Walcott fires Gunners to the top

Arsenal win 3-1 at West Ham through striker’s brace,Podolski scores on return from injury.

Written by Reuters | London | Published: December 27, 2013 2:41 am

Theo Walcott’s double fired Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League as the Gunners got their title challenge back on track with a 3-1 victory at West Ham United on Thursday.

When Carlton Cole opened the scoring for lowly West Ham just after the break Arsenal were staring at a fourth consecutive league match without a win but Walcott struck twice and Lukas Podolski sealed the win to lift the Gunners to 39 points.

Chelsea are second with 37 after Eden Hazard’s goal earned an unconvincing 1-0 home victory over Swansea City,although Christmas leaders Liverpool could leap above both London clubs with victory at Manchester City in the late kickoff.

Wayne Rooney scored his 150th league goal for Manchester United as they came from 2-0 down after 13 minutes to beat Hull City 3-2,James Chester’s own goal clinching a fifth consecutive win for the champions in all competitions.

United moved up to seventh spot,three behind fifth-placed Everton whose hopes of completing 2013 without a league defeat at Goodison Park were ended by a 1-0 loss to bottom club Sunderland.

Loic Remy scored twice for sixth-placed Newcastle United in a 5-1 home win over Stoke City who had taken the lead but were reduced to nine men before halftime with Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson both sent off. Stoke manager Mark Hughes was also dismissed.

Tottenham Hotspur lost ground as they were held 1-1 at home by West Bromwich Albion in Tim Sherwood’s first game in charge since being named as the permanent replacement for sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas.

It was a great afternoon for the three clubs who started the day in the bottom three with Crystal Palace moving out of the relegation zone at West Ham’s expense thanks to a 1-0 win at Aston Villa.

Fulham were 2-1 winners at Norwich City and only four points separate the bottom six clubs.

Cardiff City were trounced 3-0 at home by Southampton to raise more doubts over the future of embattled manager Malky Mackay who has fallen out of favour with owner Vincent Tan.

Arsenal arrested a slump in form with a vibrant performance in the London derby,although they had to do it the hard way after Wojciech Szczesny’s mistake allowed Cole to open the scoring in the 46th minute at Upton Park.


West Ham missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 and were punished when Walcott’s scuffed shot made it 1-1.

The England wide man then headed Arsenal ahead and with the visitors now dominant Podolski,on for the injured Aaron Ramsey,marked his return from a long-standing injury to complete victory from Olivier Giroud’s layoff.

United kick-started the festive programme,eventually,after a groggy start at Hull following the late arrival of the team bus to the KC Stadium.

Forced to battle back from 2-0 down,they did so with Chris Smalling’s header,a Christmas cracker from Rooney and Chester’s own goal after the break.

It was rough on former United player Chester who had shot Hull in front after four minutes,but a huge festive boost for the champions who despite not playing well showed their old knack of turning around unpromising situations.

The win was tarnished by a late red card for Antonio Valencia who gained a second caution for kicking the ball away.

“We had some bad results at the start of the season but we are showing our quality now,we are fighting hard and hopefully we can surprise some people now,” Rooney told Sky Sports.

Fighting spirit

Troubled though his early months at Manchester United have been,manager David Moyes can rest easy that his side have lost none of the fighting spirit they used to display regularly under Alex Ferguson.

“I always thought we’d go on and win it,” Moyes told MUTV. “What we’ve got here is the capability and I don’t think there would have been one supporter who thought that the game was over (when we went two down),I certainly didn’t.

“My only concern was Hull’s defensive record here this season,I think they’d only conceded three goals prior to today. Thankfully,by halftime we were back level and I even thought we should have been 3-2 up by that point.”

United survived late Hull pressure after having Antonio Valencia sent off but hung on.

“When we got the third goal I really wanted the lads to go on and score again and get that fourth goal to avoid the scary moments that we had in the last five minutes,” Moyes said.

The Scot had special praise for Wayne Rooney whose form has been one of the major positives in United’s difficult season.

“It was a great volley,” Moyes said. We know that Wayne’s capable of that and that he can score all sorts of goals.”

Rooney also pressurised Chester to head into his own net.

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