RECAP: WEEKEND ENGLISH ACTION
Brad Friedel extended his number of shut-outs as Aston Villa won again, and Clint Dempsey provided an assist as Fulham shocked Manchester United.
Fulham 3 - 0 Manchester United
Clint Dempsey went the distance as Fulham provided the surprise of the weekend with a fully deserved victory over the Red Devils as Eddie Johnson watched from the stands.
Midfielder Danny Murphy scored the opening goal in the 22nd minute of the contest. A Darren Fletcher pass to Paul Scholes was intercepted by the midfielder, and the former Liverpool player let fly from 23 yards, beating Tomasz Kuszczak into the bottom-left corner of the net.
The second half of the game had barely started when Bobby Zamora scored in the 47th minute. Damien Duff floated a cross from the right bye-line to the far post, where the ball was headed by Dempsey to the forward, who lashed in a shot to the center of the goal from six-yards out.
The result was put beyond doubt in the 75th minute when Duff scored the hosts' third. When the visitors failed to clear an attack, the ball fell to Zamora, who squared to the Irish winger, and he smashed the ball into the bottom-left corner from 17 yards.
Fulham remain ninth in the standings, and will host fifth ranked Tottenham on December 26, before traveling to face league leaders Chelsea on December 28th.
Aston Villa 1 - 0 Stoke City
Brad Friedel was a 90-minute man, and kept his fourth successive shutout as Villa kept the pressure on the teams around them seeking for European Champions League qualification as his understudy Brad Guzan watched from the substitutes bench.
The hosts won the game, but the performance was far from the lofty standard set in their previous two contests.
The winner came in the 61st minute, and was scored by John Carew. Ashley young crossed from the right wing, and the ball was headed into the bottom-center of the goal from six yards.
The Villans remain fourth in the standings, and will travel to third-ranked Arsenal on December 27th before hosting eighth place Liverpool on the December 29th.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 - 0 Burnley
Marcus Hahnemann played the full 90 minutes as Wolves moved out of the relegation zone, and vindicated Head Coach Mick McCarthy's decision to make ten changes in midweek to rest tired players.
The hosts took the lead in the 15th minute with a goal that owed much to the industry of Kevin Doyle, and was scored by Nenad Milijas.
A pass to the left looked beyond the Irish forward, but he somehow beat defender Clarke Carlisle to the ball before passing inside to Matt Jarvis. The winger's initial shot was parried by goalkeeper Brian Jensen into the path of the Serbian, who side-footed his shot into the bottom-center of the goal from 12 yards.
The second goal was scored by Doyle in the 50th minute of the game, and showed the strength and determination of the Irishman. Jody Craddock passed a long ball out of defense down the right wing and the forward beat Caldwell in the air before turning past the defender, and then rounding Michael Duff before slotting the ball to the right of Jensen from seven yards.
The win moved Wolverhampton out of the relegation zone and up to twelfth place in the standings. They next travel to Anfield to play eighth ranked Liverpool on December 26th before hosting sixth ranked Manchester City on December 28th.
Everton 1 - 1 Birmingham City
Tim Howard played the full 90 minutes as the Toffees were held by the Blues, who remain unbeaten in their last nine Premier League games, but failed to win their sixth successive victory.
The home team took the lead in the fifth minute with a clever goal from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. A right wing Tony Hibbert throw in was chested down by Louis Saha, and the Russian shimmied past two defenders before hitting the ball past Joe Hart into the bottom-right from 12 yards.
Saha had a goal ruled out for offside in the ninth minute, though TV replays showed it was clearly onside, and should have stood.
The Blues were level in the 22nd minute when Seb Larsson finished off a move that he had started on the halfway line. He laid the ball to Christian Benitez on the edge of the penalty area, and collected the squared return to drive the ball home off the upright into the bottom-left of the net from 18 yards.
The hosts' dominance was shown in the shot count, where they had twenty compared with the visitors' two, but they could not turn their advantage into goals.
