Scholes strike closes gap on City
Paul Scholes helped Manchester United pull level with Manchester City atop the Premier League table as they easily saw off Bolton at Old Trafford, but Tottenham failed to match that feat as they were held at home by Wolves on a day where Chelsea edged past Sunderland and ten-man Blackburn got a vital win against Fulham.
Elsewhere, Liverpool endured another frustrating home draw against Stoke City - as Norwich stunned West Brom and Aston Villa played out a 1-1 draw with Everton at Villa Park.
Manchester United overcame an early penalty miss from Wayne Rooney as they romped to a 3-0 victory over a determined but limited Bolton Wanderers side at Old Trafford.
Paul Scholes returned to the starting line-up for the first time since ending his retirement, but it was Danny Welbeck who made the first real impact on the game as he forced a smart save from Bogdan in the Bolton goal. Welbeck would then be at the heart of matters minutes later, as he was brought down in clumsy fashion by Zat Knight while bearing down on goal.
Rooney stepped up to take the resultant penalty, but Bodgan - beaten from 95 yards by Tim Howard a few weeks ago - sprung to his right to claw away the effort and keep his side on level terms.
Rooney played an integral role when the deadlock finally was broken, however, right on the stroke of half-time. An incisive run and one-two from Nani opened up space in the box, before his lay-off found Rooney. The England man slide the ball across goal, and Scholes took advantage of a few failed attempts to clear as he turned it home at the far post.
Rooney had further cause for embarrassment in the second half after missing the target from barely two yards, but Bolton struggled to really apply pressure to their opponents at the other end until Gretar Steinsson forced Rafael to make a clearance off the line.
United then killed off the match with 15 minutes remaining, and it was Welbeck who finally found the back of the net. It was hardly a vintage strike, but Welbeck took Rooney's pass and got just enough on the shot to send it beyond Bogdan - although he picked up an injury in the process that forced him off for Javier Hernandez.
Michael Carrick then got his name on the scoresheet, as United cantered to the finish line and evened matters up at the top of the Premier League table - for two days at least.
Harry Redknapp's Tottenham Hotspur also had the chance to move to the league's summit, but they were denied by Wolverhampton Wanderers as they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Tottenham's bid to pull level with Manchester City got off to a torrid start, as Wolves edged themselves into an early lead at White Hart Lane. A controversial corner award gave the away side's defenders a chance to come forward, and Roger Johnson's initial header was turned home by Steven Fletcher after being stopped on the line by Brad Friedel.
Fifteen minutes later Spurs thought they were back on level terms, after Emmanuel Adebayor fired beyond Wayne Hennessey. The goal was quickly ruled out for offside, however, despite the fact replays appeared to show that the Togolese forward was being played onside by a Wolves defender as he slipped in on goal.
The second half finally saw some of that sense of injustice erased, however, as Modric got Harry Redknapp's side back on level terms. Gareth Bale played the Croatian in, and he made no mistake as he swept a fine 20-yard strike beyond Hennessey's grasp. The goal was extra sweet, as it came just minutes after Friedel had made an incredible save from Emmanuel Frimpong's volley.
Aaron Lennon then erred when given a great opening to complete a quick-fire turnaround, as Tottenham's sustained pressure produced little reward. Scott Parker won a last-gasp free-kick 25 yards from goal, but nothing came from it as Redknapp was left to rue a frustrating afternoon of missed opportunities and unfortunate decisions.
Chelsea were forced to survive a number of late scares as they held on to claim a 1-0 win over Sunderland thanks to Frank Lampard's fortuitous early strike.
With Gary Cahill - set to sign officially on Monday - watching from the stands, it didn't take long for Chelsea to take the lead. It was Lampard who got the goal but Fernando Torres who deserved much of the credit, as he arched his body to fire an overhead kick goalwards - only to see it crash off the underside of the bar. Lampard was in the perfect spot to meet the ricochet, however, as it clattered off him and home into the unguarded net.
Torres continued to have his moments - seeing a good goalbound header blocked - but compatriot Juan Mata was also growing into the game, as he forced a smart save from Simon Mignolet from a free-kick. Sunderland reminded their hosts they were still a game, however, as Nicklas Bendtner forced Petr Cech into action.
The second half started with a flurry of controversy, as both sides had penalty appeals turned down. Torres' claim appeared to have less weight than Bendtner's, after the Dane was tripped by Ashley Cole - but the referee opted not to award either.
