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Page last updated at 19:35 GMT, Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day football as it happened



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By Caroline Cheese

1932: Leicester-Sheffield United continues, with the Foxes leading 2-1, but I must go and rest my weary fingers ahead of tomorrow's offering of Arsenal v Aston Villa (1330) and Hull v Man Utd (1600). I very much hope to see you then.

1929: Still, don't let that put you off watching Match of the Day at 2225 GMT, and then stick around for the Football League Show straight afterwards, which is bound to be more entertaining - especially if this Leicester-Sheffield United thriller is anything to do by.

1926: Miserable effort by the Prem today. Not a single team could be bothered to score more than two goals. Only three teams mustered a win. Do they realise I dragged myself away from cold turkey and baked potatoes for this? Obviously not.

1923: FULL-TIME Liverpool 2-0 Wolves

1921: Liverpool passing the ball around in midfield as the clock runs down. Tougher battles ahead. The Reds are up against Aston Villa at Villa Park on Tuesday.

1917: Yossi Benayoun gets a very warm reception from the Liverpool fans as he is replaced by Jay Spearing. Two minutes and the rest to go.

1915: Daniel Pacheco is a little genius - based on the several minutes I have seen of him in action. His first contribution to this game is a cross which Fernando Torres should have left for Dirk Kuyt behind him. His second is a pass inside for Torres, who looks a bit flat-footed as he fails to anticipate.

1913: It's Pacheco time. Alberto Aquilani's full Premier League debut comes to an end and Daniel Pacheco is on.

1912: As it stands, Liverpool will be moving up to seventh on 30 points, five behind fourth-placed Aston Villa and third-placed Arsenal. Villa play the Gunners tomorrow.

1910: Back under way at Leicester - and Sheffield United are back in it, sub Henri Camera turning the ball home to make it 2-1.

From The kid from Fuenlabrada on 606: "We're lucky to be winning and it's still concerning that Pepe Reina is probably the best passer on our team..."

1907: Yossi Benayoun gets in front of his marker to head Glen Johnson's cross but it's a long way over.

1905: Dirk Kuyt replaces Fabio Aurelio for Liverpool. Rafa keeping Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres on the pitch despite the comfortable lead. An encouraging sign for Liverpool fans.

1901: The Wolves fans are booing Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina, who ran almost the length of the pitch to complain about Andre Marriner failing to give a second booking to Steven Ward. They may feel a little more charitable when they see the highlights later. How Marriner managed to book the wrong man initially is beyond me.

Liverpool goal: And that should settle the nerves further. Yossi Benayoun cuts inside the defender and his shot comes off Karl Henry before hitting the roof of the net.

1859: GOALFLASH Liverpool 2-0 Wolves (Benayoun)

1855: Chris Iwelumo comes on for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. BBC 5 live reckon that's a sign Mick McCarthy now thinking about Wolves' next game. Ebanks-Blake hasn't exactly set the world alight though.

Liverpool goal: Emiliano Insua delivers a teasing cross from the left and Steven Gerrard throws himself at the header, climbing above two Wolves defenders to put Liverpool ahead. Relief, sweet relief, for the Liverpool fans.

1851: GOALFLASH Liverpool 1-0 Wolves (Gerrard)

1850: Half-time at Leicester, who go in with a tidy 2-0 lead over Sheffield United. The Foxes hit the bar moments before the break too.

1847: Time for Mick McCarthy to reshuffle his team in the absence of Stephen Ward. Defender George Elokobi replaces striker Kevin Doyle.

1845: And in many ways, that red card for Ward has put even more pressure on Liverpool. If they don't win now...

Red card
Confusion all round. Stephen Ward gives the ball away with a ridiculous backheel and Steven Gerrard plays in Lucas on the right, Ward cynically bringing down the Brazilian. Ref Andre Marriner - SOMEHOW - manages to bring out the card for Christophe Berra. The Liverpool players' complaints, along with the linesman, indicate he's got it all wrong and eventually Ward is off for his second yellow of the half, the first for a foul on Yossi Benayoun.

1842: RED CARD Wolves (Ward)

1839: This is much better from Liverpool, working the ball from the left across to Steven Gerrard, whose low shot from the edge of the box is well saved by Marcus Hahnemann.

1836: Alberto Aquilani bends a wicked ball in from the left, but Yossi Benyaoun can't control it and the ball just bounces off his foot.

1836: Leicester now 2-0 up, Matty Fryatt's penalty after he was fouled by Sheffield United defender Nick Mongomery.

1834: Liverpool's players back out nice and early. Wolves soon join them... and kick off the second half.

From Simon, Limerick, via text: "My wife is watching Merlin next door, my kids are running about screaming, and I'm 'watching' a nil-nil on my computer. C'mon Torres, give us a goal."

1830: In the Champ late, late game, Leicester take the lead on 25 minutes as goalkeeper Mark Bunn misjudges a punch attempting to clear Matt Oakley's corner, allowing Michael Morrison to head in for the opening goal.

Everton manager David Moyes: "I think Marouane Fellaini is probably the best midfielder in the country at the moment. He was exceptional today and his goal was reward for the way he played today."

From Steve, Pembrokeshire, via text: "Rafa must give Torres a chance and play Kuyt up top alongside him. My enjoyment of Christmas dinner number two depends on it!"

1826: Get well soon Ray Stubbs. The big man has been taken ill during the first half of Liverpool-Wolves and is missing from his ESPN presenter's chair at half-time. Poor Ray.

Man City midfielder Gareth Barry: "Yeah it's massive to take three points today. It's been a tough week but it's a new beginning. Any change in manager brings a change to the whole system."

From anon via text: "Re 1755: 'Where do you stand on zonal marking?' That's exactly the problem - where DO you stand?"

BBC 5 live summariser Jan Molby: "Liverpool made a good start but when they didn't get the goal, the confidence went, and Wolves have had some decent chances. This game is winnable for Wolves."

