EPL: Walcott rescues Arsenal as Chelsea edge Swansea on Boxing Day

Published: 26 December, 2013 22:30 IST | AFP |

Arsenal returned to the Premier League summit on Thursday after Theo Walcott scored twice as Arsene Wenger's side came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham United. Chelsea also edged past Swansea to leapfrog Liverpool to 2nd spot.

Theo Walcott scored twice as Arsenal got their Premier League challenge back on track by coming from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham United on Thursday.

Carlton Cole gave West Ham a surprise lead early in the second half before Walcott scored a fortuitous equaliser and then headed Arsenal in front.

Substitute Lukas Podolski, who created Walcott's second goal, then scored the third on his comeback from injury, as Arsenal ended a run of five games without victory in all competitions.

Walcott's first benefited from an uncertain dive by West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, but the England winger has now scored in his last four league appearances against West Ham.

It was Arsenal's seventh consecutive victory over their London rivals and sent Sam Allardyce's side into the bottom three.

Theo Walcott
Arsenal midfielder Theo Walcott (2-R) scores a goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Arsenal at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, in east London on Thursday. Pic/AFP

Arsenal made one change to the team that had drawn 0-0 with Chelsea on Monday, with Santi Cazorla replacing Tomas Rosicky in midfield.

West Ham made four changes to the team beaten 3-1 by Manchester United, including the return from a three-match suspension of captain Kevin Nolan.

Carlton Cole, a scoring substitute at Old Trafford, started this time, as did Joe Cole and Joey O'Brien.

James Tomkins, meanwhile, was available for the Hammers despite being charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and being drunk and disorderly at an Essex nightclub on Sunday.

West Ham tried to feed Matt Jarvis on the left when possible in the early stages, but one cross that Wojciech Szczesny punched away was their only threatening moment in the first 10 minutes.

After that Arsenal began to dominate, and Adrian made a flying save from a header by Cazorla.

West Ham's response had been limited: a swerving free-kick by Mark Noble that forced Szczesny to palm the ball away and a shot from Mohamed Diame that Szczesny only caught at the second attempt.

After 26 minutes, Walcott escaped George McCartney to run onto Aaron Ramsey's floated pass, but, unchallenged, he volleyed past the post with only Adrian to beat.

Now it seemed to be the Arsenal attack against the West Ham defence.

Giroud reacted too late as Mezut Ozil pulled the ball back across goal, Mikel Arteta volleyed just wide, and Olivier Giroud failed to connect with a low cross from Kieran Gibbs.

But West Ham also made a good opening when Mark Noble lifted a quick free-kick over the Arsenal wall, only for Nolan to fail to make decent contact.

It was a warning to Arsenal to take their chances, but they did not heed it and in the first minute of the second half, West Ham took the lead.

Arteta's clearance fell into the path of Nolan, who was allowed to shoot unchallenged from 20 yards. Szczesny could not hold the ball and Cole smacked home the rebound.

Szczesny made up for that by blocking Jarvis's shot on the turn, but he was nowhere as Joey O'Brien stole in unmarked to glance a header just wide.

Soon, however, Arsenal were camped in the West Ham half. Adrian parried from Cazorla, then somehow got in the way of Mezut Ozil's follow-up effort.

In the 68th minute, the pressure finally told.

Walcott cut in from the right and tried a left-foot shot that found its way in past two defenders and through the hands of the unsighted Adrian.

Three minutes later, Podolski's cross from the left took a slight deflection off the forehead of Tomkins at the near post and Walcott reacted more quickly than the defenders to head firmly home.

Eleven minutes from time, Giroud nudged Walcott's right-wing cross back into the path of Podolski, who smashed the ball past Adrian from 18 yards.

Hazard strikes as Chelsea edge Swansea

Eden Hazard

Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge in London on Thursday. Pic/AFP

Chelsea leapfrogged Liverpool, moving up to second place by beating Swansea City 1-0 in one of the day's 10 traditional Boxing Day fixtures.

Chelsea remain within two points of top spot in the Premier League after Eden Hazard's first-half goal secured a 1-0 victory over Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

Hazard's effort proved the difference between the teams, but Chelsea's failure to build on the Belgium international's ninth goal of the season meant it continued the run of recent underwhelming displays by the Blues.

