MANCHESTER ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: A general view of the Stadium during a Press Conference as Manchester United launch a new sponsorship deal with Epson at Old Trafford on November 26 2010 in Manchester England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images for Epson)

Manchester United Stay Top, Manchester City Moves Second With Saturday Wins

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Aston Villa Vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs Hold On For 2-1 Win At Villa Park

Even after Rafael van der Vaart's second half goal, you knew this match had more in it, but when Aston Villa's crosses kept dropping into Tottenham's area in the closing minutes of their match at Villa Park, Spurs seemed intent on losing two of their three points. But when the whistle blew in the 95th minute, Tottenham had survived 68 minutes down a man, completing the double over Villa with a 2-1 win in Birmingham.

Van der Vaart's 24th minute goal give Spurs an early league before Jermain Defoe saw red for an elbow to James Collins' face, but when the Dutch attacker completed his brace in the second half, Spurs had all the goals they would need. Villa got a goal from Marc Albrighton on 82 minutes - a quizzical tally that saw an intended cross find the right side of Heurelo Gomes's net - but even Spurs' curious willingness to let long ball drop in their penalty area, Villa never found an equalizer, losing for only the second time this season at Villa Park.

The result keep Villa, sixth place finishers last season, four points above the drop in 15th. Tottenham's three points lifts them back into fifth place, temporarily one point behind fourth place Chelsea.

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Aston Villa Vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Marc Albrighton Curls Villa Within One With Eight Minutes Left

It was a freakish goal, but it counts all the same. And attempted cross from Marc Albrighton has found nylon, bringing Aston Villa within one in the 82nd minute. Now down only one while still up a man, the home side has a chance to salvage a point.

Albrighton, on the right flank, played an inswinging, right-footed cross in from 20 yards out. The target was James Collins, playing as a striker. Collins's movement for the ball froze goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, forces to play the eventual shot. But when that shot never came off Collins's head, Marc Albrighton's ball became the short, curling into the right side of Gomes's net for Villa's opening goal.

The tally will make 17 league matches in a row Spurs have failed to keep a clean sheet, a factoid far from their minds right now. Villa's goal makes it 2-1, Spurs. Now in the 87th minute with significant stoppage time expected, Villa has about eight minutes to find an equalizer.

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Aston Villa Vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Gareth Bale-Led Counter, Rafael Van Der Vaart Goal Give Spurs 2-0, 68th Minute Lead

Rafael van der Vaart's second goal of the night has given Tottenham Hostpur a 2-0, 68th minute lead at Villa Park, but Spurs' second goal was just as much the work of Gareth Bale was it was his Dutch teammate. Having been kept quiet through most of the match by Eric Lichaj, Bale created Spurs' second goal down the right flank, giving the 10-man side a commanding lead.

The movement started when Bale, just outside his own area, picked up the ball and turned up field, heading toward the right flank. Having caught Villa in a counter, Bale ended up charging at Carlos Cuellar about 28 yards from goal, cutting inside, over an outstretched right left, to move the play toward the middle. Rather than lineup a shot on his left foot, Bale waited for the defense to collapse before laying off a pass to Aaron Lennon, coming from the left flank. Lennon touched the ball back for Rafael van der Vaart, who opened a right foot onto a well placed, 17-yard shot, scoring to the right of Brad Friedel.

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Aston Villa Vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Gerard Houllier Hates Villans, Makes Most Predictably Conservative Change Possible

Down a goal, up a man, with Barry Bannan and Robert Pires as options, Gerard Houllier was compelled to make a halftime change. This is no longer a match made for Jonathan Hogg. The young midfielder is out, and in his place, Houllier has brought on ... Stiliyan Petrov.

Petrov has been out since October 23, but today against Spurs, he's being brought on with the hopes he can lead the team to two goals. Petrov has three goals in the last 3.5 seasons and lacks the assist numbers to augment. The Villa captain is known as a steady, rugged, reliable central midfield option. He's not known for cracking open a defense.

But the one virtue has has over Bannan or Pires is being risk adverse. Who besides some blogger in San Diego is going to fault Houllier for bringing on the proven committee over a pint size Scot or geriatric Frenchman? Sure, both of those players could actually pass a ball, but can they will you to victory? And they inspire? And they X-factor the hell out of this match?