1817: HALF-TIME Liverpool 0-0 Wolves

1816: Wolves keeper Marcus Hahnemann makes a smart save, low to his left, from a sweetly struck Glen Johnson shot. Couple of minutes until half-time.

1813: Steven Gerrard's corner from the right goes behind before curling back in. Free-kick for Wolves. Typical of Liverpool's recent form.

1809: Deep cross from the left finds Kevin Foley completely unmarked. That is quite unbelievable defending. The Wolves defender can't do anything with it though and Pepe Reina, who came for the cross but didn't get it, can recover.

1807: It's throwing it down at Anfield as Rafa Benitez gets out of his seat to bellow some instructions at his team. This is pretty desperate stuff now.

1801: Steven Gerrard flies in with both feet to try to win the ball back on the right. Bit dangerous that, and he gets a ticking off from Andre Marriner. Gerrard appears to admit it was "stupid" as he shakes his head and smiles ruefully.

1759: Horribly mistimed challenge by Lucas on Stephen Ward but the Brazilian manages to avoid the first yellow of the game.

1759: Steven Gerrard takes on the Wolves defence, but instead of shooting, he backheels for Fernando Torres, who slices his effort wide.

1758: Nenad Milijas spins a shot wide from the edge of the box, and suddenly Liverpool's early confidence appears to have evaporated.

1755: "Where do you stand on zonal marking?" asks BBC 5 live commentator Alan Green. "I don't like it," summarises summariser Jan Molby.

1753: Wolves coming back into it a bit. Daniel Agger brings down Kevin Doyle on the left-hand edge of the box. Not sure if that was a cross or shot from Nenad Milijas, but either way, Pepe Reina does well to tip it over. From the corner, Doyle is completely unmarked right in front of goal but heads over. Should have scored, awful defending by Liverpool.

From BBC Sport's Phil McNulty, tweeting from Eastlands: "Roberto Mancini explains he was saving Craig Bellamy for a hectic programme of games ahead. 'Bellamy's my friend.' Will it stay that way?"

1748: Liverpool comfortably on top, but nothing to show for it. Daniel Agger tumbles over as a corner comes over, but Andre Marriner waves away the half-hearted penalty appeal.

1745: Fernando Torres wants a free-kick after Christophe Berra's challenge just outside the box, but nothing given. Wolves haven't really done much yet.

1742: A free-kick for Liverpool over by the touchline on the right. Fernando Torres escapes the defence to meet it with a header, but the ball just balloons up into the air.

1738: Emiliano Insua overhits his pass for Fernando Torres, but the Spaniard twists and turns to make space for the shot anyway, Marcus Hahnemann pushing it over the bar.

1734: Looks like Steven Gerrard is continuing his role in the hole for Liverpool, with Alberto Aquilani playing deeper. Glen Johnson makes one of his rampaging runs down the right and tries to chip the keeper but shoots beyond the far post.

1731: Fernando Torres and Alberto Aquilani kick us off at Anfield.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez after the 1-1 draw with Blackburn: "It must be the tightest table you are going to see for many years and I see it as an exciting challenge."

1726: Just scoffed a cheese straw and a satsuma, good to go again. Here come the teams at Anfield.

1718: Question for Big Sam: if you "come out and match them every department", surely you'd be quite pleased with a draw? No need to be hugely disappointed and down in the mouth, anyway.

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce: "We are sat here hugely disappointed and very down in the mouth in terms of we know we should have had three points to get us that bit further up the league. We've come out here and matched them in every department."

1710: City's win means they are two points behind fifth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand. Liverpool can move up to seventh above Birmingham with a win over Wolves. The bottom three are Bolton, Hull and Portsmouth.

1707: Several of you have pointed out that Wolves boss Mick McCarthy has fielded his full-strength team at Anfield, unlike at Old Trafford. Wolves' next game is at home to Manchester City on Monday.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Roberto Mancini starts his Manchester City reign with a win. Unlike City to do uneventful, but this was as close as it gets and just what Eastlands needed after a turbulent week."

Mancini on the busy festive period: "I love my job, and playing on Boxing Day is good for me."

Man City boss Roberto Mancini: "For me, today is a good match. The players were fantastic because Stoke are a hard team. For me in the first week, it's OK. The balance was important. Shay, for me, is the best keeper in England, top five in the world. Today, he did a good, good job. Robinho played well but after 70 minutes, he was tired and I need another player for a different situation. Robinho did a good job for me."

From Gerrardswhiskers on 606: "Are we going to play Aquaman in the hole - his preferred position - or is Gerrard going to stay there? I assume Benayoun is playing on the right wing. Means that we aren't going to see much attacking from Glen Johnson if Benayoun is playing on the right side as he doesn't track back as much as Kuyt. However think this match is going to be one-way traffic. Many goals for Liverpool."

1655: Roberto Mancini looks understandably very content as he celebrates winning on his debut as Man City boss - and masterminding only their second clean sheet since August in the Premier League.

1654: FULL-TIME Man City 2-0 Stoke

1654: FULL-TIME Sunderland 1-1 Everton

1653: FULL-TIME Wigan 1-1 Blackburn

1652: TEAM NEWS Liverpool v Wolves
As expected Alberto Aquilani makes his first Premier League start for Liverpool with Javier Mascherano beginning a four-match ban following his red card at Portsmouth. Fernando Torres is in the starting line-up despite a recurring groin injury while Yossi Benayoun returns as Rafael Benitez again shuffles his pack. Wolves boss Mick McCarthy has named the same side that beat Burnley 2-0. Kevin Foley continues in midfield with Dave Edwards sidelined by an ankle injury.

1651: TEAMS Liverpool v Wolverhampton
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Aquilani, Lucas, Benayoun, Gerrard, Aurelio, Torres. Subs: Cavalieri, Kuyt, Ngog, Spearing, Darby, Skrtel, Pacheco.
Wolverhampton: Hahnemann, Stearman, Craddock, Berra, Ward, Foley, Henry, Milijas, Jarvis, Ebanks-Blake, Doyle. Subs: Hennessey, Elokobi, Surman, Iwelumo, Mancienne, Maierhofer, Castillo.

