BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Aleksandar Kolarov jumps on top of Joleon Lescott of Man City as he celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 during the Barclays Premier league match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park on February 12, 2012 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Premier League, Week 25: City Regain Top Spot, WBA Smash Wolves

Manchester City earned a narrow win at Villa Park to leapfrog Manchester United in the Premier League standings, while West Bromwich Albion put five goals past Wolves in the early game.

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Richard Dunne Suffers Broken Shoulder, Out 2 Months

Aston Villa centre back Richard Dunne will be out for two months after suffering a fractured clavicle in last weekend's 1-0 loss to Manchester City.


Aston Villa Vs. Manchester City, 2012 Premier League: City Grab Narrow Win

Manchester City failed to impress against a resolute Aston Villa defence, but they got the goal they needed to beat their opponents in Birmingham regardless. City needed at least a draw to go back to the top of the Premier League table following Manchester United's 2-1 win against Liverpool on Saturday, but any fear that they'd fail to achieve that would have vanished in the face of Alex McLeish's strategy of refusing to allow his team to do anything that could be remotely construed as positive football.

The defending, however, went pretty well for much of the match. City had all of the possession but surprisingly few clear-cut chances - the closest they came to scoring in the first half was when Adam Johnson hit the base of the post from outside the area. They finally got their breakthrough after the interval, however, with Joleon Lescott volleying a knocked-down corner past Shay Given to give his side the 1-0 lead.

Villa still hadn't mounted a meaningful attack and waited until the very end of the match to do anything exciting - although a streaker did provide the home fans some entertainment. As injury time loomed, things got interesting. A pair of corner kicks resulted in Carlos Cuellar heading over and then Joe Hart saving superbly from Darren Bent as full time loomed, but the late flurry didn't yield the equaliser and cost Villa Richard Dunne, who was forced off after a clash with Hart with what looked like a dislocated shoulder.

With the win, City go two points clear of United at the top. Villa, meanwhile, remain in fifteenth, although they're still well clear of the relegation battle.


Wolves Vs. West Bromwich Albion, 2012 Premier League: Baggies Smash Wolves

West Bromwich Albion scored 3 times in the final 15 minutes to demolish Wolves 5-1 in an entertaining Black Country Derby. The win takes WBA up to 14th place, 8 points ahead of the relegation zone. For Wolves, not only do they lose to their local rivals, but they also drop into the relegation zone.

West Bromwich Albion started the much stronger of the sides; after just a minute, they’d already had a golden opportunity, with Peter Odemwingie sliding a pass across the box for Jerome Thomas, who’s sidefoot was parried over the bar by Wayne Hennessey. Wolves didn’t play with a holding midfielder, and that space behind their midfield was constantly exploited by Peter Odemwingie cutting in from the right hand side. He had a shot beaten away by Hennessey before he opened the scoring on 34 minutes. The outside run of Steven Reid took away Wolves left back, Steven Ward, and Odemwingie twisted past Matt Jarvis before shooting left footed, with his shot deflecting off Jamie O’Hara and through Wayne Hennessey’s legs.

After WBA scored, though, they dropped deeper, perhaps intent on protecting what they had. Wolves, though, did score, with Steven Fletcher firing across Ben Foster to finish a move he had started with a flicked pass to David Edwards. It was the first time Fletcher and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake had combined all match, and it was largely against the run of play. Wolves started the stronger of the sides in the second half, but West Bromwich Albion took the lead in the 64th minute. James Morrison’s header was flicked on by Jonas Olsson and headed off the bar by Gareth McAuley, before falling back Olsson who smashed the ball towards Wayne Hennessey. It was hit straight at Hennessey, but he let it slip through his arms and over the goal line.

One difference between the two sides was the performance of the two keepers, and moments later, Ben Foster made a great save, leaping to his right to keep out a Steven Fletcher header that was looping into the top corner. From the ensuing corner, Roger Johnson’s header was cleared off the line onto the bar, and then WBA countered, with Odemwingie beating Ward on the right, but delaying his shot, giving Foley a chance to clear his shot off the line. It wouldn’t be long, though, before WBA scored their 3rd. It came again from a corner; Olsson backheeling towards goal and Odemwingie flicking in his second, virtually sealing the 3 points with 13 minutes to go.

