Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes were all but extinguished in the New Year as they were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Wigan Athletic, and Newcastle United slipped to another sorry defeat at the hands of Manchester City.
Liverpool failed to capitalize on a host of chances in the opening half, and had Rafael Benitez shaking his head in the break. However, his words at half time breathed some life into his team, as Spaniard Fernando Torres scored just after, to take Anfield into jubilation.
The Reds were made to pay for not killing the game off. As the old adage goes, a one-goal lead wasn’t enough for three points, and Wigan defender Titus Bramble scored only 10 minutes from time.
Liverpool are now 12 points off the leaders Arsenal, and will have to realistically look to qualify for Europe, rather than chase an impractical championship dream.
Another tottering side, Newcastle United were beaten 2-0 at home. Sam Allardyce’s men were at their dismal worst as a clinical Manchester City side tore them to shreds with goals from Brazilian Elano and Gelson Fernandes. Even the fit Michael Owen could not save the Toon Army, the literal Blues.
It was a tale of two penalties at Ewood Park as Blackburn recorded a 1-0 win over Sunderland. Roy Keane’s side wasted golden opportunities in the game, and were made to suffer the consequences as skipper Dean Whitehead missed from the penalty spot after striker Daryl Murphy was brought down by Christopher Samba.
On the other end though, Benni McCarthy was much more clinical when the referee deemed Danny Higginbottom to have committed intentional handball.
Derby remain rooted to the bottom of the table and 10 points away from safety after Stelios Giannakopoulos scored the only goal of the game in stoppage time for Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium.