Around The Premier League Grounds - 26/12/09-5/1/10

Last updated : 09 January 2010 By Dan Buxton

Boxing Day & December 27th:
Stoke's poor run continued with a 2-0 loss at Manchester City in Roberto Mancini's first game in charge at Eastlands thanks to first half goals from Martin Petrov an the in-form Carlos Tevez.
Birmingham are now the Premier League's form team, despite having only been promoted from the Championship last year, and they earned further plaudits with an impressive home draw, goalless, against Chelsea. This gave Manchester United the perfect chance to make up ground at the top of the league when they went to Hull the next day. Wayne Rooney put the Essex club in front, but Craig Fagan equalised for the hosts from the spot. With Hull manager Phil Brown beginning to prepare the songs he would sing on the pitch to celebrate earning a point when the visitors struck again twice, an Andy Dawson own goal and a Dimitar Berbatov strike in the last twenty minutes giving Alex Ferguson's men a 3-1 win.
Arsenal also kept up the pace at the top, beating Aston Villa 3-0. The inspirational Cesc Fabregas scored twice, while Abou Diaby also found the net in a hugely impressive win for the North Londoners. Arsenal's local rivals Tottenham could only draw 0-0 at Fulham meanwhile, while Liverpool enjoyed a rare win, by two goals to nil over Wolves, with Steven Gerrard and Yossib Benayoun on target.
West Ham won the basement battle with Portsmouth 2-0, with goals from Alessanfro Diamanti and Radoslav Kovac, while struggling Bolton earned a draw at Burnley. Matt Taylor put the Trotters ahead, but the Clarets hit back through David Nugent to gain a point. In another Lancashire derby, Wigan and Blackburn shared the same scoreline. Benni McCarthy put the visitors ahead at the DW Stadium, before Hugo Rodallega equalised for Wigan, while it was also 1-1 between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light. Darren Bent put the hosts ahead in the first half, but Marouane Fellaini netted a late equaliser for David Moyes's side.
December 28th, 29th & 30th:
Stoke lost at home for the third time this season, to Birmingham, whose good run continued thanks to Cameron Jerome's second-half strike, his fourth of the season.
It was also a good day for Chelsea, who won the West London derby with Fulham at Stamford Bridge. They were behind for over an hour though, after Zoltan Gera put the Cottagers ahead in the fourth minute. A Didier Drogba strike and a Chris Smalling own goal turned the game on its head with fifteen minutes left though, keeping Carlo Ancelotti's side top of the tree.
Manchester United kept up the pressure at the Premier League's summit though, thumping Wigan 5-0 thanks to goals from Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Rafael Da Silva, Dimitar Berbatov and former Latics star Luis Antonio Valencia at Old Trafford. Arsenal also enjoyed a strong win at Portsmouth. Eduardo, Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey put the visitors three goals to the good, before Nadir Belhadj gave Pompey hope, hope that was dashed by Alex Song minutes later, the Cameroonian rounding off a 4-1 victory. Fernando Torres's last minute strike completed a winning week for all the "big four teams" as Liverpool beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park.
At the other end of the table, Bolton's late collapse at home to Hull cost manager Gary Megson his job.
Ivan Klasnić and Kevin Davies put the hosts two goals up, but two goals from Stephen Hunt in the final twenty minutes meant the spoils were shared and Megson was sacked after his team were booed off the pitch. He has been replaced by former Burnley boss Owen Coyle, whose final game in charge of the Clarets was a 2-0 defeat at Everton after late strikes from James Vaughan and Steven Pienaar.
Blackburn and Sunderland shared four goals after an entertaining second half at Ewood Park. Darren Bent put the Black Cats ahead in the 52nd minute, but Morten Gamst Pedersen equalised a minute later. Bent then restored the visitors' lead, but El Hadji Diouf had the last laugh as it finished 2-2.
Europe chasing Spurs saw off West Ham thanks to goals from Luka Modrić and Jermain Defoe, while their top-half rivals Manchester City won 3-0 at Wolves, with Carlos Tevez scoring a brace and Javier Garrido pinging a free-kick home.
January 5th:
Stoke moved back into the top half with a first win in six in a re-arranged match against Fulham. A stunning first-half performance saw Tony Pulis's men go into the break 3-0 up after goals from the superb Tuncay, Abdoulaye Faye and Mamady Sidibe, while strikes from Damien Duff and Clint Dempsey, that from the latter a fine dipping volley, were not enough to gain Fulham anything from a snowy Britannia Stadium