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Conte culpable in uneven season

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Blues beat Reds but Arsenal on top

Chelsea came from behind to beat Liverpool and boost their title hopes, but Arsenal will go into the New Year as Premier League leaders. Elsewhere, Tottenham hammered Stoke 3-0 and Everton kept up their push for Europe with a 2-1 win over Southampton.

Saturday: City and United win
Mangan: Arsenal win ugly
Jolly: Everton show depth

Olivier Giroud's second-half goal handed Arsenal a 1-0 win against Newcastle at St James' Park.

Giroud glanced in Theo Walcott's free kick on 65 minutes to end a personal drought of 499 minutes without a Premier League goal, a run dating back to Nov. 23.

Arsenal nearly doubled their lead in a matter of minutes, but Walcott's attempted lob was headed onto the bar by a backtracking Mathieu Debuchy, with Giroud then putting the rebound wide.

Newcastle almost equalised in fortunate fashion with nine minutes to go when Wojciech Szczesny cannoned a clearance straight into Loic Remy's face, but the ball rolled wide of the goalmouth.

Arsene Wenger then withdrew Walcott for Carl Jenkinson to shore up his defence as Newcastle pushed late on, but the hosts could not find the breakthrough.

The victory saw the Gunners move a point clear of Manchester City at the top, but Chelsea are just two points behind the league leaders after they came from behind to see off Liverpool 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool were ahead after just four minutes when Martin Skrtel tapped home from close range after Luis Suarez had helped Philippe Coutinho's free kick into his path.

However, Chelsea were soon back on level terms with Eden Hazard arrowing the ball into the top corner from 20 yards when Oscar's shot deflected off Mamadou Sakho into his path.

Samuel Eto'o then put the hosts in front just past the half-hour mark when his scuffed six-yard shot from Oscar's cutback somehow squirmed under Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and into the net.

Liverpool felt aggrieved when Luis Suarez was denied what looked to be a clear penalty in the second half when he was kicked off the ball by Eto'o, with referee Howard Webb waving away the striker's appeals.

Everton beat Southampton 2-1 at Goodison Park as they overtook Liverpool to end the year in fourth.

Coleman struck in the ninth minute after cutting inside James Ward-Prowse and firing his shot into the top corner.

Gaston Ramirez equalised for Southampton in the 71st minute with a fine strike, but the Saints were not level for long as three minutes later Lukaku pounced onto James McCarthy's pass to put Everton back in front.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are just three points behind the Champions League places as they beat Stoke 3-0.

Tim Sherwood, who was appointed on an 18-month deal after guiding Spurs to a victory at Southampton last weekend, followed Boxing Day’s 1-1 draw against West Brom with a dominant win.

The deadlock was broken when Emmanuel Adebayor's acrobatic effort was handled in the box by Ryan Shawcross, and Roberto Soldado stepped up to convert the penalty in the 37th minute, sending goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen in the wrong direction.

Spurs doubled their lead 20 minutes into the second half, with Mousa Dembele firing a low shot beyond the hapless Sorensen. Aaron Lennon then grabbed a third just four minutes later, after Adebayor miscontrolled Soldado's pass and Lennon finished off with a volley.


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