Everton goal: The visitors get the goal their second-half play has deserved. Tony Hibbert's cross from the right is deflected into the path of Marouane Fellaini and the big-haired Belgian lashes the ball into the top of the net.

1646: GOALFLASH Sunderland 1-1 Everton (Fellaini)

Football League Macca: "Leeds look home and dry as they make it 3-1 against the Pools. Not so good news for L2 leaders Rochdale as they can't shake off pesky Crewe. The Dale led 2-1 but once again Crewe have levelled through Matt Tootle. Stockport have grabbed one back at MK Dons, but still trail 3-1, and Yeovil doubled and then trebled their advantage over Wycombe with two goals in three minutes. Blackpool are winning 2-0 at Derby and Aldershot are beating Barnet 4-0. Massacre."

1643: Craig Bellamy is FURIOUS after his penalty shout is turned down, the Welsh striker claiming he was pulled back by Robert Huth. I didn't see it properly, but BBC 5 live's Jimmy Armfield reckoned it was a very good shout, and that's good enough for me.

1642: Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland makes a point-blank save to prevent Benni McCarthy scoring a spectacular overhead kick for Blackburn. Still 1-1.

1639: News from Anfield: Alberto Aquilani starts for Liverpool. He must be a new signing or something. Dirk Kuyt dropped to the bench.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Not sure what Roberto Mancini would have made of that - a standing ovation for Craig Bellamy as he walks from the bench to replace Robinho seconds after another moment of carelessness from the Brazilian. Robinho milked the applause for all it was worth, slightly embarrassing seeing as it was not actually for him."

Football League Macca: "West Brom lead Peterborough through Luke Moore and a Ryan Bennett own goal. A win would see them narrow Newcastle's lead to eight points. It could be a merry Cherry Christmas for Bournemouth fans as they lead at Cheltenham. Bit of a flurry of goals in L2 as Accrington go 2-0 up against Morecambe and Aldershot do likewise against Barnet. Then Aldershot make it 3-0 and Morecambe grab one back. Easy lads. Crewe have levelled against Rochdale. Stop now please."

1633: Steven Pienaar sends a 25-yard piledriver just past the post for Everton. Unlucky.

1631: Huge roar from the home fans at Eastlands as Craig Bellamy steps forward, and no surprise that he replaces the disappointing Robinho. The Brazilian at least sticks around to watch the rest of the game, instead of flouncing off down the tunnel. He gets a pat on the back from Roberto Mancini as he sits on the bench, but the Italian surely can't have been that impressed with his most expensive player.

1629: Everton keeper Tim Howard tips over brilliantly from Paulo da Silva's header. Sunderland still with a one-goal lead.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Stoke City just getting a little hope as Manchester City keeper Shay Given saves superbly from James Beattie and Robert Huth heads the resulting corner just wide. Tony Pulis is jumping about in frustration in the technical area. He knows City have been vulnerable at the back but Stoke just cannot exploit it."

1626: Roberto Mancini makes his first substitution as Manchester City boss, Micah Richards replacing the ageing legs of Sylvinho, who's had a decent game. Pablo Zabaleta will switch to left-back.

1624: I would like a goal now please... Not a bad effort from Stoke striker James Beattie, chesting the ball down and smashing a volley - but Shay Given turns it around the post. From the corner, Robert Huth heads wide.

A contrite Football League Macca: "Middlesbrough and MK Dons look like they're got the three points wrapped. Boro lead Scunny 3-0 after Jeremie Aliadiere's goal and the Dons are equally in front courtesy of Nigel Quashie's efforts. League Two leaders Rochdale literally cannot stop winning. They lead Crewe as they chase a seventh win in a row. Apologies to Shrews fans. Of course they don't play at Gay Meadow any more. I meant New Meadow. I really am very sorry as well as red-faced."

1615: You know when Sam Allardyce is in the stands and he uses his walkie-talkie thing? Do you think he says "over" at the end of every sentence? "Charlie, charlie, oscar, Benni, over."

1615: Everton striker Louis Saha flashes a shot just wide of Marton Fulop's left-hand post. Sunderland still 1-0 up.

Wigan goal: Jason Scotland holds the ball up in the box and plays it out to Charles N'Zogbia, whose left-wing cross is headed in by Hugo Rodallega for his seventh league goal.

1611: GOALFLASH Wigan 1-1 Blackburn (Rodallega)

1609: That tackle appears to have put an end to Andy Wilkinson's afternoon. He is replaced by Robert Huth in Stoke's defence.

1607: And City are so close to making it 3-0. Andy Wilkinson makes a perfectly-timed sliding tackle in the box but the ball comes out to Martin Petrov, whose shot is parried by Thomas Sorensen. Just as Robinho looks set to knock in the rebound, Sorensen does brilliantly to palm the ball out of his path.

1606: And the games at Eastlands and the Stadium of Light are up and running again.

1603: Someone's in a hurry. They're back under way at the DW Stadium where Blackburn lead Wigan by one goal to nil.

West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola after the win over Portsmouth: "It was a massive, massive result in terms of points and belief. I knew it wasn't going to be comfortable. There is a lot of pressure and tension and you have to suffer until the end. They were like lions - we kept our composure until the end and we deserved it."

A red-faced Football League Macca: "I might have gone a bit early on the old half-time chat as the goals are still coming in. Leeds have only gone and popped in a second goal before the break, they lead Hartlepool 2-1 through Luciano Becchio and Reading grabbed an equaliser against Swansea. Check this out though: at Gay Meadow we've had three goals in first-half injury time and Macclesfield lead Shrewsbury 2-1. No kidding."

