The Premier League welcomed in the New Year with eight fixtures on Saturday – with the table now taking shape at the top and bottom of the top tier, as the season gets past its halfway point.
UNCONVINCING ARSENAL CEMENT TOP SPOT
Arsenal moved two-points clear at the summit of the Premier League standings with a narrow 1-0 victory over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium, courtesy of a late winner from Laurent Koscielny.
The Magpies had their chances in the contest, and should have came away from North London with at least a point, following a positive second-half display.
Dutch midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum, had the best chance for the visitors, but he was denied by Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal.
The Gunners netted their winner through Koscielny, who prodded beyond Elliot after 72 minutes – a result which also keeps Newcastle in the bottom three.
HAMMERS SHOW CLASS TO UPSTAGE LIVERPOOL
West Ham United were victorious in the early lunchtime kick-off, when they beat Liverpool 2-0 at Upton Park, to move up to sixth in the league, whilst Jurgen Klopp’s side reside in eighth on 30 points from 20 matches, after defeat in East London.
Michail Antonio powered a header beyond Simon Mignolet after ten minutes, scoring the first goal of 2016 in the process, with the former Nottingham Forest man scoring his second goal in as many outings.
Andy Carroll settled the scores shortly after the interval, glancing Mark Noble’s cross into the back of the net, confirming a second straight win for West Ham, who are right in the frame for European football next term.
MANCHESTER CITY STING WATFORD IN LATE COMEBACK
Manchester City kept in sight of table-toppers Arsenal with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Watford in-front of the television cameras at Vicarage Road.
Watford, who are ninth in their first season following promotion, took the lead after 55 minutes, when Aleksander Kolorov diverted Ben Watson’s corner beyond Joe Hart, and into his own goal.
With City starting defeat in the face on a cold winter evening in Hertfordshire, Kolorov made amends for his previous error by assisting Yaya Toure, who volleyed into the far post spectacularly to equalise for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, as the clock ticked down.
Sergio Aguero broke Hornets hearts with six minutes left, as he glanced Bacary Sagna’s cross past Heurelho Gomes to confirm a first away maximum since mid-September.
TWO GOAL DEFOE DELIGHTS BIG SAM IN VITAL WIN
Sunderland were the big winners as the bottom on Saturday – beating bottom club Aston Villa 3-1 at the Stadium of Light, in a game that Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce had described as a “nine pointer” prior to kick-off.
Patrick van Aanholt’s 20-yard drive on the half-hour opened up proceedings for the hosts, who were pegged back when Carlos Gil leveled on the hour.
Jermaine Defoe edged Sunderland into the lead after 72 minutes, before adding his brace in the dying embers, to confirm a much needed win for Big Sam.
The North East outfit a four points adrift of Swansea City in 17th place, while Aston Villa remain rooted to the bottom.
Manchester United ended eight games without a win with three against Swansea City at Old Trafford.
In a goalless first-half, Louis Van Gaal’s men took the lead after 47 minutes, through Anthony Martial’s header,
Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised for the relegation-threatened side in the final 20 minutes, before Wayne Rooney broke his scoring duck with an improvised finish seven minutes later.
Swansea huffed and puffed for a leveler, but United held onto move fifth in the league table.
Norwich City moved six points above the bottom three with a narrow 1-0 victory over Southampton at Carrow Road.
Alex Tetty scored the winner as time was running out in Norfolk, to beat ten-men Saints, who have now lost six of their last eight matches.
West Bromwich Albion beat Stoke City in an all Midlands encounter, to move 12th in the standings, in a game marred by Geoff Cameron’s red card.
Stephane Sessegnon nudged the Baggies into the driving seat on the hour, though Jonathan Walters headed level with nine minutes to play.
But Jonny Evans claimed the bragging rights in the Tony Pulis derby at the Hawthorns, with a stoppage time winner at the Hawthorns.
And finally, Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth shared the spoils in a 0-0 draw at the King Power Stadium, with Riyad Mahrez also being denied from 12-yards by Artur Boruc.