By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
It’s 2013. Can this year match the sporting brilliance of 2012? Can players stop falling over just because there was some “contact”? Can struggling teams save themselves? Can we all just get along? There are many questions to be answered as the New Year action takes place in the Premier League. Oh and Happy New Year from all at Jumpers for Goalposts, dear reader.
Swansea were first-footed by Aston Villa, who were forced to weather a storm in the first half as Swans swarmed forward time and time again. Wayne Routledge pounced on 9 minutes to score the opener, rounding Brad Guzan to give the Swans a deserved lead. Their lead was almost instantly doubled as Michu broke free and hit the post.
Swansea created numerous chances, Michu hitting the other post as if he was playing some sort of FIFA mini-game. Villa had few chances, but crucially made the most of one just before the break as Christian Benteke played in Andreas Weimann who fired a first time shot into the back of Michel Vorm’s net.
Villa found themselves in the bizarre position of being in the lead after Dyer fouled Weimann in the box and Benteke netted the resultant penalty after 84 minutes.
The confusion wasn’t to last long though as Swansea players flocked into the box during stoppage time. Danny Graham took a swing at the ball, it bounced back to him so he took another. It ended up in the back of the net and Paul Lambert’s head ended up in his hands. At least it’s a point and not a drubbing Paul.
Wigan beat Manchester United last year, but never looked like starting 2013 in similar fashion. Latics keeper Ali al-Habsi could only parry a Patrice Evra shot to Javier Hernandez, the little pea being the person you would least want to present a close range tap in to. Predictably, the Mexican opened the scoring as the clock ticked to 35 minutes. Robin Van Persie curled in United’s second after 43 minutes as the visitors strolled the end of the first half.
In the second half, Arouna Kone had a goal ruled out for offside before a Van Persie free kick deflected to Hernandez for United’s third on 63 minutes. Substitute Danny Welbeck took advantage of poor defending to give RVP an 88th minute tap in to complete the Latics’ miserable start to the year.
Fulham’s new year resolution was to get back to winning ways, and they did so at The Hawthorns against West Brom. Dimitar Berbatov was the scorer and creator of the opening goal on 39 minutes, his superb pass finding Ashkan Dejagah on the wing. The Iranian winger displayed moves like Dejagah as he twisted and turned before finding Berbatov in the box, the Bulgarian firing through the legs of Ben Foster.
Just 4 minutes into the second half, Romelu Lukaku equalised for the Baggies. Billy Jones wiggled his way to the by-line before sliding the ball across for Lukaku to turn in. The Belgian striker looked to be offside but the goal stood.
A fine goal in the 58th minute gave the Cottagers the three points, a magnificent ball from Bryan Ruiz fell to Alex Kacaniklic who turned cleverly, taking two Baggies defenders out of the game, before finishing coolly past Foster.
Manchester City had an easy afternoon at the Etihad against Stoke. Watched by The Hoff in the crowd, the Potters hassled City for most of the first half with a tight defence but Pablo Zabaleta eventually gave the home side the lead on 43 minutes.
Cite were more comfortable in the second half and doubled their lead in the 56th minute. Asmir Begovic couldn’t hold onto a Sergio Aguero shot, presenting the ball to Edin Dzeko for an easy finish. The big Bosnian whipped off his shirt to reveal the words “HAPPY NEW YEAR” on his top below. He got booked for it.
An Aguero penalty in the 74th minute sealed the victory, but the little striker later limped off which will cause concern for Roberto Mancini as the title race rolls on.
Reading took an early lead against Spurs at White Hart Lane but couldn’t get their second win in a row. Pavel Pogrebnyak gave the Royals the lead in the fourth minute, heading in Ian Harte’s free-kick after it rebounded off the crossbar.
Their lead didn’t last for long as Michael Dawson headed in a corner at Adam Federichi’s near post after 9 minutes. Spurs had to wait a while to take the lead, Emmanuel Adebayor’s 51st minute header came as Pogrebnyak and Jimmy Kebe missed chances at the other end.
American sub Clint Dempsey had only been on a couple of minutes before he went nuclear; his shot on 79 minutes from the edge of box took a deflection off looped over a helpless Federichi.
A controversial early penalty helped West Ham see off Norwich. The third minute spot kick, converted by Mark Noble, saw Ryan Bennett penalised for holding onto Winston Reid a bit too tightly. It was one of a number of decisions that ruffled the Canaries’ feathers.
Joey O’Brien doubled the Hammers’ lead on 26 minutes as throughout the game the home side were dynamic and dominant. Russell Martin has had a taste for goals of late, and the Norwich defender’s 90th minute volley gave the Canaries some consolation.
Southampton hosted Arsenal in the day’s late kick-off and the Saints were unlucky not to take all three points after a poor performance from the Gunners.
The Arsenal defence couldn’t clear their lines and allowed Gaston Ramirez to open the scoring after 34 minutes.
Guly do Prado diverted Theo Walcott’s free-kick into his own net on 41 minutes and Ramirez had a second half goal ruled out for a foul on Laurent Koscielny as the Saints outplayed their visitors but couldn’t get a surprise victory.
As if the New Year’s Day action wasn’t enough there was more on January 2nd, that day where nobody really knows what’s going on. There was a lot going on, however, involving Demba Ba and Newcastle were without his services in a thrilling tussle against Everton. But more on Ba later.
The Magpies took the lead early on and it looked like Ba might not be missed. The Toffees defence couldn’t deal with Tim Krul’s long ball into the box and Papiss Cisse could head over Tim Howard in the second minute.
A sensational Leighton Baines free-kick in the 43 minutes levelled the scores, the Bradley Wiggins lookalike sending a swerving shot past Krul from 30 yards.
Victor Anichebe proved to be a super sub for Everton, providing the finish for a superbly worked team goal from the visitors on the hour mark.
Both goalkeepers had work to do in a great game, but Everton just managed to edge it to earn all three points.
Chelsea welcomed QPR like a cat would welcome a dead mouse. However, Stamford Bridge was rocked by a shock QPR win.
Both teams shuffled their team selections, and one of the players coming in for Chelsea, Marko Marin, was lucky not to be sent off early on for a nasty challenge on Stephane Mbia.
Chelsea were dominant throughout the game but couldn’t get past the visitors’ tight defence. Frank Lampard had a goal harshly disallowed for offside and Julio Cesar saved an effort from Fernando Torres.
Shaun Wright-Phillips scored the only goal of the game against his former club, firing straight into the bottom corner of Ross Turnbull’s goal from just outside the box with 12 minutes of the game remaining.
The loss ended a day of good news for Chelsea fans, with Daniel Sturridge off to Liverpool and Demba Ba seemingly on his way to London after his release clause was activated.
In the final fixture, Liverpool played Sunderland, with Brendan Rodgers escaping from his bathroom safe in the knowledge that he was right to put “My Immune System” in one of his envelopes.
Raheem Sterling opened the scoring after 19 minutes, the young winger latching onto a perfect ball from Luis Suarez before finishing with a lob over Simon Mignolet.
Suarez was the man of the match, shaking off Carlos Cuellar and racing through on goal to double Liverpool’s lead in the 26th minute.
Sunderland had chances to score, but Liverpool were in complete control. Suarez scored a third on 53 minutes, collecting a long ball from Steven Gerrard on his chest before rolling the ball under Mignolet.
Glen Johnson and Joe Allen both had goals ruled out, but it didn’t matter as the home side eased to victory.