1555: FULL-TIME Burnley 1-1 Bolton

1554: Into injury time at Turf Moor where Bolton are clinging on to a 1-1 draw against home specialists Burnley.

Football League Macca: "Leeds got a leveller at home to the Pools shortly before the half-time whistle went peep around the grounds. Hot-shot Jermaine Beckford got their goal. Yeovil lead Wycombe, Blackpool are beating Derby at Pride Park, Swansea are winning at Reading and Macclesfield are ahead at Shrewsbury."

1550: HALF-TIME Wigan 0-1 Blackburn

1550: HALF-TIME Sunderland 1-0 Everton

1549: HALF-TIME Man City 2-0 Stoke

Man City goal: Pablo Zalabeta crosses from deep and Gareth Barry heads on for Carlos Tevez, who gets a toe to the ball to just about beat the despairing dive of Thomas Sorensen.

1548: GOALFLASH Man City 2-0 Stoke (Tevez)

1545: Paul Robinson makes an excellent save from Wigan striker Jason Scotland. Blackburn still 1-0 up at the DW Stadium.

1544: Gareth Barry plays in Sylvinho on the left. Stoke fans must be holding their breath as his cross comes all the way across to Martin Petrov at the far post, but the Bulgarian slices his shot horribly (with his weak right foot) - straight into a crowd of those Stoke fans.

1543: David Nugent charges into the box but shoots wide from a difficult angle for Burnley.

1541: Despite going a goal down, Everton are pushing forward and passing the ball around with neat precision. Louis Saha has fluffed a couple of half chances, but Steven Pienaar is looking a threat with the ball at his feet every time the visitors push forward. Burnley dominating at home to Bolton, but it's still 1-1 with about eight minutes remaining.

1538: A footballing lull, so I'll tell you that Kauto Star has won the King George VI Chase at Kempton for the fourth time in a row. He can have an extra sugar lump for that. (He's a horse).

Football League Macca: "So the Premier League leaders and the top dogs in the Champo are both held. What news of League One leaders Leeds? They're only losing at home to Hartlepool. Football and Christmas eh? Easter has arrived at Milton Keynes. Jermaine Easter that is, putting them 2-0 ahead against Stockport. Middlesbrough lead Scunthorpe, Southampton are 2-0 ahead against Exeter and Lincoln are 1-0 up against Chesterfield."

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Very timely goal for Manchester City from Martin Petrov - because it came just as loud applause had broken out for substitute Craig Bellamy as he warmed up along the touchline, perhaps sending a message to new manager Roberto Mancini. Always good to end any argument with a goal."

Blackburn goal: Benni McCarthy scores for Rovers, side footing the ball beyond Chris Kirkland from Ryan Nelsen's header on.

Man City goal: Carlos Tevez makes a run down the left, and two Stoke defenders are backing off. Robinho hopelessly mis-kicks Tevez's ball across the box, but Martin Petrov is at the far post to tap in. A thumbs up from Roberto Mancini.

1529: GOALFLASH Wigan 0-1 Blackburn (McCarthy)

1528: GOALFLASH Man City 1-0 Stoke (Petrov)

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish: "Chelsea always had a goal threat but the concentration of our players was fantastic. To go 10 games unbeaten is a phenomenal achievement."

1525: Stoke should have taken the lead at Eastlands but keeper Shay Given comes rushing from his goal to make a superb block to deny Tuncay.

1524: Another delicious cross by Kewnyne Jones, but an unmarked Andy Reid decides to head it away to safety. Curious.

Sunderland goal: Darren Bent beats Johnny Heitinga in the air and heads the ball out to Kenwyne Jones on the right, the striker darting into the area to meet an inch-perfect cross and head in his 11th league goal of the season.

1520: GOALFLASH Sunderland 1-0 Everton (Bent)

Burnley goal: A deserved equaliser for Burnley as Wade Elliott provides the cross from the right and David Nugent outjumps the Bolton defence to nod home from a few yards.

1518: GOALFLASH Burnley 1-1 Bolton (Nugent)

Portsmouth boss Avram Grant: "It wasn't a great game. We lost but we need to look forward. It's a game of goals and we didn't score. [On survival] It is a long long way to go but I think we can do it."

1515: Bright start from City, for whom Robinho, Carlos Tevez and Martin Petrov have all had plenty of the ball. Stoke starting to settle now though.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1514: And now Matt Taylor hits the bar for Bolton, who still lead 1-0. Is today the Premier League's way of paying us back for all those first-half-of-the-season goals?

Football League Macca: "Great finish at The Valley, especially if you're a Charlton fan. The nine-man Addicks had fallen 2-1 down but Miguel Angel Llera popped up late doors to earn a point. Elsewhere, bottom-of-the-table Plymouth beat near-the-top-of-the-table Cardiff, Ipswich lost 3-1 at Palace, QPR knocked off Bristol City 2-1, Colchester downed Southend 2-1, Norwich outscored Millwall 2-0 and neither Brighton nor Leyton Orient could manage a goal in their game. It finished 0-0."

Someone has struck the woodwork
Someone has struck the woodwork
1511: Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson has to sprint back to claw the ball away, preventing Chris Samba from scoring an embarrassing own goal. DOUBLE WOODWORK! At the Stadium of Light, Leon Osman shaves the outside of the post with a sweetly-struck right-foot shot, and at Turf Moor, where they're in to the second half, Burnley's Kevin McDonald 20-yard piledriver hits the bar.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Great ovation from the Manchester City supporters for new manager Roberto Mancini - who once again displays his love of a big scarf. Applause too from City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak and chief executive Garry Cook, who have a lot riding on the Italian's appointment. Cook, in particular, has had a torrid week after the desperately uncomfortable press conference to unveil Mancini."

1506: Almost an own goal by Wigan defender Titus Bramble, who slides in on Benni McCarthy's cross, and sees the ball squirm just wide of the post. To be fair to Bramble, without his intervention, the Blackburn striker behind him probably would have scored.