I suppose it should be asked whether Petrov can, either. I'm not sure anybody's ever thought of the Bulgarian as an X-factor. Regardless, he's being asked by Houllier to be one today, with Villa still chasing the match, down 1-0 in the 59th minute.

If this change doesn't work, be prepared for Villa to bring on Ciaran Clark, which will be the last piece of proof Villa fans need: Gerard Houllier doesn't like you. Never did. That's the best explanation for all this.

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Aston Villa Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Halftime: Villa Down A Goal, Up A Man - Now What?

A 24th minute goal from Rafael van der Vaart has sent visiting Tottenham Hotspur into halftime up 1-0 on Aston Villa. A 27th red card shown Jermaine Defoe has left Spurs down a man for the next 45 minutes. So what do these sides do now?

Before we get to that, let's talk about the red card. Jermain Defoe jumped into a man with a raised elbow and made contact above the shoulders. On a lucky day, that's a yellow card, but officials are asked to show red for that play. Regardless or intent or effect, Defoe got an expected penalty. A clearly didn't intend to raise his elbow, but the penalty is in place so that players are more conscious about keeping their arms down. Defoe failed to do that.

As a result, Harry Redknapp has a decision to make. He didn't make any chances for the first half's last 18 minutes, using his 4-4-1-1 as a 4-4-1 with van der Vaart as their most advanced player. At some point in the second half, that will likely have to change. Spurs were able to hold a large part of the possession once playing 10-on-11, but Gèrard Houllier is going to adjust.

The question is whether Spurs should beat him to the punch. Do you put in Roman Pavlyuchenko or Peter Crouch at 46', put in that outlet man you're going to eventually need? And if so, who do you take off? I like the idea of swapping Pavlychenko for Aaron Lennon.

For Gèrard Houllier, having to burn a sub to take off Emile Heskey (for Nathan Delfouneso) handcuffs you a bit, but Barry Bannan for Jonathan Hogg should be obligatory. Get the little Scot on, use his ability to spray the ball around, and relay on him to stretch-out the out-manned Tottenham defense. Be more aggressive about getting Stephen Warnock and Eric Lichaj down the sides, particularly away from the play, so Bannan will have targets.

At some point, if that doesn't work, we may see Robert Pìres. Assuming the Frenchman has some of his composure left, he'll be a need presence on the edge of the penalty area should Spurs start packing in the defense.

The other options on Villa's bench - Stiliyan Petrov, Ciaran Clark, Nigel Reo-Coker and Brad Guzan - are of little use. Even if Villa were to take a lead, you would think players better on the ball would be needed to retain possession against an outnumbered side. 

If Villa were to take a late lead, you could see the argument for bringing no a player like Clark in the match's final moments, but by that time, hopefully Houllier has brought on both Bannan and Pires, using his last substitutes. If the Villa boss has waited until late to bring both of them on, he's probably being too conservative.

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Aston Villa Vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Wayward Elbow From Jermain Defoe Has Spurs Striker Seeing Red

Minutes after taking the lead at Villa Park, Tottenham Hotspur have been reduced to 10 men. Contesting an aerial challenge against James Collins, Jermain Defoe's left elbow went into his counterparts face. It was an obligatory penalty. Martin Atkinson showed Defoe red, leaving Spurs to play a man down for the match's last hour.

The foul came in the 27th minute, four minutes after Rafael van der Vaart put the visitors in front. Seemingly attempting to get leverage against the taller man, Defoe's elbow was innocuous. Atkinson, however, was left with little choice, the elevated elbow clearly making contact with Collins' face. It took only a few moments of pause before Defoe was dismissed.

Left without a true forward, Harry Redknapp has yet to make a substitution, despite having both Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko on his bench. After ten minutes down a man, Redknapp has persisted with van der Vaart playing a forward position, now a de facto false nine, with Luke Modric continuing to orchestrate the match from midfield.

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Aston Villa Vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Rafael Van Der Vaart Gives Spurs 24th Minutes Lead

A great movement from Spurs has given Tottenham a 1-0 lead after a tough first 20 minutes at Villa Park. Finishing a cross from Alan Hutton, Rafael van der Vaart opened his right foot on a ball from eight yards out, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute.