Everton remain 15th in the standings, and will travel to tenth-ranked Sunderland on December 26th followed by a home game against 14th-place Burnley on December 28th.
Peterborough United 2 - 1 Watford
Jay DeMerit was a 90-minute man, as Watford won their battle against administration, but were not so fortunate on the field.
Posh opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a wonderful 16-yard volley from Lee Frecklington. He met the left-wing cross from George Boyd, and gave Scott Loach no chance of saving as the ball nestled low into the center of the goal.
The Hornets were level in the 48th minute with a John Eustace goal. He struck from four yards as Scott Griffiths failed to clear a Tom Cleverley free-kick from the right, and placed the ball into the lower-left corner.
The hosts winner came from the wonderfully named Exodus Geohaghon in the 78th minute. Frecklington took a corner that was only cleared as far as Boyd, who lobbed the ball back into the area for the defender to score his first ever League goal after joining from non-league Kettering Town.
Watford are 13th in the standings, and will host third-place Nottingham Forest on December 26th before traveling to ninth-ranked Bristol City on December 28th.
Sheffield Wednesday 0 - 2 Swansea City
Frank Simek came on as a 54th minute substitute as the Owls continued their poor run of results despite Head Coach Brian Laws being replaced by caretaker Sean McAuley.
The Swans were ahead due to a goal by Darren Pratley as early as the fifth minute. Gorka Pintado played a lovely cross for the forward to run clear of the defense and score from eight yards into the bottom-right of the goal.
Pratley also scored the second goal in the 36th minute after a nice passing move. Andrea Orlandi passed to Nathan Dyer, down the left, and he then beat his man before crossing for the midfielder to strike powerfully from 12 yards into the center of the goal.
Swansea were content to sit on their lead, and although Wednesday tried hard they never really looked like scoring.
Wednesday sit 22nd in the rankings, and will host leaders Newcastle United on December 26th before traveling to eighth-ranked Blackpool on December 28th.
Wycombe Wanderers 2 - 2 Oldham Athletic
Jon-Paul Pittman came into the game as a 54th minute substitute, as ten-man Wycombe made a gutsy comeback to rescue a point against Oldham.
The Chairboys went ahead in the ninth minute with a goal from John Akinde. The forward scored from three yards as a Kevin Betsy shot rebounded to him off goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan.
Akinde went from hero to villain in the 22nd minute as he was sent off for a raised arm against Sean Gregan.
The Latics were level in the 35th minute with a stunning drive from Danny Whittaker. The defender was fully 30 yards from goal when he shot, and the ball flew into the bottom-left corner of the net.
The hosts looked doomed when the visitors went ahead in the 51st minute with a Reuben Hazell goal. A left wing corner from Dale Stephens found the defender unmarked to head in from five yards.
The hosts drew level in the 88th minute after John Mousinho was fouled in the area by Whitaker. Matt Harrold stepped up, and blasted the ball down the center of the goal for the equaliser.
Wycombe fell to 22nd in the standings, and will travel to 17th-ranked Yeovil Town on December 26th before hosting 21st ranked Brighton and Hove Albion on December 28th.
Jonathan Spector was an unused substitute as West Ham United unexpectedly held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw.
Jozy Altidore did not suit up as Hull City lost 3-0 at Arsenal.
Mike Grella stayed on the bench as Leeds United beat Southampton 1-0.
Zak Whitbread was unavailable through injury as Millwall tied 4-4 at Charlton Athletic.
Jemal Johnson warmed the bench as Milton Keynes Dons fell to a 1-0 home defeat to Brentford.
Ian Joyce made the substitute bench as Southend United lost 1-o at Exeter City.
Seb Harris was an unused substitute as Northampton Town were held 1-1 at home against Port Vale.
Eric Lichaj did not get to play, as Lincoln City's match at Hereford United was postponed due to a frostbound playing area.