1501: They're under way at Wigan, but I've got better news than that: Roberto Mancini is wearing a lovely sky blue and white scarf. Good start, Bobby. Everyone loves a man who can accessorise. Right? And while I've been wittering on about that, all three 3pm kick-offs have, er, kicked off.

From an even more depressed Pompey fan, who is turning to the beer now for festive cheer, via text: "Fair play to West Ham, they have done what we don't seem to be able to do and made the most of their chances. I said if we lost this game we would go down. I'm really hoping I'm wrong."

1457: And another correction: Everton obviously do have an AWFUL LOT of injury worries. Just no more than usual.

1454: A welcome win for the Hammers, who climb up to 16th - at least for a few hours. Portsmouth stay rock bottom, four points from safety.

1453: FULL-TIME West Ham 2-0 Portsmouth

1452: FULL-TIME Fulham 0-0 Tottenham

1452: Chelsea's lead? Yeah, it's five points. Appalling maths on my part...

1451: HALF-TIME Burnley 0-1 Bolton

West Ham goal: Relief for the home fans as West Ham finally make the points safe. Luis Jimenez's cross is met by a firm header from Radoslav Kovac.

1448: GOAL West Ham 2-0 Portsmouth

1447: Lovely move by Fulham, as Bobby Zamora plays in the overlapping Damien Duff, whose cross-shot is only inches away from Clint Dempsey at the far post. A quick message for web users who reside in the UK, a manual refresh will bring you the delights of Final Score.

1445: Chelsea's stuttering form continues, although a win at an in-form Birmingham was by no means a given. They'll have a five-point lead ahead of Manchester United's trip to Hull tomorrow.

1444: FULL-TIME Birmingham 0-0 Chelsea

1442: TEAM NEWS Sunderland v Everton
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce makes four changes from the side that lost to Manchester City last week, with Paraguay international Paulo da Silva replacing the suspended Michael Turner in central defence, while Phil Bardsley slots in at right-back. Captain Lorik Cana returns to the centre of midfield in place of Lee Cattermole, who is missing because of a hamstring strain. Up front, Kenwyne Jones replaces Fraizer Campbell. No new injury worries for Everton manager David Moyes, who names an unchanged starting XI from that the side that drew 1-1 with Birmingham.

1442: Mark Schwarzer makes his first save of note for Fulham - after 81 minutes at Craven Cottage. He dives full stretch to his right to parry Peter Crouch's well-struck volley from the edge of the box before getting to his feet to prevent Jermaine Jenas burying the rebound.

1440: West Ham looking edgy again and sub Kevin Boateng is looking lively for Portsmouth as he sees his volley saved by Rob Green. 91% of Upton Park nibbling their finger nails.

1439: TEAM NEWS Wigan v Blackburn
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez's only change from the side that lost to Liverpool sees Jason Scotland come in for the injured Mohamed Diame. Blackburn, who have scored just once in their last six league games, make just two changes for the trip to Wigan, the side with the leakiest defence in the league. Defender Christopher Samba returns from a stomach bug while Keith Andrews comes in for injured midfielder Vince Grella.

Red card
Florent Malouda is on his way after picking up his second yellow for a late, sliding challenge on Stephen Carr. Not sure he can complain about that one. They're in injury time at St Andrew's.

1436: RED CARD Chelsea (Malouda)

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "New Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini makes his game plan clear in his programme notes as he writes: 'Fans can expect an attacking style from our team. You cannot win games without scoring goals.' So this means Robinho gets a chance to start with Craig Bellamy on the bench and the excellent Martin Petrov restored. Interesting choice to prefer Robinho to Bellamy - I suspect I know which one City fans would prefer on recent evidence."

1434: TEAMS Sunderland v Everton
Sunderland: Fulop, McCartney, Mensah, Da Silva, Bardsley, Malbranque, Cana, Henderson, Reid, Bent, Jones. Subs: Carson, Nosworthy, Zenden, Campbell, Murphy, Meyler, Healy.
Everton: Howard, Baines, Heitinga, Neill, Hibbert, Pienaar, Osman, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov, Saha, Cahill. Subs: Nash, Vaughan, Neville, Yakubu, Coleman, Duffy, Baxter.

Bolton goal: Against the run of play. Andre Bikey fouls Kevin Davies and Matt Taylor curls home a stunning free-kick, running the length of the pitch to celebrate with the visiting fans.

1431: GOALFLASH Burnley 0-1 Bolton (Taylor)

1429: Heurelho Gomes is at full stretch to palm Bobby Zamora's goalbound header behind. Time for a double change from 'Arry. Jermain Defoe and Luka Modric replace Niko Kranjcar and Robbie Keane.

1428: Chelsea have replaced the disappointing Frank Lampard with Joe Cole. Interesting. Less than 10 minutes left at St Andrew's and still goalless.

1427: TEAMS Man City v Stoke
Man City: Given, Zabaleta, Toure, Kompany, Sylvinho, De Jong, Barry, Robinho, Ireland, Petrov, Tevez. Subs: Taylor, Richards, Garrido, Vidal, Bellamy, Weiss, Boyata.
Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Abdoulaye Faye, Collins, Higginbotham, Sanli, Whitehead, Diao, Whelan, Etherington, Sidibe. Subs: Simonsen, Huth, Lawrence, Beattie, Fuller, Pugh, Delap.

1425: What on earth is Bolton defender Zat Knight up to? He appears to wait for Wade Elliott to take the ball - and the Burnley striker is very pleased to accept. He squares for Steven Fletcher, who sidefoots wastefully wide.

Football League Macca: "I wonder what Roy Keane's worst ever Xmas present was. Anyway, his side have thrown away a 1-0 lead and trail 2-1 at Palace now. Neil Danns has done the damage. Colchester lead 2-0 at Southend and Bristol C have pulled one back at QPR. High-flying Norwich are 2-0 up at home to Millwall."