After going close in the opening minutes, Villa had played behind the match save one great chance on the counter for Gabriel Agbonlahor. Martin Atkinson's want to keep his whistle silent had slowed Spurs' attack, but in the 24th minute, Spurs found a way around Villa's wayward tackles and onto goal.

A ball headed down inside Villa's head came back to Luka Modric, who swung the ball wide to Alan Hutton, The Spurs right back had an abandoned flank in front of him, allowing him to get within 10 yards of the byline before rolling a poor cross into the area. James Collins overran the ball, seeing the pass slowing move to his right for van der Vaart, who had an easy finish from just outside the six yard box.

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Blackburn Rovers Vs. Stoke City: Late Marc Wilson Goal Seals 2-0 Potter Win

Ultimately, it was an easy day for Stoke City, though a scoreless first half gave them reason to doubt. Early in the second half, the visiting Potters got a goal through Robert Huth, the defending heading home a corner kick to give Stoke a 1-0 lead over Blackburn. In second half stoppage time, Marc Wilson finished the work for Jon Walters and Ricardo Fuller to give Stoke a 2-0 win.

The second goal was built down the right, with Walters threading a ball into the channel opened between left back and center half. That's where Ricardo Fuller was making a run, one that went to the byline before the Jamaican cut a ball back toward the spot. Blackburn's defense a mess, they were unable to provide help as Wilson beat Paul Robinson for Stoke's second goal.

With the win, Stoke climbs to eighth place, a spot they'll hold into midweek thanks to the postponement at Bloomfield Road. Blackburn stays 13th pending Aston Villa's match against visiting Tottenham.

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Wolves Vs. Wigan: Despite A Last Minute Goal From Steven Fletcher, Wigan Beat Wolves 2-1

Wolves arrived at Molineux today knowing that West Ham beat Fulham 3-1 in the early match, and in order to stay out of the EPL basement they'd need a win. Unfortunately for the home side, Wigan found two goals in the first twenty minutes, which turned out to be sufficient for the win.

While Wolves found their goal in the 87th minute, when a ball bounced off a Wigan defender to the foot of Steven Fletcher, allowing the striker to simply poke the ball into the net. The true surprise is that it took nearly the entire second half for Wolves to find a goal. They certainly had plenty of chances, with the Wigan defense seemingly falling apart with every attack, but somehow in the scramble the Latics always managed to bundle the ball out.

With Wigan's 2-1 victory over Wolves (only their second away victory this season), they climb out of the relegation zone into 16th place, leaving Fulham to slip down and take their place. Wolves, at bottom, have 15 points in 18 games, and not much about that match will convince observers that Wolverhampton deserve another season in the top flight.  

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Bolton Wanderers Vs. West Bromwich Albion: Johan Elmander Finds Insurance Goal, Puts Trotters Up 2-0

Bolton has found an insurance goal at the Reebok, a 86th minute tally that will put their match against West Bromwich Albion in the bag. With a right footed finish by Johan Elmander from four yards out, the Trotters have a 2-0 lead over the Baggies and look at to climb to fifth in the English Premier League.

The goal was built down the right side, with a long ball knocked down (and around) by Kevin Davies to an oncoming Elmander, The Swede dribbled through the Baggies defense before squaring a ball of Ivan Klasnic. That ball was blocked by a sliding defender, with the redirected ball coming back to Elmander. Scott Carson was unable to track the ball quick to deny Elmander, who gave Bolton their insurance goal.

For much of the half, West Brom looked the more likely team to score, but now carrying a 2-0 lead into stoppage time, Owen Coyle's men are poised to pass Sunderland and Tottenham and assume fifth place, if only temporarily. Sunderland has lost at Old Trafford to Manchester United while Spurs will kickoff at 12:30 p.m. Eastern at Villa Park.

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Newcastle United Vs. Carlos Tev...Manchester City: Garbage Goal Ends A Cracking Game

The only player in blue who has been more than a warm body for the majority of this game, Carlos Tevez, has sealed Newcastle's fate in the 81st minute. After an absolutely cracking second half where it looked like Newcastle were going to get back into the match - and did for about ten minutes - Tevez has put City's opponents to the sword with a garbage goal.