Chelsea's performance in grinding out a scoreless draw at Arsenal three days previously was described as a return to an approach that had been familiar during manager Jose Mourinho's first spell in charge.

With the visit of Liverpool looming in three days, Mourinho took the opportunity to make five changes to his starting line-up, including the return of Ashley Cole for his first league start since the defeat at Newcastle United on November 2.

Up front, Samuel Eto'o replaced Fernando Torres in the role of main striker, although the Cameroon international showed few signs of ending Chelsea's misfortunes in front of goal.

Torres, Eto'o and Demba Ba have scored just five league goals between them so far this season and the Blues were once again forced to rely on their goal threat elsewhere in the team as they struggled to turn their dominance into goals.

Swansea arrived at Stamford Bridge having won just one of their last seven games and rarely looked like ending that frustrating run.

Ashley Williams, the Swansea centre-back, was outstanding, making a succession of timely clearances.

And while goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel might have done better for Hazard's goal, he made an eye-catching save to deny Eto'o twice either side of the interval.

The breakthrough came after Chelsea had already applied sustained pressure on Tremmel's goal.

Branislav Ivanovic saw a shot deflected over the crossbar and Williams's hooked clearance denied John Mikel Obi the chance to score from close range after John Terry had headed down Juan Mata's deep cross.

A goal appeared imminent, although Laudrup will be unhappy with the way his side conceded.

Cole sent Hazard clear on the left wing, from where he cut inside, gliding easily past Jordi Amat, before hitting a low right-foot shot from the edge of the area that appeared to go under Tremmel's arms.

A minute later the goalkeeper was again at fault and fortunate to escape after being hurried into a mistimed clearance under pressure from Eto'o.

Swansea offered little by way of response, although Alvaro Vasquez should have done much better when he found himself unmarked after being picked out by Jonjo Shelvey's header.

As dominant as Chelsea had been, they needed a second goal to eliminate the chance of Swansea nicking a point from a rare foray forward.

Eto'o was twice offered the chance to double the lead, but was denied by Tremmel on both occasions.

The first time, three minutes before the interval, the goalkeeper saved after Eto'o had been sent clear by Mata.

And Mata was again the provider 12 seconds after the restart when he whipped in a right-wing cross towards his team-mate, whose close-range volley was tipped away by Tremmel.

Chelsea's nerves began to show as Swansea went in search of an equaliser late on, but they were not forced to pay for their earlier missed chances.

Newcastle thrash Stoke

Newcastle's outstanding form continued on Thursday as they racked up their seventh win in nine games by beating nine-man Stoke 5-1 at St James Park for what was their 200th home win in the Premier League.

Newcastle closed to within two points of the Champions League places by coming from behind to overwhelm Stoke.

Stoke, who came into the game unbeaten in four, had led early on only for the match to be turned on its head as Glen Whelan and Marc Wilson were sent off within minutes of each other in the first-half while manager Mark Hughes also was sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson.

Newcastle's victory -- all their goals scored by non English players leaving it a year to the day since an Englishman James Perch scored for them against Manchester United -- leaves them in sixth but just a point off Everton, who lost 1-0 to Sunderland on Thursday.

Tottenham held by West Brom

Tim Sherwood suffered a frustrating start to his reign as Tottenham's new manager after a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on Thursday.

It was not what Sherwood, who was handed a surprise 18-month contract following a short caretaker spell, would have envisaged.

But he could have no complaints as Jonas Olsson cancelled out Christian Eriksen's free-kick opener to drop Tottenham down to eighth in the Premier League.

Southampton, meanwhile, ended a run of six games without victory by winning 3-0 at Cardiff City through a Jay Rodriguez brace and a Rickie Lambert strike.

Scott Parker scored a stunning 87th-minute winner as Fulham won 2-1 at Norwich City, but they remain in the bottom three due to Crystal Palace's 1-0 win at Aston Villa, which lifted Tony Pulis's men out of the drop zone. 

Everton's hopes of making further ground on the Champions League contenders were thwarted, however, as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat at home to bottom club Sunderland.

Ki Sung-yueng scored the game's only goal from the penalty spot in the 25th minute, after Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard was sent off for a foul on the South Korea international.

It was Sunderland's first away win since April and left Gus Poyet's men three points from safety.

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