1423: Tottenham have come into the game more after half-time but Fulham go close again when a Bobby Zamora header is clawed away by Heurelho Gomes.

1422: TEAMS Wigan v Blackburn
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Bramble, Boyce, Figueroa, N'Zogbia, Scharner, Thomas, Gomez, Scotland, Rodallega. Subs: Kingson, Amaya, Cho, Sinclair, De Ridder, McCarthy, Bouaouzan.
Blackburn: Robinson, Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen, Givet, Salgado, Nzonzi, Andrews, Hoilett, McCarthy, Di Santo. Subs: Brown, Jacobsen, Roberts, Pedersen, Diouf, Kalinic, Jones.

1420: Big shout for a penalty at Turf Moor as Bolton defender Gary Cahill appears to push David Nugent. Chris Foy not interested though.

1419: Salomon Kalou making a difference for Chelsea, the Ivory Coast striker forcing Joe Hart into another superb save.

1417: Salomon Kalou does brilliantly to keep the ball in play on the right and hold off several defenders. He clips the ball to Florent Malouda, who is completely unmarked but slices his shot horribly. Should have scored.

1416: Some early news from Manchester City where Roberto Mancini has made five changes for his first game as City boss. Robinho plays, as does Martin Petrov, while Craig Bellamy is on the bench.

1414: Juliano Belletti meets Frank Lampard's cross at the near-post and flashes a volley across goal and behind. Chelsea make their first change as Daniel Sturridge - who missed a good chance right at the end of the first half in a fairly average all-round display - is replaced by Salomon Kalou.

1413: Half-shout for a penalty after Roger Johnson gets a push in the back from Alex as the corner comes over. Optimistic half-shout.

Football League Macca: "It's all getting a bit naughty out there. The fifth red card of the day has gone Brentford's way as Charlie MacDonald trudges off (probably) after a second yellow card. It's 10-a-side at Gillingham. There could be a shock at Hillsborough as Sheff Wed have levelled against leaders Newcastle. The Magpies aren't happy though as Steve Harper was challenged in the air by Luke Varney before the ball fell to James O'Connor to finish. In the Southend-Colchester derby the visitors are ahead through Philip Ifil."

1409: Sebastian Larsson lines up a free-kick about 25 yards out. His set-pieces have been pretty poor so far - but that's much, much better, forcing Petr Cech to scramble across his line and push it around the post. The keeper collides with the woodwork and needs a spot of treatment.

1406: Hammers close to a second. Alessandro Diamanti's shot loops off Portsmouth defender Steve Finnan, forcing Asmir Begovic into a fingertip save.

1404: Second half up and running between Fulham and Tottenham, and indeed West Ham and Portsmouth.

1402: Peep peep. They're under way at Burnley-Bolton. A Lancashire hot-pot if you like (which you probably don't, and I don't blame you).

1400: There's really not a lot of interest happening at St Andrew's... oh wait, here's Ashley Cole on a marauding overlapping run. Florent Malouda plays him in but Roger Johnson comes across to block the shot.

From Superyid via text: "I was given an empty box this year and was told that it was an Action Man deserter."

1356: A depressed Pompey fan wants to know how many penalties his side have conceded this season. The answer is seven. That's the most in the Prem. West Ham have won seven, which is also the most in the Prem. Neat huh?

Football League Macca: "The Christmas cheer is in short supply down at The Valley where it's only coming up to half-time and referee Pat Miller has already sent off Sam Sodje and Deon Burton from the home side. Charlton are in front through Jonjo Shelvey but face playing the second half against Swindon with just nine men. Gillingham's Josh Gowling has got a second yellow against Brentford and he's off for an early one as well."

1353: Off we go again at St Andrews. No changes by either manager.

From Dazman in Cannock, via text: "A few years ago, I had a small box under the tree. A ring or watch I thought? Turned out to be paperclips."

1352: One goal in three games? Call this the best league in the world? Pah!

1349: HALF-TIME West Ham 1-0 Portsmouth

1347: HALF-TIME Fulham 0-0 Tottenham

1347: Lovely work from Scott Parker, a neat bit of skill giving the space to set up West Ham team-mate Jack Collison, who drags a good chance wide. Hammers leading 1-0 with half-time fast approaching.

Football League Macca:"It's all happening at the Palace and it's not exactly Christmas joy for Roy. Palace are back on level terms through Jose Fonte and moments later Ipswich are down to 10 men following Jon Stead's red card for a spot of serious foul play. Better news for new QPR boss Paul Hart as Mikele Leigertwood has just put his boys 2-0 up at home to Bristol C. Oh, Jay Simpson got the first by the way."

From I tried to teach Bent the offside rule... on 606: "The Fulham-Spurs match is awful. Our Spurs players look like they had way to much to eat at Christmas dinner. We've been far too languid."

1342: I feel bad. All my presents were excellent. I have no complaints. My colleague was saying the other day he once got a pad of A4 for Christmas.

From daveblueski on 606: "Worst present. Dalek bubble bath. Never seen Dr Who and only have showers."

1336: HALF-TIME Birmingham 0-0 Chelsea

Someone has struck the woodwork
1334: Bar shuddering at Craven Cottage as Clint Dempsey's 30-yard free-kick thumps the woodwork.

1332: TEAM NEWS Burnley v Bolton
Burnley are without regular centre-backs Steven Caldwell and Clarke Carlisle, so Michael Duff is set to partner Andre Bikey at the back, while David Nugent is also back in the team. Bolton boss Gary Megson replaces the suspended Fabrice Muamba with Chris Basham.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1329: Boof! Chelsea defender Alex thunders a 40-yard free-kick onto the bar, the ball bouncing outside the penalty area on the rebound. What a hit.

