|City manager Roberto Mancini is out in front and leads the pack of Premier League managers [GALLO/GETTY]|
Premier League leaders Manchester City and champions Manchester United helped switch attention back to the action and away from controversies surrounding racism with convincing wins on Wednesday night.
City ensured they will lead the top-flight at Christmas for the first time since 1929 after wrapping up all three points courtesy of two goals from Sergio Aguero either side of a long-range strike from Adam Johnson.
“We are happy but as I said three days ago it’s important to stay top at the end of the season,” City manager Roberto Mancini said.
“But for our supporters I think it’s a good Christmas. If we want to win the championship we should get 90 points because Manchester United keep winning.”
Wednesday December 21
Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
Atalanta 4-1 Cesena
United did keep winning, earning their biggest win in three months, routing Fulham 5-0 to keep the heat on their City rivals.
Alex Ferguson described United’s victory as “one of our best performances of the season.”
“It’s not an easy place to come to. But tonight the players were right on song,” Ferguson said.
Dimitar Berbatov rounded off the victory with an audacious backheel in stoppage time after goals from Danny Welbeck, Nani, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.
But the victory came at a cost, with defender Phil Jones forced off injured in the 20th minute after being caught by Clint Dempsey’s arm while dueling for the ball.
Yossi Benayoun scored his first Premier League goal for Arsenal, striking with three minutes left to earn the Gunners a 2-1 win at Aston Villa.
Villa seemed to have earned a point when Marcus Albrighton equalised Robin van Persie’s 17th-minute penalty with the 20,000th goal since the Premier League began in August 1992.
But on-loan Chelsea midfielder Benayoun headed in Van Persie’s corner to secure Arsenal’s eighth win from 10 matches.
Luis Suarez was unable to inspire Liverpool to victory at the end of a turbulent 24 hours for the Uruguay striker as Charlie Adam missed a penalty in a 0-0 draw at Wigan.
Kenny Dalglish’s side had to settle for a point after Ali Al Habsi’s stunning second-half penalty save from Adam denied the visitors an eighth victory in nine away games.
Suarez is still coming to terms with his unprecedented eight-match ban and a $62,000 fine after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra at Anfield in October.
His agent confirmed during the game that he will appeal the controversial Football Association suspension.
Bagging a late winner
At St James Park, Newcastle’s Senegalese striker Demba Ba maintained his phenomenal Premier League goalscoring record but it was not enough to prevent the Magpies crashing to a 3-2 defeat against West Brom.
The Baggies went ahead on 20 minutes, Peter Odemwingie supplying a cool finish after a defence-splitting through ball from Chris Brunt.
|Ryan Giggs has scored in every season since the creation of the Premier League [GALLO/GETTY]|
Newcastle got back on level terms in the 34th minute, Ba grabbing his 12th of the season with a curling free-kick.
West Brom were back in front on the stroke of half-time however, Gareth McAuley nodding in from close range.
Ba looked to have earned a point for Newcastle with his second on 81 minutes but West Brom’s Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner snatched victory with an 85th-minute winner.
Elsewhere Wednesday, Wes Brown was the hero for Sunderland as Martin O’Neill’s side overcame a brave second half fightback to pip Queens Park Rangers 3-2 at Loftus Road.
QPR looked dead and buried midway through the second half after goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon put the Black Cats 2-0 up.
But two goals in four minutes from Heidar Helguson and Jamie Mackie looked to have given QPR a share of the points at 2-2 only for Brown to pop up with the winner on 89 minutes.
At Goodison Park, Leon Osman scored the game’s only goal as Everton pipped newly promoted Swansea 1-0.
Over in Italy
Juventus and Udinese failed to turn their attacking ambition into goals, playing out a 0-0 draw on Wednesday which leaves Antonio Conte’s Juventus level with AC Milan at the top of the Serie A standings.
Claudio Marchisio and Fabio Quagliarella had the best of Juve’s chances while Mauricio Isla came close to breaking the deadlock for Udinese.
In a week where Italian football has been rocked by the latest arrests in a match-fixing investigation, attention turned back to the action on the pitch in a game where the scoreline belied the entertainment value. Although there were few clear-cut scoring opportunities, Udinese and Juventus attacked throughout.
“What’s our aim for 2012? It’s not the title but we’re aiming to qualify for the Champions League”
Juventus remain unbeaten and are now level on points with Milan heading into the winter break. Udinese, who lost their perfect record at the Stadio Friuli, are two points further back.
“It was a good game and I think in the end a draw was the fairest result,” Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon said.
“We’re still unbeaten and that’s a fact we’re proud of, nobody would have ever thought of being in this place.
“What’s our aim for 2012? It’s not the title but we’re aiming to qualify for the Champions League.”
In contrast there were goals galore in other Serie A matches. Diego Milito broke his goalscoring duck to help Inter Milan beat Lecce 4-1, while Atalanta also won 4-1 against Cesena. Napoli did even better, humiliating Genoa 6-1.
Catania came back from two goals down to draw 3-3 at Parma.