Liverpool stay top as Chelsea lose ground

Steven Gerrard scored twice as the Merseysiders ended 2008 on top of the Premier League with a 5-1 win away to Newcastle at St James' Park.

updated: December 29, 2008 10:10 IST
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Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard scored twice as the Merseysiders ended 2008 on top of the Premier League with a 5-1 win away to Newcastle at St James' Park.

Second-placed Chelsea were held to a dramatic 2-2 draw yesterday by Fulham to leave Liverpool with a three-point lead heading into the new year.

Meanwhile, former Arsenal captain Tony Adams saw the Gunners leave his Portsmouth side just three points above the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at the Emirates.

Everton won 3-0 at home to Sunderland as Ricky Sbragia's first match since being confirmed as the Black Cats full-time manager in succession to Roy Keane ended in defeat.

West Ham fought back to beat 10-man Stoke 2-1 with the losers also having Ricardo Fuller sent-off for a slap on his own captain Andy Griffin. Robinho rescued a point deep into stoppage-time for Manchester City away to Blackburn Rovers as manager Mark Hughes's club, 2-0 down with six minutes to play, drew 2-2 against his old one in a dramatic late kick-off.

One consolation for Rovers was that the point they earned took them off the bottom after West Brom had beaten 10-man Tottenham 2-0. Reigning champions Manchester United, third with three games in hand, face Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on Monday while Aston Villa can regain fourth place from Arsenal away to Hull on Tuesday.

At St James' Park, Gerrard opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark. Five minutes later Sami Hyypia's header made it 2-0.

But slack marking by Liverpool saw Newcastle, who before kick-off found out that owner Mike Ashley had reversed his decision to sell the club, pull a goal back on the stroke of half-time when a corner was headed in by David Edgar.

Ryan Babel made it 3-1 to Liverpool five minutes into the second-half and Gerrard made sure of the points with a cool finish in the 66th minute.

Xabi Alonso added a fifth from the penalty spot after Edgar's foul on David Ngog.

"You haven't seen the best of Liverpool yet," said Sammy Lee, their assistant manager. "You win nothing in December but you can certainly lose a lot."

Fulham's American international Clint Dempsey stunned Chelsea when he got on the end of Simon Davies's 10th minute free-kick at Craven Cottage.

But five minutes into the second-half Frank Lampard equalised when he capitalised on a mix-up between Fulham 'keeper Mark Schwarzer and Aaron Hughes.

Lampard put Chelsea ahead when his 72nd minute free-kick deceived Schwarzer only for Dempsey to head in Fulham's second from a corner a minute from full-time.

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was critical of the poor defending from set-pieces which contributed to both Fulham goals.

"Before the game every player knows who to mark," said the Brazilian. "It is my job now to look and see what happened."

Arsenal, who saw Pompey striker Peter Crouch hit the post with a first-half header, had to wait until nine minutes before full-time to break the deadlock when William Gallas seized on an error by England keeper David James.

"It was a big three points for us," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Mikel Arteta put Everton in front against Sunderland with a 25-yard free-kick in the 10th minute at Goodison Park and the Spanish midfielder doubled the lead 17 minutes later with a deflected shot after another free-kick had been blocked.

Dan Gosling added a third seven minutes from time to keep Everton on track for a European place.

Goals from South Africa's Benni McCarthy and fellow striker Jason Roberts appeared to have sealed victory for Blackburn at Ewood Park.

But Manchester City substitute Daniel Sturridge turned the match on its head, scoring one and setting-up Robinho's equaliser.

"When it got to the latter stages we were struggling but the lads showed fantastic effort and great character to get something out of it," Hughes said.

Dejected Rovers boss Sam Allardyce added: "It feels like a defeat."

Abdoulaye Faye put Stoke ahead in the fourth minute at Upton Park, but West Ham were level when Carlton Cole turned Griffin early in the second-half - the incident which appeared to spark Fuller's confrontation with his captain.

West Ham's Diego Tristan made it 2-1 when he turned in Cole's shot two minutes from time.

At the Hawthorns, Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto got a straight red card 10 minutes before half-time for a foul on Gianni Zuiverloom.

But it wasn't until the 83rd minute that Roman Bednar scored for the Baggies before Craig Beattie added a second.

In the day's other game, Egyptian star Amir Zaki scored from the penalty spot to give Wigan a 1-0 win at Lancashire rivals Bolton.