1328: TEAMS Burnley v Bolton
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey, Jordan, Elliott, McDonald, Alexander, Eagles, Nugent, Steven Fletcher. Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Edgar, Blake, Thompson, Guerrero.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Lee, Basham, Cohen, Taylor, Kevin Davies, Klasnic. Subs: Al Habsi, Samuel, Elmander, Gardner, Mark Davies, Ricketts, Andrew O'Brien.

Football League Macca: "Everyone is jumping on the goals bandwagon now. Ben 'feast of' Strevens has put Brentford ahead away to Gillingham and Wesley Ho-Ho-Hoolahan has only gone and put Norwich in front at home to Millwall. And Jaime Peters could even have put a smile on Roy Keane's face by sending Ipswich into the lead at Palace."

1326: Jon Obi Mikel drags back Cameron Jerome, handing Birmingham a promising free-kick on the right. NO! The referee overturns his official's decision, and gives the free-kick the other way. Home fans feeling very aggrieved now.

West Ham goal: Ball bouncing around the box, and substitute Luis Jimenez takes a touch before tumbling over the outstretched leg of Hayden Mullins. Alessandro Diamanti drives home the penalty for his third goal in three games.

1323: GOALFLASH West Ham 1-0 Portsmouth (Diamanti)

1320: Not quiet at St Andrews - not in any way. Birmingham have a goal chalked off - and it looks harsh. Didier Drogba lies injured on his own six-yard line as Liam Ridgewell stabs the ball goalwards, with Chucho Benitez nudging the ball over the line. Benitez is flagged offside - but he looks level with Drogba on the replays.

1319: A very nervy start from the table's bottom two clubs. Both keepers will still have cold hands with little action up front. An early blow for West Ham though with Mark Noble hobbling off and Luis Jimenez comes on from the bench. All strangely quiet at Upton Park.

From Chewie in Brighton via text: "Worst present? I got a notebook. And that's it!"

1316: Another excellent save from Joe Hart, this time from Frank Lampard, who beats the offside trap.

1314: Fulham come close to taking the lead three times in quick succession. A Zoltan Gera shot is deflected wide, Danny Murphy has a shot tipped over by keeper Heurelho Gomes and Chris Baird sends a header wide.

1313: Birmingham striker Chucho Benitez is flagged offside from a ball over the top. He's not.

Football League Macca: "We've have our first goals of the day and they have all come at Hillsborough. All three of them. Sheff Wed took the lead through a Luke Varney header, but their joy lasted less than five minutes as the in-form Kevin Nolan levelled moments ago with a tidy header from a right-wing by Danny Guthrie. Oh and they've gone ahead now. Great goal by Shola Ameobi. Neat turn, beats the next man before slamming home. Take that. He was miles offside though."

1311: Branislav Ivanovic crosses from deep on the right and Didier Drogba meets it with a crisp volley - wide. Seconds later, Daniel Sturridge spins and sends a shot towards the bottom corner, Birmingham keeper Joe Hart making a fabulous save.

1309: John Pantsil drives in a cross and Zoltan Gera tries to flick it home, Zola-style, but it goes straight to Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes.

From Anonymous via text on 81111 on 606: "Worst present: A remote control mouse."

1308: James McFadden gallops down the left for Birmingham. What's the cross like? AWFUL. Boots it straight into the crowd.

1305: Word reaches me that Fulham's defensive rock Brede Hangeland slipped during the warm-up and there was some doubt over whether he'd be able to line up against Spurs. He has though, the brave soldier.

1304: Fulham winger Damien Duff tries a half-volley from just outside the box. Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes can only block it, but his defence tidy up for him.

From anon via text: "Who wins the 'worst present' award this year? I'll start off with an Il Divo album. Brutal. More importantly, however, West Ham's recovery continues today. C'mon you Hammers."

1301: And now Fulham v Tottenham joins the kick-off party.

1300: The bottom two derby between West Ham and Portsmouth is under way at Upton Park.

1259: Close. Branislav Ivanovic glances a header just over the bar from Florent Malouda's corner, the ball brushing the top of the net.

1256: Plenty of possession for Chelsea, but nothing to trouble Birmingham so far. This, by the way, is Didier Drogba's last game before he joins up with Ivory Coast ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. And Salomon Kalou's, which probably won't trouble Chelsea fans so much.

Football League Macca: "It's half-time at Vicarage Road and still 0-0 between Watford and Nottingham Forest. It's also goalless between Gillingham and Brentford after 15 minutes. Don't worry, goals will be along shortly."

1249: Chance for Birmingham already. Cameron Jerome outpaces Alex and muscles his way into the box but prods the shot over. Encouraging sign for the hosts.

1248: Yes, Chelsea are in white shirts and black shorts, rather than their blue and black striped numbers. We're under way.

From lampard-legend on 606: "Woo hoo! We're not playing in our jinxed shirt."

1243: Out come the teams at St Andrews. Bright sunshine in Birmingham.

1240: Later on of course, Roberto Mancini takes charge of his first game as Manchester City boss in the home game against Stoke. He is the 14th permanent appointment City have made during Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure at Old Trafford. "Fourteenth? Is that all?" scoffed Fergie. "I can't wait for the 20th." He went on: "It's a difficult job being in a city with Manchester United and the success they've had over the years and, therefore, there is always a moment where they think they can upstage us or something and I think them getting Carlos Tevez was one of those moments."

1235: TEAM NEWS West Ham v Portsmouth
West Ham start with the same XI that finished the game against Chelsea last week. Guillermo Franco plays up front, defender James Tomkins keeps his place, while Valon Behrami makes the bench after overcoming a knee injury. As for Portsmouth, injured keeper David James is replaced again by Asmir Begovic, Hayden Mullins is in the midfield and Algerian Nadir Belhadj plays his last game before heading to the African Nations Cup.

From rsherr on 606: "Keane ahead of goal scoring Defoe hmm... I think Redknapp has probably told him to put in a shift for a change or start packing his bags!"

From Philip, Chippenham, via text: "Re 1226 text: The other part feels Chelsea will turn up and win 4-0 and I will look stupid for even contemplating a Birmingham victory."