Wolves continued to attack, and this left them open to the counter attack. Their left hand side was again exploited by WBA, as James Morrison shrugged off Ward to get to the byline, cutting the ball back into the box, where Keith Andrews made a late run to smash the ball into Hennessey’s bottom left corner for a debut goal. Moments later, Jamie O’Hara’s dipping volley bounced right before Ben Foster, but the keeper’s right hand was strong and pushed the ball behind the goal.

Odemwingie got his hattrick 2 minutes from time, again from a counter attack; Morrison, this time on the left, beat Foley to slide the ball across for Odemwingie, who was unmarked in the middle. Hennessey, falling away to his left, got a hand on Odemwingie’s shot, but Odemwingie’s shot was hit hard enough to ensure that Hennessey could do nothing about it.

A comprehensive and well deserved victory for Roy Hodgson’s side, who outshot Wolves 29-13. That in particular will worry Mick McCarthy; his side were utterly incompetent at defending.


Aston Villa Vs. Manchester City, 2012 Premier League Week 25: City Look To Go Top

Manchester City are favoured to beat Aston Villa in Birmingham. Surprise!


Tottenham Hotspur Vs. Newcastle, 2012 Premier League: Spurs Thrash Magpies

Newcastle United came to White Hart Lane knowing that a strong performance could move them into the Champions League places. They left with a thrashing. Tottenham Hotspur were sublime, and Emmanuel Adebayor starred in a monster performance that saw the Togo striker pick up a goal and four assists. Within the first few minutes, the hosts were 1-0 up, Benoit Assou-Ekotto firing in a cross from Adebayor after fine work from Gareth Bale, and new signing Louis Saha made it 2-0 a few seconds after that.

The onslaught continued as Saha grabbed his second of the match on the 20th minute after brilliant holdup play by Adebayor, and then Niko Krancjar made it four before halftime, Adebayor again getting the assist. The visiting defence was a complete mess, at a patchwork midfield had no answer to the likes of Scott Parker and Luka Modric, allowing Spurs to pretty much score at will. They eased up a bit in the second half, only scoring the one goal when Adebayor flicked in Saha's knockdown, but they could easily have had more if they'd pushed for it. Newcastle came close a couple of times, but a goal would have been flattering - they weren't even close to being on the same planet as their opponents on this one. The 5-0 final scoreline was no accident.


QPR Vs. Blackburn, 2012 Premier League: Hosts Melt Down As Blackburn Get Win

Mark Hughes's Queens Park Rangers revolution suffered a major blow as Blackburn Rover ran rampant at Loftus Road. The first half saw a flurry of goals, all of which were from the visitors. Not fifteen minutes had gone by before dangerman Yakubu had latched onto a Steven Nzonzi flick and blasted past Paddy Kenny, and then Nzonzi managed a goal himself after being set up by Junior Hoilett. QPR's misery was compounded when new signing Nedum Onuoha deflected Hoilett's shot in to make it 3-0 before the interval.

There was time for a brief renaissance in the second half, with Jamie Mackie scoring to bring them back into the game with twenty minutes gone, but ultimately the hosts left things simply too late and a 90th minute goal just made the win a little less emphatic. The scoreline flattered QPR - Blackburn could have had four or five easily, and Steve Kean will be thrilled by the performance as much as the three points.


Bolton Vs. Wigan, 2012 Premier League: Latics Earn Key Win

Wigan Athletic earned a vital three points at the Reebok as Bolton Wanderers suffered yet another home loss. Roberto Martinez will be thrilled at his team's performance as they dominated the first half, eventually going 1-0 up via the head of Gary Caldwell in the 43rd minute. Bolton had offered approximately nothing before halftime, and any hope that they'd make a push for the equaliser after the break was sadly misguided - they were just as poor in the second.

