United Go Top, Newcastle Go For Six

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Newcastle United were hit for a literal six by Manchester United, in a clash that saw the Red Devils climb back to the top of the English Premier League, after Arsenal were held to a 1-all draw at the Emirates Stadium by lowly Birmingham. Elsewhere, Chelsea won 2-0 over London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs, while Everton trounced Manchester City by a single goal.

Arsenal were free flowing, starting brightly at home, where they haven’t been beaten in the last 20 games. After a series of early attacks, Arsenal were finally rewarded when Eduardo was brought down by a rash challenge by Stephen Kelly, and Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up to the spot and coolly slotted home his 13th goal of the season. Arsenal kept up with their passing play and looked comfortable for the three points at the break.

However, Birmingham came out of the trap quickly on the restart and were level in the 48th minute with a goal from a corner. Former Gunner Sebastian Larsson’s corner was met by Garry O’Connor and was deflected via Cesc Fabregas into the Arsenal goal. Arsenal threw men forward to get the advantage back, but were frustrated by a newly resilient Birmingham under manager Alex McLeish. Tempers flared, and Aleksandr Hleb and Liam Ridgewell were both booked in the game. Yet, despite their shots and attacking flair, Arsenal were not able to conjure up a winner, dropping points at a stage where the league title race is heating up.

Chelsea managed to hold on to a 2-0 win with Juliano Belleti scoring in the first half. Dimitar Berbatov gave Chelsea a scare with a second-half free-kick which just cleared the bar. However, Avram Grant’s men made sure that the in-form Shaun Wright-Phillips scored a second goal in the 80th minute.

Liverpool dropped two more costly points at the Riverside Stadium, where a scrappy 26th-minute goal from George Boateng gave Middlesbrough a 1-0 lead.

Stewart Downing went on to hit the post for the hosts in the second half. However, the Reds rescued a draw when Fernando Torres’ right-footed drive from 25 yards, flew into the top corner, 19 minutes from time.

Simon Davies got struggling Fulham off to a flying start in pursuit of an elusive win, with a goal direct from a free-kick to put the Cottagers 1-0 up at West Ham just after eight minutes. However, Roy Hodgson’s team could not see the job through. Dean Ashton equalized shortly before the half-hour with Anton Ferdinand giving the Hammers the points in the 69th minute.

Manchester City are another team who have found it relatively tough away from home for much of this season – and sure enough they lost 1-0 at Everton. The winner came from the predictable source of a Mikel Arteta corner – Joleon Lescott hitting the target with a 31st-minute header on the end of the Spanish winger’s delivery as Everton finished the day level on points with Liverpool.

With their rivals dropping points, Manchester United were going to be psyched about going back to the top of the table. Coming to the Premier League champions’ home turf, Newcastle United were manager-less, form-less and witless about how they were going to go back with anything. Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs all started in what was to be a teasing first half. United came close on several occasions in the first 45, with Wayne Rooney missing a few good opportunities in an uncharacteristic fashion.

United came charging out in the second half with Ronaldo scoring from a brilliant low free kick. Tevez scored to make it two-nil, soon after tapping into an empty net, after brilliant work from Ryan Giggs. Shay Given had been near faultless under the bar for the Magpies in an otherwise dismal display by the defence. Yet, he too, joined in the effort when his wayward pass was bounced off Claudio Cascapa and Giggs handed the ball to Tevez for the slot home. Great interplay from the United frontline got them more goals, with Rio Ferdinand chipping in his share with one. Rooney, though, was off target, even as he contributed assists to the cause.

United put six past Newcastle for the second time in recent seasons, after their 6-1 victory a few seasons ago. Newcastle United face Stoke City in their FA Cup replay game next week, and the Geordie faithful might just be fearing the worst.

Manchester United are now clearly at the top of the Premiership table, with Arsenal close second, and Chelsea’s win helping them hold on to third.

Vineet Kanabar

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