To be far, the skill to set up the goal was brilliant, but the finish itself was exceptionally lucky. Out on the left wing, Tevez beat a couple of defenders before passing to substitute Andy Johnson at the top of the box. Johnson returned the ball to Tevez in traffic who eluded his defenders for a while before putting up a hopeful shot. Had it stayed on line, Tim Krul would have had little problem saving it. Unfortunately for the Magpies, the ball hit the back of Fabricio Coloccini and deflected into the back of the net, giving Krul absolutely no chance.

It was a very unfitting way for the game to get closed out. This one deserved a dramatic save or a classy clincher or equalizer after 81 minutes of excitement. Instead, all parties are likely to walk away unsatisfied.

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Newcastle United Vs. Manchester City: It's 2-1, And We Have A Game

It has seemed like a Newcastle goal was coming from the fifth minute when Manchester City went ahead 2-0. That intensified in the second half, and feeling that his team was both close to creating something and running out of time to do it, Alan Pardew brought on Nile Ranger in the 60th minute. He didn't create the goal, but it was a sign of things to come.

On the 72nd minute, Joey Barton sent a corner kick into the corner of the box. Manchester City's marking was atrocious and the only man they can never afford to leave unmarked in these situations, Andy Carroll, had a free header. He rose and whipped his head around (and his hair back and forth), making contact with the ball and sending it into the back of the net. Joe Hart complained that he was illegally impeded by Kevin Nolan, but the referee had no time for his complaints and Newcastle notched a goal, bringing the score line to a 2-1 City lead.

Newcastle were the more dangerous team before the goal and they've continued to assault the City half. A second goal and a 2-2 draw wouldn't shock anyone at this point.

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Manchester United Vs. Sunderland: United, Through Dimitar Berbatov And A Deflection, Take 2-0 Lead At Home

Dimitar Berbatov can't stop scoring at the moment. His 57th minute shot may have taken a gratuitous deflection off Anton Ferdinand, but nonetheless, the shot found the back of the net and has put United up 2-0 at home. Manchester United have taken their attack up a gear as Sunderland look all but deflated on their way to a defeat.

Berbatov was set up by Anderson who found the Bulgarian just inside the right side of the box. As Berbatov paused just for a second before shooting, Anton Ferdinand moved over to assist Sunderland's left back Phil Bardsley who was marking Berbatov. While Berbatov's shoot flew past Bardsley and was looking to go wide, Ferdinand was positioned in just the wrong spot as the ball deflected off the Sunderland center back and beat Craig Gordon at his near post.

Now nearing the 75th minute, United's gas tank continues to run full while Sunderland seem to still be stuck in the queue for petrol. As Berbatov searches for yet another hat-trick, Sir Alex Ferguson has elected to pull off Ryan Giggs and Anderson and has replaced them with Darron Gibson and Federico Macheda. For Sunderland, Darren Bent has come off for David Meyler

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Blackburn Vs. Stoke City: Robert Huth Heads Potters To Early Second Half Lead

Predictably, Stoke converted one of their set piece, long throw opportunities at Ewood Park. In the 51st minute, Robert Huth has headed home his fourth goal of the season, giving visiting Stoke City a 1-0 lead over Blackburn.

The goal came off a corner kick, with Matthew Etherington swinging service in from the right flag. Huth, starting his run at the edge of the area, beat his man on a near post run, headed a ball back across goal from the edge of the six. Perfect execution on both cross and finish had Paul Robinson beat, giving Stoke a 1-0 lead after 50 minutes.

For Huth, it is his fourth goal of the season as he continues to be one of the league's most dangerous set piece targets. His proclivity is one reason why Blackburn seemed destined to give up a goal. Stoke had been able to generate too many chances through corners, drawn fouls, and Rory Delap long throws.

Though it took an intermission before they did it, Stoke finally broke through. Now in the 56th minute (and about to take another corner), Stoke has a 1-0 lead at Ewood Park.