That didn't stop them getting a goal against the run of play, however. Chance after chance for Wigan went unconverted and the hosts finally made them pay when Mark Davies converted some route one play to smash past Ali Al-Habsi and bring the match back to level pegging. However, Bolton threw away their point with some awful defensive play. Sam Ricketts attempted a back header to Adam Bogdan only for the ball to be intercepted by Victor Moses and then poked in at the second attempt by James McCarthy, and despite a late flurry by the Trotters it was enough for a 2-1 Wigan win.


Fulham Vs. Stoke City, 2012 Premier League: Pogrebnyak Scores In Debut Win

Pavel Pogrebnyak scored a goal on his debut with Fulham to inspire the Cottagers to a 2-1 lead against Tony Pullis's Stoke City. Despite many questioning the former Stuttgart man's ability when he moved over to the Premier League, he was superb in latching onto John Arne Risse's wayward shot and blasting past Thomas Sorensen to open the score a quarter of an hour in, and Fulham were able to double their lead when a superb Clint Dempsey strike ricocheted back off the crossbar, hit the goalkeeper in the back, and rolled into the back of the net.

Stoke were dire in the first half but came back with a vengeance after the break, forcing their hosts into something that resembled a football match. They were hardly a major force, but they did manage to reduce the deficit when Ryan Shawcross converted as corner from very close range. Fulham still looked like winners though, and Dempsey continued his rampage through Premier League defences only to be denied by Sorensen and then the post late on.


Swansea Vs. Norwich, 2012 Premier League: Crazy Win For Canaries

Swansea suffered only their second home loss in the Premier League after being defeated 3-2 by Norwich in a thrilling match. The Swans went ahead in the first half after a glorious flowing move ended with Danny Graham dispatching a shot past John Ruddy to make it 1-0, and it looked as though the hosts were in total control, with both Leon Britton and Josh McEachran excellent in the midfield.

But the Canaries were having none of it and struck back in furious fashion in the second half, scoring from a free kick, with Elliot Ward's cross (and 'cross' doesn't really do it justice - it was a superb effort to retrieve the ball from an impossible situation and then deliver it back into the mixer with a bicycle kick) met by the head of Grant Holt to equalise. Graham had a chance to put Swansea back in front almost instantly, but failed to convert a one on one after being sent clean through by McEachran, and Norwich were able to strike again when Neil Taylor deflected an Anthony Pilkington effort past a helpless Michel Vorm to make it 2-1.

Worse was to come for the hosts when Holt extended the scoring, finishing off a neat counterattack with an emphatic finish, but Swansea managed to recover and threatened Ruddy's goal several time in the closing half hour, pulling one back after Ashley Williams was fouled in the area and Danny Graham converted the penalty. It wasn't enough though, and despite Swansea coming very close to drawing level several times, Norwich gave just as good as they got and were perhaps unfortunate not to score a fourth, but they'll be happy anyway with a 3-2 win from one of the toughest grounds in the Premier League.


Sunderland Vs. Arsenal, 2012 Premier League: Gunners Earn Huge Win

Arsenal gave their Champions League hopes a huge boost by coming from behind to beat an in-form Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Despite controlling the match, Arsene Wenger's side found themselves down when the Black Cats pounced on Per Mertesacker going down with an injury while in possession, allowing James McClean to slot past Wojciech Szczesny from a tight angle to give the hosts the lead with 70 minutes played.

Arsenal would recover, however. Five minutes later, substitute Aaron Ramsey leveled from outside the box after Mikel Arteta had a shot blocked, and then Wenger's trump card - also known as Thierry Henry - struck to make it 2-1. The legend's twelve billionth Arsenal goal came from an unlikely source in the form of much-maligned Russian Andrei Arshavin, who sent in the cross for Henry to head home for a 91st minute winner. Sunderland couldn't mount an effective response, and the match ended 2-1 to Arsenal.

For more on the two teams, head over to Arsenal FC blog The Short Fuse and Sunderland blog Roker Report.


