Arsenal hit magnificent seven on 2012’s record day of goals
Gunners thrash Newcastle 7-3 to go fifth - but they’re still 16 points behind Manchester United
THERE were 35 Premier League goals on Saturday, the most in a single day since February 2011, as the clubs did their bit for the spirit of Christmas.
Manchester United managed only a couple in their 2-0 defeat of West Bromwich Albion but they were enough to keep them seven points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table. City themselves netted four in a seven-goal thriller at Norwich, but it was at the Emirates where the best entertainment was to be found as Arsenal thrashed Newcastle 7-3.
Theo Walcott scored a sumptuous hat-trick, including a contender for goal of the season, as the Gunners ran riot in the second-half. Newcastle, defeated 4-3 by Manchester United three days earlier, wilted as the match wore on while Arsenal benefited from having had their Boxing Day match against West Ham called off because of a Tube strike.
"It was very open and when it’s open it plays into my hands," said Walcott, who started the game in his preferred role as central striker. Asked if that’s where he wants to spent the rest of the season, the 23-year-old replied: "I've been saying for the past few weeks that I want to play up front and I am showing the manager what I can do. I believe I will be a striker and it is about taking the opportunity when I get it."
Walcott opened the scoring with a clinical finish on 20 minutes but Demba Ba grabbed a deserved equaliser two minutes before the break. The second half saw a deluge of goals as Newcastle twice more fought back to level the scores at three apiece on the hour mark. But then Arsenal surged ahead with Walcott completing his hat-trick – the third a wonderful mazy run through a sea of Newcastle defenders – and substitute Oliver Giroud scoring twice in four minutes.
The victory, Arsenal’s fourth consecutive league win, lifts the Gunners to fifth but they remain 16 points shy of United whose 2-0 win over WBA came courtesy of a Gareth McAuley own goal and a late strike from Robin van Persie.
"We're in a good position," said manager Alex Ferguson. "We're halfway there. We've a game on Tuesday away from home at Wigan and we've got a few players to freshen it up. We'll look forward to the next game and try and win it."
Manchester City had to work harder for their three points, particularly after Samir Nasri was shown a straight red card on the stroke of half-time after appearing to flick his head at Norwich’s Sebastian Bassong.
At that stage City were leading 2-1 thanks to two early goals from Edin Dzeko and though the Canaries fought back in the second-half the defending champions dug deep to emerge 4-3 winners. "With 10 men it was difficult," admitted City manager Roberto Mancini. "The guys played very well… today we showed we are there for the title."
In other results Tottenham won their sixth league game out of eight to move up to third though they were pushed all the way by a determined Sunderland side. The Black Cats took the lead on 40 minutes through John O'Shea, but an own goal from Carlos Cuellar just after the break brought Spurs level and a cool finish from Aaron Lennon then gave the home side all three points.
"We have had an excellent December and to finish the year with a win like this is very good for us," said Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas. "I am very happy for the team."
Also ending the year in high spirits was Reading manager Brian McDermott after his side beat West Ham 1-0 for only their second league win of the season. Pavel Pogrebnyak's fifth-minute goal was all that separated the sides but it was enough to lift the Royals three points clear of bottom-placed Queen’s Park Rangers.
"I'm very pleased," said McDermott. "We were very resilient today and we needed to be. We know what we have to do to get results in this league and we move on now and look forward to our next game against Spurs."
Elsewhere, Aston Villa’s miserable run continued with a 3-0 defeat at home to Wigan, while Stoke and Sunderland shared the points in a six-goal encounter at the Britannia Stadium. Finally Swansea ended their recent losing streak with a 2-1 win away at Fulham, a victory that moves the Swans into ninth place, one spot above Liverpool who play QPR later today.