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Feb 2, 2013

Sissoko downs Chelsea, United triumph

Newcastle new boy Moussa Sissoko scored twice to dramatically defeat Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday, as Arsenal greatly aided their pursuit of Champions League qualification with a hard-fought victory over Stoke City and Manchester United beat Fulham to move ten points clear.

• Brewin: Rooney a ray of light
• Heneage: Sissoko lifts pressure
• Delaney: Arsenal show mettle
• Premier League Gallery Photo Gallery

At the bottom of the table, QPR and Aston Villa both picked up draws - against Norwich and Everton respectively - but still saw the gap to safety grow after Reading grabbed a valuable win over Sunderland, while Southampton were forced to settle for a draw at Wigan and West Ham eased any pressure they were feeling with a win over Swansea.

Moussa Sissoko paid of a sizeable part of his transfer fee with a superb double to hand Newcastle a precious 3-2 victory over European champions Chelsea.

Sissoko scored the second goal of his fledgling Magpies career in injury time to secure a confidence-boosting victory, running onto Davide Santon's cutback to complete a fairytale home debut as Alan Pardew's side further dented Rafa Benitez's Blues tenure.

It was the home side that took the lead in the contest, as Jonas Gutierrez ghosted into the box just before half-time to perfectly meet Santon's deep cross. Chelsea subsequently thought they should have had a penalty - Demba Ba taking an unhealthy kick to the face from Fabricio Coloccini - but beyond that Benitez's side created few openings for an equaliser until Lampard lashed home a trademark effort from long range effort; a strike seemingly conjured from nothing.

That fine goal seemed to embolden Chelsea, and not long after it was 2-1. Again, it was a goal of the highest class, but this time it was Juan Mata who produced it. The Spaniard gratefully received a deft flick from Fernando Torres, before turning and curling a 20-yard effort into the corner with his left foot.

That looked like propelling the visitors to victory - but Newcastle strengthened heavily in the January transfer window, and it was one of their new boys who brought them back into the game.

Sissoko took the plaudits after his first goal for the club but in truth all he had to do was tap it in - after another new signing, Yoan Gouffran, saw his one-on-one opening initially denied by Petr Cech.

At the death, however, the former Toulouse enforcer deserved all the adulation he received. He still had plenty of work to do when Santon fed the ball back into his path inside the box, but made no mistake to drive the ball beyond Cech and send the crowd into raptures.

Manchester United overcame a battle with the woodwork and a delay on account of floodlight failure to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to ten points with a 1-0 win over Fulham.

The Red Devils hit the frame of the goal on three occasions in the first half, while the game was delayed for 12 minutes when the lights went out at Craven Cottage. It was not a one-sided affair in West London, but United had the greater quality in their ranks a brilliant finish from Wayne Rooney 12 minutes from time sealed the win.

There did not look to be any danger when a long ball was launched. Philippe Senderos got caught under it, though, and Rooney controlled and dashed forward before using Aaron Hughes as a shield to curl the ball beyond Mark Schwarzer.

Aston Villa threw away a two-goal lead against Everton as Marouane Fellaini's second of the match deep into added time denied the visitors a much-needed win and sealed a 3-3 draw.

For a long time it appeared Paul Lambert's side would be celebrating their second surprise success on Merseyside, having beaten Liverpool in December. But Fellaini scored his second of the afternoon to add to Victor Anichebe's first-half strike and cancel out Christian Benteke's double and a goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Everton's remarkable powers of recovery came to the fore again and they are second only to Manchester United having taken 21 points from losing positions this season, although the draw was not enough to take them back into the top four for the first time since December 22.

Lukas Podolski's deflected free-kick proved the difference as Arsenal eked out a much-needed 1-0 victory against Stoke.

Podolski - brought on in a double substitution alongside the delightful Santi Cazorla - grabbed the game's only goal, as the Germany international saw his effort fly past the previously obdurate Asmir Begovic with just over ten minutes remaining.

The goal did not come without controversy, however, with the linesman initially flagging the goal for offside - believing the deflection to have come off an Arsenal player. After discussions, however, Chris Foy whistled for the strike to stand.

The Gunners perhaps deserved the victory on the balance of play, although prior to the introduction of Cazorla and Podolski they had found themselves denied at every turn. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all saw decent attempts denied by Begovic, in a game where new signing Nacho Monreal made a cautiously positive first impression.

The win nevertheless moved the Gunners within a point of Tottenham in fourth - albeit the north London rivals have a game in hand - and just five points adrift of Chelsea.

Reading ensured they remained outside the Premier League's relegation zone after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Sunderland in front of their home fans.

Jimmy Kebe was the hero of the day, the winger scoring twice - the second with barely five minutes remaining - to pick up all three points, just days removed from Adam Le Fondre's own goalscoring heroics against Chelsea.

This time the poacher was not needed, with Kebe giving the Royals a seventh minute lead after Jobi McAnuff's cross had picked him out in the centre of the box. Twenty minutes later Sunderland were back on terms, however, after Pavel Pogrebnyak's over-zealous defensive efforts in his own box resulted in Craig Gardner burying the resultant penalty.

In the second half both sides had chances to break the deadlock, with substitute - and debutant - Danny Graham perhaps guilty of not making the most of two glorious late openings to win the game. And it was a profligacy that the former Swansea man would come to regret, as just minutes later Kebe won the game with a close-range header - feasting on a pitch-perfect ball from Ian Harte that goalkeeper Simon Mignolet dared not come to collect.

Come the end of the season Shaun Maloney's late equaliser could prove crucial, as Wigan grabbed a 2-2 draw with Southampton that kept Mauricio Pochettino's men firmly in the relegation battle.

The Saints looked set to move five points clear of danger when Morgan Schneiderlin finished off a fast breakaway with just five minutes remaining, but right at the death Maloney was on hand to bundle the ball home after returning hero Paul Scharner won a crucial header.

Prior to that, Gary Caldwell had seen his 25th minute header eventually cancelled out in the second half by a typically clinical finish from Rickie Lambert.

Andy Carroll gave his team's fight against relegation a much-needed shot in the arm as West Ham edged past Swansea 1-0 to record just their second win of 2013.

Making his first start since November, Carroll proved to be an effective battering ram for the Hammers and their long-ball tactics. Sam Allardyce's men regularly launched the ball up to the England striker and while it was not easy on the eye, the tactic worked.

The former Newcastle man wore down the Swansea defence and stole away from his marker towards the end of the second half to head home Mark Noble's corner for just his second goal in claret and blue.

In the day's early game, Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn saved a penalty as big-spending QPR were held to a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road.

Deadline-day signings defender Christopher Samba, bought in a £12.5 million deal from Anzhi Makhachkala, and midfielder Andros Townsend, on loan from Tottenham, both started, but it was Adel Taarabt who provided the main threat for the hosts.

However, when his big moment came from the penalty spot just before the hour, the Moroccan saw Bunn produce a superb save to help earn Norwich what could prove a useful point in their own quest to avoid the drop.

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