Arsenal FC opened up a four-point lead at the top of the English Premiership on Thursday, but they were forced to work hard for their 2-1 away victory at West Bromwich Albion FC.
Henry the hero
Thierry Henry beat West Brom goalkeeper Russell Hoult five minutes from time to clinch the points after Francis Jeffers had cancelled out Daniel Dichio's early goal for the hosts. With Chelsea FC drawing 0-0 at home to Southampton FC, Arsenal lead the table with 42 points from 20 games, four more than their London rivals.
West Brom took a third-minute lead when Dichio powerfully headed in a corner, and the champions struggled to create openings for the rest of the half. But they were level three minutes into the second period when Jeffers pounced from close range, and Henry kept his cool after Patrick Vieira charged down Adam Chambers' attempted clearance.
Chelsea FC squandered the chance to go top when they were held to goalless draw at Stamford Bridge by a tenacious Southampton side. Claudio Ranieri's in-form side struck the post through Gianfranco Zola but had to be content with a point as they extended their unbeaten league run to eleven games.
Manchester United FC trail Arsenal by seven points following a surprise 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough FC. In a match that pitted United manager Sir Alex Ferguson against former assistant Steve McLaren, it was the hosts who drew first blood when Alen Boksic finished superbly a minute before the interval. Szilard Nemeth extended Middlesbrough's lead on 48 minutes, before Ryan Giggs pulled a goal back on the hour. Despite United's best efforts, the home side held firm and made sure of the points when Joseph Desire Job added a third five minutes from time.
Fourth-placed Everton FC held on to secure a 1-1 draw at Birmingham City, despite having Wayne Rooney sent off nine minutes from the end. Birmingham's United States international Jovan Kirovski cancelled out Tomasz Radzinski's opener on the stroke of half-time, before Rooney, Everton's highly rated 17-year-old striker, was given his marching orders for showing his studs in a tackle on the hosts' Steve Vickers.
Liverpool FC's poor run continued as they drew 1-1 at home against Blackburn Rovers FC. John Arne Riise fired a deflected 17th-minute opener, before Andy Cole's 30-metre volley doused Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier's festive spirits. Liverpool have now taken only three points from a possible 24 in the last eight league matches.
Milner breaks record
James Milner became the youngest Premiership scorer as Leeds United AFC came from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Stadium of Light. The 16-year-old beat Rooney's record by five days when he scored after 51 minutes to cancel out Michael Proctor's goal for Sunderland. Robbie Fowler then kept his cool to convert his 80th-minute penalty and give manager Terry Venables's side a vital three points to lift them clear of the relegation zone.
Manchester City FC are eleventh after their 3-1 home win against Aston Villa FC. Marc-Vivien Foe opened the scoring on 15 minutes but City were pegged back by Dion Dublin's 41st-minute equaliser. Substitute Ali Benarbia then restored City's lead with 12 minutes remaining and Foe scored his fifth goal in his last four appearances three minutes later to make sure.
West Ham held
Bottom club West Ham United FC's search for their first home win of the season continued after they were held 1-1 by Fulham FC. Facundo Sava gave Fulham the lead four minutes after half-time but West Ham, who had Czech defender Tomas Repka sent off in the final minute, earned a point through Trevor Sinclair's 65th-minute penalty.
Hosts fight back
Tottenham Hotspur FC recovered from two goals down at home to draw 2-2 against Charlton Athletic FC. Jason Euell gave the visitors a two-goal cushion with strikes in the 14th and 49th minutes, but the hosts hit back with a Robbie Keane strike on 68 minutes and Steffen Iversen's 88th-minute equaliser. Spurs had German wing-back Christian Ziege sent off for the second successive game in stoppage time.
A thrilling encounter at Bolton wanderers FC's Reebok stadium saw the hosts emerge with all three points after securing a remarkable 4-3 victory over Newcastle United FC. Bolton took the lead through Jay-Jay Okocha but Alan Shearer equalised shortly afterwards. Ricardo Gardener restored the hosts' advantage, before Michael Ricketts scored twice either side of half-time to make it 4-1. Newcastle reduced the deficit with goals from Shola Ameobi and Shearer's second of the match, but Bolton hung on for a valuable win.
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