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Manchester United Vs. Sunderland: Red Devils Take Deserved 1-0 Lead Into Half, Ryan Giggs Impressing

While United will be pleased with their halftime lead, the scoreline in this match is lying. A more appropriate interval mark on a luckier day would read 2-0, or even 3-0. United's Anderson and Dimitar Berbatov both hit Craig Gordon's post and Wayne Rooney has placed a couple of shots on goal that have only troubled Gordon somewhat. The real story of the match however has been United's fluidity in attack largely thanks to the return of Ryan Giggs.

Giggs looks refreshed, bright, quick and creative in attack for United while he and Wayne Rooney have seemingly had their way in the final third of Sunderland's half. Giggs thus far has played more of a roaming central midfield creative role as opposed to creating much natural width down his familiar left flank. His pace has bordered on blistering while his passing borders on brilliant. 

Still, Sunderland have retreated to form a staunch enough line and have kept United out of goal since minute five. While they've mostly been pre-occupied with figuring out how to slow down Giggs, Rooney and Berbatov, they've shown little in attack. As an interesting second half begins, the question that remains is whether or not Sunderland will be able to keep out a United side resembling their best form, or if a goal onslaught awaits them.  

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English Premier League, Boxing Day: Halftime Updates

Both Manchester clubs have been dominant and stand ready to top the table an hour from now. Elsewhere, Bolton's taken a late first half league, Wigan's posed to go a third match without a loss, while Blackburn and Stoke are showing how much trouble they'd give Barcelona. Here's your halftime update:

Manchester United 1-0 Sunderland: Dimitar Berbatov's early goal looked like the beginning of an onslaught, with the Bulgarian hitting the post moments later. Anderson would hit the cross bar, Wayne Rooney would come within inches of ended his goal drought, and Ryan Giggs forced Craig Gordon into a driving stop, but Sunderland got to halftime with their one goal deficit in tact. United has been able to pass through the Black Cats midfield with ease, but with Lee Cattermole suspended, Steve Bruce has few options.

Newcastle 0-2 Manchester City: It's amazing the difference a motivated Carlos Tévez makes. Along with Tim Krul, he set-up the first goal, and getting a right leg on the end of a Jame Milner cross, he scored the second. He has been energetic, creative, and determined - the reason why a Citizens site that began Monday's Everton by allow two goals in 19 minutes has taken a 2-0 lead to half at St. James'.

Bolton 1-0 West Bromwich Albion: As anticipated, the match has been an open affair, though it's failed to produce the corresponding goals. Matthew Taylor's 40th minute tally separates the sides, but with Peter Odemwingie troubling in the likes of Zat Knight and Paul Robinson, Brom appears to have a goal in them.

Blackburn Rovers 0-0 Stoke City: Stoke has been the more dangerous side, but the Potters are still granting Blackburn moments when one piece of execution on a set piece can define the match. But Stoke's own set piece chances plus long throw-ins from Rory Delap as well as the speed of Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington have the visitors looking the more dangerous side - as if that's even consolation against Blackburn,

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Wigan Athletic: Hugo Rodallega and Tom Cleverley have given the Latics control, but were it not for an acrobatic save from Ali Al Habsi late in the half, Wolves could have the momentum coming out of halftime. On a direct kick chance, Al Habsi drove away from a deflected ball, reaching out with his right leg for a save as he fell away from the shot. Wigan takes a clean sheet into halftime and is poised to leap out of the drop.

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Bolton Vs. West Bromwich Albion: Matthew Taylor Gives Trotters Late First Half Lead

An open half at the Reebok is set to end with Bolton on top, having taken a late first half lead on visiting West Bromwich Albion. A long ball toward Johan Elmander, Lee Chong-Yong dragging Scott Carson out of position, and an easy finish from Matthew Taylor - the Trotter had a 1-0, 40th minute lead.

A ball launched out of the Trotter half saw Elmander drop back from his position to flick a header forward. Matthew Taylor then played a ball into space for Lee, cutting in from his right wing position. At Carson's left post, Lee dragged the Brom `keeper out of position as he made for the byline, eventually playing the ball back for a trailing Taylor. The Bolton left wing had only to allude one defender to hit the open next, giving the Trotter their lead.