Sunderland then created a gilt-edged chance from open play, but James McClean was unable to convert after Seb Larsson had bypassed Petr Cech with a chipped cross that McClean only really needed to turn home.
It was a nervy final five minutes for Chelsea, who also saw Stephane Sessegnon fail to make the most of a great opening, but they held on to consolidate their hold on fourth in the table.
Elsewhere, Liverpool's goalscoring woes at Anfield continued, as they were held to a 0-0 draw against Stoke City.
A turgid to start to the match was perhaps a result of Liverpool's tactical changes - as Kenny Dalglish opted for three central defenders and two wing-backs, with Dirk Kuyt preferred to Andy Carroll in attack. The different look did not appear conducive to creating chances, however, with Charlie Adam's inability to get on the end of Martin Skrtel's cross about as close as the Reds came in the opening 30 minutes.
The second half saw Liverpool grow into the contest, although substitute Carroll twice blocked attempts from his team-mates as they were heading towards goal. It was Kuyt who was guilty of a far bigger error in the closing stages, however, as he proved unable to direct his header goalwards after Jose Enrique's deflected cross fell perfectly into his path just six yards out. Skrtel then saw his own headed attempt bounce up and over the bar, as the Reds yet again were forced to settle for a home draw.
Blackburn Rovers recovered from an early sending off for Yakubu to defeat Fulham 3-1 and edge out of the relegation zone, with Mauro Formica sealing the three points after Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn had put them in front.
On the back of his midweek revelation that he wanted to leave the club, Chris Samba was not in the Blackburn lineup due to 'illness' - and things only got worse for manager Steve Kean just 20 minutes into the game as striker Yakubu was given a red card for a high challenge on Danny Murphy with the ball bouncing awkwardly between them.
Bobby Zamora then hit the woodwork for the visitors, as Fulham quickly went about making their numerical advantage count. Phillipe Senderos was next to scare Paul Robinson, forcing the former England international to stretch to palm away a good header.
The first goal looked like it was coming, but in the end it was the home side who grabbed it. Pedersen had been forced into defensive roles for much of the festive period, but he gave a reminder of his attacking threat as he curled a 25-yard free-kick around the wall and in just as the first 45 minutes was coming to a close.
Blackburn picked up where they left off in the second half, as they extended their lead soon after the restart. It was Dunn who got the goal, reacting first after David Goodwillie's effort had been kept out by David Stockdale to put Rovers on course for victory.
Blackburn have done little the easy way this season, however, and they set themselves up for a nervy final 30 minutes after Damien Duff pulled a goal back for the Cottagers - the Ireland international hitting an early volley that found the net after slipping through Martin Olsson's legs.
In the second half Steve Kean may have feared another painful comeback, but Fulham proved unable to break a dogged resistance. The fourth goal always looked like to be crucial and Blackburn got it - Formica finally easing the pressure at Ewood Park and lifting his side above QPR on goal difference.
Steve Morison's ninth goal of the season gave Norwich City all three points as they performed something of a smash-and-grab against West Bromwich Albion, winning 2-1.
Andrew Surman grabbed the opening goal of the game before the break, as he reacted quickest to turn in Wes Hoolahan's measured cross. West Brom subsequently dominated possession but could not find a way back on level terms, until they were awarded a penalty 20 minutes from time. Shane Long stepped up to take it, and made no mistake as he slotted past John Ruddy.
The tide of the contest suggested Baggies would go on to press home their advantage, but instead it was Paul Lambert's men who reclaimed the lead with 10 minutes remaining. Morison got the goal, redirecting Grant Holt's driven cross just past Ben Foster as the Canaries continued their strong recent form.
Finally, Aston Villa and Everton played out a 1-1 draw at Villa Park on Saturday, with substitute Victor Anichebe cancelling out Darren Bent's second half finish.
Stephen Warnock had his goalkeeper to thank after he deflected Louis Saha's mis-hit header towards goal, before Darren Bent nearly bested Tim Howard after ghosting in behind John Heitinga to meet Marc Albrighton's delivery.
In the second half it was Bent who finally gave the hosts the lead, after Villa had gone up the end following another smart save from Shay Given to deny Marouane Fellaini. Bent showed his clinical touch as he rifled a volley past Howard to put Alex McLeish's side on course for three points.
Everton were eventually on level terms, and it came thanks to substitute Victor Anichebe. The forward used his fresh legs to finish off a fluid move that he played a major part in - ensuring both sides shared the spoils in what was probably a fair reflection of the contest.