1231: TEAM NEWS Fulham v Tottenham
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson decides to stick with the same team which impressively beat Manchester United last time out. The Cottagers do have striker Andrew Johnson back as a substitute. Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp drops Jermain Defoe to the bench and he is replaced with Robbie Keane in attack. Tom Huddlestone is another to make way as Jermaine Jenas comes in for him in midfield.

From David, Chester, via text: "Got a positive pregnancy test from the wife for Christmas. She told me that the last one was the last so was major surprise (I had asked for an X-Box but hey...) On plus side she has said I can call the new addition Harry if we finish top four. Come on you Spurs!"

1226: TEAMS Fulham v Tottenham
Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Duff, Murphy, Baird, Gera, Dempsey, Zamora. Subs: Stockdale, Andrew Johnson, Nevland, Etuhu, Smalling, Greening, Kallio.
Tottenham: Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Jenas, Palacios, Kranjcar, Keane, Crouch. Subs: Alnwick, Bale, Huddlestone, Pavlyuchenko, Modric, Defoe, King.

From Philip, Chippenham, via text: "Massive game for Spurs today. A win puts us as serious contenders for the top four. Part of me thinks Birmingham can cause a Christmas shock at home to Chelsea!"
Wonder what the other part of Philip from Chippenham thinks...?

1220: TEAMS West Ham v Portsmouth
West Ham: Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Collison, Kovac, Parker, Diamanti, Noble, Franco. Subs: Stech, Jimenez, Spector, Behrami, Da Costa, Nouble, Stanislas.
Portsmouth: Begovic, Finnan, Kaboul, Ben-Haim, Hreidarsson, O'Hara, Brown, Mullins, Belhadj, Piquionne, Dindane. Subs: Ashdown, Diop, Utaka, Boateng, Kanu, Yebda, Wilson.

1216: As promised, here's Football League Macca: "As well as some cracking Premier League action, Christmas is also about those less well off. We'll be aiming to keep you bang up to date with all the Football League action that escapes the weather. We've just had our first Championship casualty, with Preston-Barnsley called off for safety reasons. In League One, Bristol Rovers-Walsall, Carlisle-Huddersfield and Oldham-Tranmere have gone, while in League Two Bury-Bradford, Notts Co-Grimsby, Port Vale-Burton and Rotherham-Darlo players can all get back to their families and mince pies."

From crispybanksy on Twitter: "I asked for an espresso/latte machine and got a filter coffee maker - no it ISN'T THE SAME! Bring on the football.."

1215: TEAM NEWS Birmingham v Chelsea
Birmingham name an unchanged line-up for the visit of Premier League leaders Chelsea, who make four changes as they bring in Alex, Juliano Belletti, John Obi Mikel and Daniel Sturridge for Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Salomon Kalou.

1213: TEAMS Birmingham v Chelsea
Birmingham: Hart, Carr, Roger Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden, Jerome, Benitez. Subs: Maik Taylor, Phillips, Fahey, McSheffrey, Damien Johnson, Carsley, Vignal.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Ashley Cole, Belletti, Mikel, Malouda, Lampard, Drogba, Sturridge. Subs: Hilario, Carvalho, Joe Cole, Ballack, Zhirkov, Paulo Ferreira, Kalou.

From Nicky P via text: "Re 1157: I stayed at some mates this Christmas and they don't like bread sauce either. I had to make my own and they all tried some and loved it so wasn't enough for me! Converted some non-lovers though which is the main thing. The first mouthful of pigs in blankets and bread sauce... mmmm!"

1206: Ha ha. No, I don't still live with my parents. I was merely visiting as I believe is traditional around this time of year. Anyway, quick weather update: Wigan v Blackburn definitely goes ahead as do all today's Prem fixtures. Macca is about to update you with the Football League news.

From Alex, Cirencester, via text: "Re 1157: Bread sauce is outstanding."

From The Binocular on 606: "Let's face it, as good as Christmas was, Boxing Day is pretty much the same but with football and therefore better."

1157: Best thing that happened to me this Christmas? My dad got up special early this morning to make me porridge before I set off for work. Aw. I have almost forgiven him for not liking bread sauce. No doubt you'll have some tales of joy to share, so whack me a text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (the world), get on 606 or Twitter.

1153: Now if you ask me, these Premier League kick-off times look like they've had one too many Christmas sherries… Today we shall feast on an amuse bouche of Birmingham v Chelsea (1245), a starter of Fulham v Tottenham accompanied by a dash of West Ham v Portsmouth (1300), before a palate cleanser of Burnley v Bolton (1400). Mains: Man City v Stoke, Sunderland v Everton, Wigan v Blackburn (1500). Pud: Liverpool v Wolverhampton (1730).

1145: Hello you. Boxing Day here at BBC Sport towers has begun with a stomach-turning discussion about nasal hair trimmers and their possible uses, plus a general whinge about the rubbish telly on Christmas Day. Praise be for football then, which promises to keep us out of trouble until at least 1930 GMT. BRING IT.

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Premier League table

Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:28 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
Full Premier League table
1 Chelsea 19 28 42
2 Man Utd 18 20 37
3 Arsenal 17 24 35
4 Aston Villa 18 15 35
5 Tottenham 19 18 34
6 Man City 18 8 32
7 Liverpool 19 11 30
8 Birmingham 19 1 29
9 Fulham 18 6 27
10 Sunderland 19 -3 22
11 Stoke 18 -7 21
12 Blackburn 19 -15 20
13 Burnley 19 -16 20
14 Everton 18 -8 19
15 Wolves 19 -16 19
16 Wigan 18 -18 19
17 West Ham 19 -7 18
18 Bolton 17 -10 17
19 Hull 18 -20 17
20 Portsmouth 19 -11 14

see also
Premier League photos
26 Dec 09 |  Football
Football on the BBC
11 Aug 10 |  Football

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