United edges Newcastle in seven-goal thriller
Manchester, England (Sports Network) - Manchester United and Newcastle combined to give spectators at Old Trafford a total of seven goals and plenty of entertainment for Christmas.
Newcastle claimed the lead on three separate occasions, but United stormed back to claim a dramatic 4-3 victory on Wednesday to send the Red Devils seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table on Boxing Day.
Manchester United gifted Newcastle the lead in the fourth minute when David De Gea parried a shot directly into the path of James Perch, who was arriving at the back post to tuck home the loose ball.
The home side drew level in the 25th minute when Javier Hernandez's shot from close range was brushed aside by Tim Krul, but Jonny Evans eclipsed his mark to slip the ball into the back of the net.
Controversy struck two minutes later to help the Magpies jump back in front.
Danny Simpson's low cross was turned into the net by Evans, but the assistant referee judged that Papiss Cisse was in an offside position and promptly raised his flag. The goal was initially pulled back, but referee Mike Dean conferred with his assistant and restored the goal after judging that the Newcastle striker had not interfered with play.
Newcastle came within inches of extending the lead just before halftime when Sylvain Marveaux rattled the crossbar from a free kick, but he was denied to see the United's deficit remain at one goal.
Manchester United remained behind until the 57th minute when Patrice Evra collected a failed clearance and lashed a shot past Krul at the far post.
Ten minutes later, Newcastle was leading again. Gabriel Obertan made an immediate impact after coming on as a substitute, breaking free on the left flank and centering a pass for Cisse to smash home a thumping effort.
The lead was short-lived though as United equalized for a third time in the match just four minutes later. Robin van Persie's shot in the 71st minute was palmed away by Krul, but the Magpies failed to clear their lines and the Dutchman hammered the second effort past his compatriot.
In the 88th minute, Newcastle hit the woodwork for the second time in the match when Sammy Ameobi's shot trickled off the base of the post, bounced back into play and safely into the arms of De Gea.
Newcastle was left to rue that miss as Chicharito, making the most of a rare start, needed the full 90 minutes to finally break through. He got on the end of a cross and directed a first-time shot past the on-rushing Krul to help United steal all three points.
The win lifts United to 46 points on the season, seven points more than second-place Manchester City, which surrendered three points in a 1-0 loss at Sunderland on Wednesday.
Newcastle has lost seven of its last nine Premier League matches to remain on 20 points at the halfway point of the league campaign.
Sunderland 1, Manchester City 0
Sunderland, England - Adam Johnson turned up to bite the hand that once fed him, grabbing the lone goal in Sunderland's 1-0 defeat of Manchester City at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.
After the former City midfielder provided the goal in the 52nd minute, the Black Cats held the lead to prevent the Citizens from keeping pace with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table.
City remains stuck on 39 points while Sunderland improves to 22 points, winning three of its last four league matches.
Everton 2, Wigan 1
Liverpool, England - Everton extended its unbeaten streak to six games by earning a 2-1 win over Wigan at Goodison Park on Wednesday.
After a scoreless opening period, Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka gave the Toffees the edge with goals in the 52nd and 76th minutes, respectively. Arouna Kone pulled one back for Wigan eight minutes from time, but it failed to spark a comeback for the Latics.
Everton climbs to 33 points while Wigan stays put in the relegation with 15 points, suffering three successive league losses.
Fulham 1, Southampton 1
London, England - Fulham and Southampton exchanged goals on either side of halftime as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage on Wednesday.
Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring in the seventh minute, and the Cottagers appeared to have all three points in the bag until the 85th minute when Rickie Lambert converted a penalty kick to earn the Saints a share of the spoils.
The draw snaps a two-game slide for Fulham, which improves to 21 points and remains five points ahead of Southampton.
Chelsea 1, Norwich City 0
Norwich, England - Chelsea maintained its third-place position in the Premier League table on Wednesday, earning a 1-0 defeat of Norwich City at Carrow Road.
The Blues, coming off of an 8-nil thrashing of Aston Villa on Sunday, produced another clean sheet as it rode Juan Mata's strike in the 38th minute to all three points.
Chelsea has amassed 35 points as Rafa Benitez hopes to keep his side in the title discussion. Norwich, meanwhile, has lost two straight after a 10-game unbeaten run to remain on 25 points.
West Bromwich 2, QPR 1
London, England - West Bromwich secured a second successive league win on Wednesday, defeating QPR, 2-1, at Loftus Road.
Chris Brunt got the Baggies off to a good start when he struck in the 29th minute with his first goal of the season. Robert Green's howler of an own goal in the 48th minute proved to be the difference for West Brom as Djibril Cisse pulled one back for QPR in the 67th minute.
The Baggies improve to 33 points to remain in the race for a European spot while QPR, on 10 points this season, slips to the bottom of the table on goal differential.
Reading 0, Swansea City 0
Reading, England - There was little doing at the Madejski on Wednesday as Reading and Swansea City played to a 0-0 draw.
Reading improves to 10 points on the season, climbing out of last place on goal difference.
Swansea has drawn two straight to improve to 25 points through 19 matches.