The goal comes after an open half that's seen both teams easily move the ball through midfield only to see few chances in the final third. Toward the middle of the period Bolton seemed set to grab hold of the match, finding some much-needed patience on the ball. But West Brom found a second wind and against started asking questions of the Trotter defense, questions that were momentarily paused by Taylor's goal.

Now on the brink of halftime, Bolton looks set to take their one goal lead into intermission. In first half stoppage time, it's 1-0, Bolton.

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Wolves Vs Wigan: Wigan Up 2-0 By The 20th Minute With Goals By Hugo Rodallega And Tom Cleverley

Goals are flying all over the Premier League, and Wigan wanted a piece of the action as well. In the ninth minute, the second Ben Watson corner in succession ended with a Latics goal. Watson took care with his set up, scuffing out a place for the ball and arranging it so it barely touched the corner quadrant.

For all Watson's care, the corner was nothing special.  The ball was headed to the near post, but easily cleared out by Stephen Ward. However, the Wolves player did not clear it quite far enough, and a blue shirt was there to send the ball back to the box. It caught the head of Gary Caldwell, who flicked it on to Hugo Rodallega. The Columbian is there with a perfectly finished shot to the bottom left corner of goal.

The home side responded quickly, attacking the Wigan goal, but Latics keeper Ali Al-Habsi managed to keep it just in front of him to prevent an equalizer. Instead, it was Wigan that had the second goal, through Tom Cleverley in the 20th minute.

Wigan are finding it way too easy to slice through the Wolves defense. Hugo Rodallega slips the ball through two orange shirts to find Tom Cleverley, who is left one-on-one with Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey. Cleverley easily slides the ball under Hennessey to put Wigan up 2-0 over Wolves.

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Manchester United Vs. Sunderland: Dimitar Berbatov Header Gives United Early Lead At Old Trafford

In arguably the day's marquee match, the top six showdown between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford has seen top of the table United take an early one goal lead thanks to a Dimitar Berbatov header. The Premier League's leading goal scorer found the back of the net in the fifth minute from just five yards out thanks to some individual brilliance from the fit again Ryan Giggs

Breaking on a quick counter attack, Giggs advanced the ball some 30 yards through the center of the pitch and found Wayne Rooney near the right side of Sunderland's box. Rooney then found Berbatov who was streaking into the box and placed an inch perfect floating ball onto the head of the Bulgarian who was able to beat Craig Gordon at the near post.

It's all action at Old Trafford as the match progresses into its first ten minute interval. Wayne Rooney came desperately close to finding the back of the net yet the England striker's chip sailed just wide. Dimitar Berbatov then hit Craig Gordon's post with only his second attempt of the game after beating Sunderland's right back Ahmed Elmohamady. Fifeteen minutes in at Old Trafford and the score remains 1-0 yet United currently resemble a side similar to the one who were able to put seven goals past Blackburn just a few weeks ago. 

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Newcastle United Vs. Manchester City: Awful Error, Brilliant Football Leads To Two Goals For City

It took less than two minutes for Manchester City to be gifted the first goal of their match against Newcastle and only three minutes more to find their second goal in more deserving fashion. After only five minutes, the mood at St. James' Park is gloomy and Alan Pardew has been left with a blank stare on the bench.

The first goal was handed to City on a silver platter. On a seemingly innocent play with nothing much in it, Newcastle keeper Tim Krul inexplicably gave the ball away to Carlos Tevez. Tevez passed to Gareth Barry, Barry passed the ball into the back of the net, and it City had a 1-0 lead after only two minutes. It was a simple gift of a goal, but they would get a deserved one minutes later.

On the fifth minute, City put together a fantastic counter-attack, with Tevez and James Milner combining to make a fantastic goal. The two players played a one-two down the right side with Tevez eventually laying the ball off to Milner and making a diagonal run into the center of the box. Milner hit a great cross towards him and Tevez lunged at the ball, making contact with his foot and sending it into the roof of the net past Krul. After just five minutes, Manchester City had a 2-0 lead in front of a shell shocked crowd at St. James' Park.

Seconds off the kickoff, Andy Carroll had an opportunity with a powerful header that was very well saved by Joe Hart. Newcastle have been the aggressors since, but they might need to bring back a goal very quickly to get back into the game.