Everton Vs. Chelsea, 2012 Premier League: Toffees Grab Surprising Win

Chelsea have put a serious dent in their chances to finish in the top three, while the race for fourth just got a lot more interesting. The Blues put in a poor performance at Goodison Park on Saturday, as Everton played one of their best games of the season in a 2-0 victory. Unlike some of Chelsea's other upset losses and draws this year, this was not unlucky. The Toffees were the better side, and deserve their win.

On-loan attacking midfielder Steven Pienaar found the opener after just five minutes. Based on the way Everton's played against big teams this season, Andre Villas-Boas likely knew right then and there that he was in for a tough task. Not only were Everton hard to break down for the rest of the half, but they did well to create a few more chances of their own.

The Blues' defense and Petr Cech looked more or less asleep in the 71st minute, when Landon Donovan found Denis Stracqualursi with a through ball. The Argentinian striker finished to make it 2-0, and Chelsea would never get a goal back. The assist was, incredibly, Donovan's third league assist in his short loan spell at Goodison Park.

Villas-Boas would make the odd decision to bring on Romelu Lukaku for Juan Mata in the 78th minute, but Lukaku would find himself on the end of a great chance just a minute later. He almost poked in a short-range goal from a set piece, but Tim Howard did well to get across his goal to Lukaku and make a point-blank save. Chelsea didn't do much to create clear-cut chances throughout the match, and Everton will be thrilled with their performance.

For more on the two teams, check out Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History and Everton FC blog Royal Blue Mersey.


Manchester United Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Premier League: Final Score, Red Devils Hang On For 2-1 Win

Liverpool made things uncomfortable late, but Manchester United hardly looked like dropping points at any point in their big Northwest Derby match. The first half was a rather dull affair with very few chances for either side, but United looked like the slightly better team. They came out gangbusters in the second half and took a quick lead that they would not relinquish, eventually holding on for a 2-1 victory.

There was plenty of drama surrounding the Patrice Evra - Luis Suarez racial abuse case coming into this match, and Suarez only amplified the non-football talk when he refused to shake Evra's hand before the match started. That didn't exactly spark a great game of football in the early going, with neither team looking great in the first half. Glen Johnson looked good getting forward for Liverpool while Paul Scholes had one good opportunity saved, but that was the extent of the action in the first 45.

Reportedly, there was a bit of a bust-up in the tunnel as the teams walked back to the locker room. Of course, there are no cameras in the tunnel, so only the players and the coaching staffs really know what happened.

The Red Devils went ahead just over one minute into the second half through Wayne Rooney, who scored with a great finish, assisted by some poor set piece marking. On a corner kick, Steven Gerrard inadvertently flicked the ball into the path of a poorly marked Rooney, who smashed the ball into the back of the net with a brilliant half volley.

Rooney found a second just three minutes later, and it came off of an absolutely world class setup from Antonio Valencia, who had a brilliant all-around game. While Liverpool were trying to play the ball out of their own half, Valencia dispossessed Jay Spearing, then played a fantastic through ball into the box for Rooney. He slipped behind the defense and got onto the ball for an easy finish, completing a brace and putting United in a dominant position.

Luis Suarez got one goal back in the 80th minute off of a free kick, assisted unintentionally by Rio Ferdinand. The ball hit off the United defender and he knew nothing about it as it set up Suarez for an easy finish. Liverpool couldn't find another goal, though, and went on to drop all three points. Glen Johnson had Liverpool's best opportunity to score a winner with a blistering long shot from outside the box in the 90th minute, but David De Gea made a brilliant save to keep his team ahead and seal the win.

For more on the Red Devils, check out Manchester United blog The Busby Babe. For more on the Reds, head over to Liverpool blogs Anfield Asylum and The Offside Liverpool.


