lovely curled strike.
Norwich welcomed the champions Manchester City to Carrow Road, the home of the worst goal celebration music in the world. Edin Dzeko was on a hat trick by the 4th minute, netting twice in the opening minutes as City flew out of the traps. Both were well worked team goals with the big Bosnian on hand to finish. Thankfully Delia’s employees don’t play music when they concede.
Anthony Pilkington’s 15th minute free-kick gave Norwich hope (and that awful music an airing) and in the second half Samir Nasri was sent off for administering the worst head-butt in history to Sebastian Bassong.
The momentum should have swung in the way of the Canaries but City scored again, Sergio Aguero with a lovely chipped finish over Mark Bunn in the 50th minute.
Canaries defender Russell Martin scored twice, but sandwiched between the two strikes was a shot from Edin Dzeko that squirmed in via Bunn, the mysterious hooded Dubious Goals Panel putting it down as an own goal. City went on to register all three points as they try to keep up with Manchester United. Perhaps they could make a reality TV show out of that.
The game of the day was arguably the early evening kick-off as Newcastle travelled to Arsenal. The Magpies dominated in the first half but the teams went into the break all square, Theo Walcott’s composed finish cancelled out by a Demba Ba free-kick deflected in off the head of Jack Wilshere.
It all changed in the second half as it all went a bit goal-crazy. Arsenal took the lead through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 50th minute, the winger finding space at the edge of the box and firing a low shot past Tim Krul.
Sylvain Marveaux provided Newcastle’s equaliser just before the hour mark, as Gabriel Obertan tormented Bacary Sagna before delivering a perfect ball to give his fellow French winger a tap in.
The Gunners took the lead again four minutes later, Lukas Podolski heading in from close range after good work from Wilshere. They only held the lead for five minutes as Ba got on the end of a great pass with the edge of the foot from Marveaux to equalise for the third time. It was a truly Marveaux-lous ball in to give the Senegalese striker an easy finish.
The goals dried up for a short while before Walcott made it 4-3 in the 73rd minute, taking his time in the box before turning and firing past Krul. Substitute Olivier Giroud’s diving header from Walcott’s excellent cross gave the Gunners a fifth and as the game entered its final minutes, Giroud got a second, wiggling in the box before firing in a powerful shot.
In stoppage time Walcott got his hat-trick, twisting and turning past the Magpies defence and dinking the ball over Krul, as Gunners fans audibly demanded that he receives a pen and is pointed in the direction of a dotted line.
On Sunday Chelsea visited Everton. The Toffees grabbed an early lead, the ball falling to Steven Pienaar in the box and the little South African firing past Petr Cech in the second minute.
The first half was played at a brisk pace as Everton initially were like a whirlwind around the Chelsea defence. The visitors started to look more dangerous as the half went on and equalised on 41 minutes, a ball in from Ramires finding Frank Lampard who dispatched a clinical header past Tim Howard.
The second half continued to be lively, and just minutes after Nikica Jelavic’s header cannoned off the bar at one end, Howard at the other could only parry a Juan Mata shot to the boot of Frank Lampard who couldn’t miss from close range.
A double from Chelsea’s all-time top Premier League goalscorer raises questions as to why on earth they would want to let him go in the summer. Madness.
QPR welcomed Liverpool to Loftus Road and soon wished they hadn’t as the visitors strolled to a three goal lead in the first half.
Luis Suarez got the first after 10 minutes, the Uruguayan striker showing good skill to get into the QPR box and slot past Julio Cesar. The Liverpool frontman made it a double six minutes later with another clinical finish from close range.
A Daniel Agger header on 28 minutes came as Liverpool ran riot and could have scored more. All this was without the guidance of Brendan Rogers (unless they took his life size portrait from his house in his place) on the club doctor’s advice. Poor old Brendan and several of the Liverpool squad had some sort of virus.
Assistant Colin Pascoe was left in charge for the day, despite being barred from the dressing room thanks to the same bug. Pascoe can be pleased with his sides work as the game was won by half time.
QPR improved slightly in the second half in that they didn’t concede any more goals, but they didn’t score any either and that doesn’t help you get off the bottom of the table.