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Fulham Vs. West Ham United: Carlton Cole Brace Sees Hammers To First Away Win

They held just over one-third of the possession, generating very few goal scoring opportunities, but taking advantage of a Fulham team themselves unable to mount meaningful pressure, West Ham United has gotten their first away win of the season. Two goals from Carlton Cole and a match-winner from Frederic Piquionne turned-around an early Aaron Hughes opener, giving the Hammers a 3-1 win at Craven Cottage.

Hughes' opener came in the 11th minute, mark the high point of an initial 35 minutes that saw the Cottagers control the match. Patient play from Danny Murphy, Zoltan Gera, Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey saw Fulham limit West Ham's time on the ball. But a lack of scoring chances came back to bite the Cottagers when a Dickson Etuhu giveaway gave West Ham a late first half equalizer. When Piquionne redirected home a Scott Parker cross late in the half, West Ham had the lead.

In the second half, West Ham adjusted their two striker formation, played Piquionne in a deeper role, and settled into a more conservative approach. Fulham was able to maintain possession, but aside from a late chance for substitute Eddie Johnson, Fulham never gave the West Ham supporters reason to gasp. By that time, Carlton Cole was on a brace, putting West Ham up 3-1, what would ultimately be the final score.

The win moves West Ham to 18th place, with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic having chances to pass them later today. The Hammers' 16 points equal Fulham's total, with the Cottagers' goal difference keeping them above West Ham.

That distinction is unlikely to aid Mark Hughes, the Fulham manager, a man who is sure to come under fire in the following days. Whispers about Hughes' job security have been circulating as the Cottagers dropped closer to the drop. Now with a chance to be in the bottom three by weekend's close, Hughes will have cause for concern, particularly given the job status of Martin Jol, the former Ajax manager who, almost hired this summer by Fulham, is out of work.

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Fulham Vs. West Ham United: Carlton Cole's Second Gives Hammers Two Goal Cushion

West Ham is up 3-1 at Craven Cottage, with Carlton Cole's second of the match giving the Hammers the two goal leader in the 73rd minute. A left-footed half-volley from the England international beat Mark Schwarzer to his far post, putting West Ham on the brink of their third victory of the season.

The goal came after a long ball played from the Hammer's back line was challenged by Freeric Piquionne, Aaron Hughes and John Pantsil. The ball appeared to come off Hughes head, deflection toward the byline, with Cole first to the ball at the left side of Mark Schwarzer's six yard box. The striker's first touch on the half-volley was a left-footed shot far post, being the Fulham `keeper, completing his brace.

Should the result hold, West Ham will temporarily climb out of the table's bottom spot, with pressure sure to mount on Fulham's Mark Hughes. The Cottage boss has only two wins in 17 this season. A lot at home to the league's bottom side will heighten concerns about his job.

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Fulham Vs. West Ham United: Frederic Piquionne Gives Hammers Halftime Lead

West Ham United went into intermission up a goal, overcoming a first half controlled by Fulham thanks to two late first half goals. Building on Carlton Cole's opener, Frederic Piquionne gave West Ham a 2-1 lead, moving unmarked to Mark Schwarzer's far post on play following a corner, meeting a Scott Parker cross to give the Hammers a lead.

The corner was won after Cole nearly gave West Ham a lead, being fed behind the Fulham defense on a Hammers counter attack, his right footed show from the right of goal meeting an oncoming Schwarzer. On the resulting corner, Park was allowed time on the ball no West Ham's left flank, and just as the defense was starting to raise their line, Piquionne ran between Brede Hangeland and Carlos Salcido at the far post. Parker swung his ball in, perfectly dropping onto Piquionne's right foot, allowing the French striker an easy redirection for the go-ahead goal.

The absent-minded defending from Fulham gives West Ham a shock halftime lead. Fulham had looked the better side throughout the match, though in hindsight, the Cottagers now seem to have generated few opportunities. For their large possession advantage, Robert Green has rarely been tested, with Fulham's best chances fizzling as miss-timed opportunities to get on the end of crosses.