Manchester United Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Premier League: Suarez Pulls One Back

Hey, that's interesting. Liverpool's first attack of the second half bears fruit after a pair of amusing mistakes from Manchester United's centre backs.A free kick is swung in, Jonny Evans completely misses the ball, falling over in the process, and Rio Ferdinand makes a complete mess of his clearance. Guess who's there to mop up? That's right - Luis Suarez. The striker blasts past a rather helpless David de Gea to bring the score to 2-1 with ten minutes left. No real celebration from Suarez, of course, with his team losing, but he's made things pretty interesting.

United nearly manage an instant reply with Danny Welbeck, but the young forward's shot sails way over Pepe Reina's goal. The hosts won't be that nervous - it took a complete calamity at the back for Liverpool to get their goal, but this will give Liverpool some hope, and that's a dangerous thing. I wonder what will happen if Suarez scores again?


Manchester United Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Premier League: Wayne Rooney Brace Kicks Off 2nd Half

We've finally got our breakthrough at Old Trafford, and Manchester United now lead Liverpool 1-0. The hosts have been on the front foot since the second half kicked off, and a simple set piece proved Liverpool's undoing, with Michael Carrick flicking Ryan Gigg's delivery onwards and Wayne Rooney escaping the attention of Glen Johnson to volley home from very close range. That's Rooney's 20th goal in all competitions this season, a nice little milestone.

And then there's 21 a few minutes later after an awful giveaway by Jay Spearing. The young midfielder presents Antonio Valencia with possession just outside the Liverpool box, and he feeds Rooney to nutmeg an irate Pepe Reina. That makes it 2-0, and this game is well and truly over (discounting the inevitable sending off, which we all know will happen at some point).

Oh, and there was apparently some fighting in the tunnel at halftime. What fun.


Manchester United Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Premier League: 0-0 At Halftime

It's all square at halftime at Old Trafford, and Manchester United vs. Liverpool has been something of a disappointment so far. And when I say 'something of a disappointment' I mean 'totally bloody atrocious'. The main point of the match is, unsurprisingly, the eight-game ban Luis Suarez incurred for the racial abuse of Patrice Evra. The Uruguayan has returned to the lineup for Liverpool and kicked off yet another stir by refusing to shake the United captain's hand, and if you think we're paying too much attention to Suarez when there's football on, you haven't been watching the game.

To summarise: Glen Johnson is dangerous, Antonio Valencia is dangerous, Paul Scholes should have scored and Luis Suarez nearly went through one and one only to be dispossessed by Rio Ferdinand with a tackle for which the Uruguayan demanded a red card. He didn't get one, much to everyone's amusement. Hopefully the game gets better in the second half, because it's been abysmal so far.


Manchester United Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Premier League: Lineups

Manchester United vs. Liverpool is always a huge match, and although Liverpool are perhaps not what they once were, they've made up for the lack of footballing drama with... well, extracurriculars. Luis Suarez, just back from an eight-game suspension after racially abusing Patrice Evra in the reverse fixture at Anfield, is likely to get an unfriendly reaction from the crowd at Old Trafford, and that's going to be at least 178% of the media's focus today. The match? Pfft.

Manchester United starting lineup (4-4-1-1): David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Rafael da Silva; Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Antonio Valencia; Wayne Rooney; Danny Welbeck.

Substitutes from: Dimitar Berbatov, Park Ji-Sung, Javier Hernandez, Fabio da Silva, Tom Cleverley, Ben Amos, Paul Pogba.

Liverpool starting lineup (4-5-1): Pepe Reina; Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson; Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard, Jay Spearing, Dirk Kuyt; Luis Suarez.

Substitutes from: Andy Carroll, Jamie Carragher, Charlie Adam, Doni, Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly, Craig Bellamy.


Tottenham Vs. Newcastle, 2012 Premier League Week 25: 3rd Takes On 5th In Clash of England's Best Managers

Clash between England's highest ranked English managers likely to be decided by form of African strikers?


Manchester United Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Premier League Week 25: Northwest Derby About More Than Football

The Evra - Suarez subtext is just one of many stories in the Northwest Derby, where Manchester United and Liverpool might shake off the nonsense to play a great game of football.

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