EPL: Boxing Day Recap and Quick Facts! Read On!

Chelsea 4, Aston Villa 4

The Battle of Stamford Bridge yielded three red cards and eight goals. The end result sees Chelsea still clawing to stay near the leaders, Man Utd and Arsenal. It started pretty for Martin O’Neill and the Villans as Shaun Maloney – seen to be shipped off to Scotland soon – secured his place in O’Neill’s attack with a brace before halftime. Zatyiah Knight was sent off shortly thereafter, however, and Aston Villa had to fight from then on out. Shevchenko tied it up with two goals right after half-time, one coming off a questionable dive from Michael Ballack and an ensuing PK conversion. Two defenders then traded off goals – Martin Laursen and Alex – before Chelsea was handed the blow of two defenders being sent off within ten minutes of each other. Just before Ashley Cole’s handball though, Michael Ballack in his first appearance back scored an opportunistic free-kick 2 minutes from time. Cole’s handball on the line (he almost had to try and get away with it as it was going in regardless) ensured him walking orders and gave Gareth Barry the chance to tie it all up with minimal time left. Barry converted and showed the rest of the EPL that Chelsea certainly is NOT a title contender this year.

Manchester United 4, Sunderland 0

Wouldn’t even say that Sunderland was that lowly. It was more that Manchester United was borderline flawless in their execution. By halftime it was 3-0, with Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha, and Cristiano Ronaldo all bagging goals. Saha would later add a second on a PK before time’s end. Park Ji-Sung made his first appearance since a knee injury sidelined him. For Roy Keane, 17-year old striker Martyn Waghorn got his chance to shine – doing rather well in his first appearance in the senior side. The verdict? Manchester United will win this title.

Tottenham 5, Fulham 1

Ew. Former Tottenham coach Martin Jol turned down the Fulham position due to the lack of weapons and resources that would have been at his disposal. Interim coach Ray Lewington would probably agree right now. Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey went all 90 minutes for the Cottagers and Dempsey scored his sixth of the season, but Fulham fell hard. Roy Keane scored two, Tom Huddlestone scored two, and Jermain Defore added one for good measure. Even worse, Ledley King – back from injury – played solidly for a Tottenham squad that is reacting favorably to Juande Ramos’ reign. Young Jamie O’Hara enjoyed his time in the midfield, looking decent for only his 2nd EPL appearance. Fulham could – and it pains me to say this – go down this year. Rumors swirling peg Chris Coleman as returning now (if he steps down from Real Sociedad).

Everton 2, Bolton 0

Everton is the real deal. If they had a little more financial meddle, I am confident the Toffees would be a Big Four club. All of the weapons were out in full force yesterday. Tim Cahill scored in the 70th minute, making it 7 goals in all 13 appearances this season. Yakubu caused massive problems as usual. Timmy Howard is my nod for keeper of the year and – yes I am biased – but he consistently keeps the team afloat when their defensive lapses get the better of them. Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott quarterback an improving backline, while Mikel Arteta (who hopefully doesn’t go to Atletico Madrid) is the artist. Add that to the hard-nosed, bald-headed enforcers Thomas Gravesen and Lee Carsley and you have yourself a rather complete squad. Let’s not forget bringing Andrew Johnson off the bench, with two younger strikers Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan in tow as well. Assembled somewhat cheaply, Everton has put in a solid last 4 years. Either way, Everton put the smackdown on a schizo Bolton squad.

West Ham United 1, Reading 1

Jonathan Spector hit the crossbar barely missing a chance to put the Hammers up on Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann’s Reading. It was Nolberto Solano who struck first right before halftime, but Dave Kitson equalized early in the second half. Kitson’s goal was a bit of a relief to the Royals after having to go on playing two-thirds of the game a man down thanks to Brynjar Gunnarsson’s two-footed tackle on Hayden Mullins and subsequent sending off.  

Birmingham 3, Middlesbrough 0

Gareth Southgate was infuriated after this one, as we was let down by his whole squad – the defense, who let up 3 goals and the offensive, who put 12 shots on frame but couldn’t squeak it by Birmingham’s Maik Taylor. City had their heads on straight, however, but it took a M’boro mishap (own goal from Stewart Downing) to put things into order for the Blues. Mikael Forssell and Gary McSheffrey were the scorers.

Wigan 1, Newcastle 0

Big Sam’s woes continue, but Steve Bruce’s Wigan will be elated to grab these three points. Bruce has effectively turned this team around grabbing 8 points out of the last 5 matches – great for a relegation battle. The man of the hour was Ryan Taylor who put the gamewinner home in the 65th minute, allowing former Toon man Titus Bramble to breath a sigh of relief against his old squad. Allardyce tried a new look squad and a more physical approach – failing (but not totally) on both accounts. Could be the end for Big Sam.

Liverpool 2, Derby 1

Eddie Lewis assisted on James McEveley’s equalizer in the 67th minute and Benny “Holy” Feilhaber played the whole second half as the Rams fought hard to stay level for 90 minutes. Steven Gerrard’s heroics ensured victory, ruining young goalkeeper Lewis Price’s first day in goal. Liverpool looked comfortable throughout, however, even though Paul Jewell’s new club looked a bit more relentless. You can expect to see Benny Feilhaber more now as two players were injured of the same position – Stephen Pearson and Darren Moore. It was Lewis’ second assist of the season. Another question: where the hell has Robert Earnshaw been ALL season? Yes, Derby is bad but Steve Howard and Kenny Miller are managing goals!! Earnshaw is the guy who has scored hat-tricks in all four levels of English soccer and yet, here we are, 13 games, NO goals. Hmmm.

Portsmouth 0, Arsenal 0

A deadlock of the somewhat boring breed. Pompey can’t score recently, but at least they have a solid Sol Campbell-led backfield. Benjani almost put Portsmouth ahead, missing narrowly, but defense was the name of the game – and Arsenal was a bit taken aback by it. The tie allowed Manchester United to move a point ahead on the top of the table, but Wenger is certainly not worried.  

QUICK FACTS:

1. Man Utd left Ryan Giggs and Anderson back in Manchester and Carlos Tevez and Patrice Evra on the bench in their 4-0 win over Sunderland.

2. Everton’s +16 goal difference is better than third place Chelsea’s, a testament to their play

3. Tottenham has won four out of their last five games, their only loss coming to Arsenal

4. Completely unrelated to the EPL, Leeds United – troubled club galore – is on its’ way back to glory. Even with a 15 point docking early for administrative issues, Leeds sits in third place in League One with a 16-2-4 record. Much of this is due to the young Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol who have combined for 22 of their 41 goals.

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