That's not to say Fulham should have seen West Ham's goals coming. The first was an unforeseeable error by one of their own. The second was less Hammer ingenuity than Cottagers' failure to defend a basic play. Regardless, Fulham trails the league's bottom side after 45 minutes, the Hammers taking a 2-1 lead into intermission.

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Fulham Vs. West Ham United: Carlton Cole Benefits From Dickson Etuhu Mistake, Pulls Hammers Even

A giveaway in his own area by Fulham midfielder Dickson Etuhu has gifted West Ham their first goal. Carlton Cole, in the 37th minute, was the beneficiary, slotting a right-footed shot from 10 yards out past Mark Schwarzer, equalizing at one.

The goal came after Frederic Piquionne had run onto a ball on the right flank of West Ham's attack. A back heel left a ball for Radoslav Kovac to cross, but a poor attempt sent a cross rolling toward Etuhu at the end of the Fulham area. The Nigerian stretched with his left foot, but a poor touch sent the ball into his own area, with Hammers forward Cole there to take advantage. The rolling right-footed shot went inside Schwarzer's far post, making the score 1-1.

Fulham had dominated the match to that point, controlling possession throughout the first half. Cole's shot was the first time Schwarzer had been tested, with the only time the Fulham `keeper had previously touched the ball was to play crosses.

But with one errant touch from Etuhu, West Ham has canceled-out all of the Cottagers' control. Now in the 42nd minute, Fulham and West Ham are tied, 1-1.

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Fulham Vs. West Ham United: Aaron Hughes Heads Cottagers In Front In 11th Minute

The Cottagers had dominated possession over the first 10 minutes, but it wasn't until their first corner kick in the 11th minute that Fulham was able to take the lead. Then, center half Aaron Hughes headed home a cross from Simon Davies, giving the home side an early 1-0 league.

It was the first goal in six seasons for the Northern Ireland international, left unmarked in the middle of the Hammers area after the defending side had effectively dealt with the first ball in. Then, Fulham collected the ball outside the area, moved it over to the left flank when Simon Davies floated a ball back into the area. Hughes looked ponderous under the ball, calming meeting it at seven yards out, putting the ball back toward the near post, easily inside Robert Green's next.

Now in the 14th minute, Fulham has resisted West Ham's ensuing questions, having regained control of play. The match remains 1-0, Cottagers.

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English Premier League, Boxing Day: Two Postponements Leaves Seven Match Holiday Slate

Happy Boxing Day, everybody. Two matches are postponed. Sorry: I'm not good at breaking bad news.

Matches at Bloomfield Road and Goodison Park have been called off due to weather. Liverpool's match at Blackpool has been called off because of a frozen pitch, Bloomfield Road having no under soil heating. Everton's visit from Birmingham City will also have to be rescheduled, with Goodison Park unfit for play, many pipes in the surrounding area having frozen and burst on Christmas night.

That leaves seven matches for this year's Boxing Day festivities, fixtures which will start at 7 a.m. Eastern at Craven Cottage when Fulham hosts West Ham United in a six-pointer between the league's 17th and 20th place teams. That derby will serves as a preclude to five fixtures kicking-off at 10 a.m. Eastern, matches which will include Manchester United hosting Sunderland and Manchester City's visit to Newcastle. The day wraps-up with the 12:30 p.m. kickoff at Villa Park, Tottenham Hotspur at Aston Villa.

SB Nation Soccer will be keeping you up-to-date on all the day's major happenings. For more on today's matches, you can check out our weekly run-down of the weekend's most watchable fixtures, a piece the provides mild consolation for the postponements. Neither the Blackpool nor Everton matches were ranked very high.

Fixtures
DayTime (EST)HomeRoadPick
Sunday 7:00 a.m. Fulham West Ham United 1-1
10:00 a.m. Blackburn Rovers Stoke City 3-1, Stoke
Blackpool Liverpool 2-1, Blackpool
Bolton Wanderers West Bromwich Albion 3-1, Bolton
Everton Birmingham City 1-1
Manchester United Sunderland 2-0, United
Wolverhampton Wanderers Wigan Athletic 2-1, Wolves
Newcastle United Manchester City 2-1, Newcastle
12:30 pm. Aston Villa Tottenham Hotspur 3-1, Spurs
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