FOOTBALL – In the Premier League, only ten points separate 12 clubs from Aston Villa in 9th place to Bolton at the bottom.
But Manchester City, who lost for the first time this season at Chelsea 2-1, only lead neighbours United (4-1 winners over Wolves with braces for Wayne Rooney and Nani) by two points and not five!
Chelsea are now third. Thanks to Robin Van Persie 34th goal of 2011, Arsenal celebrated their 125th birthday, by beating Everton 1-0. The Dutchman is now only two behind Alan Shearer’s record of 36 goals in a calendar year.
There were also top-flight victories for Liverpool (1-0 v QPR), Wigan (2-1 at WBA), Norwich (stylish by 4-2 over Newcastle), Aston Villa (2-1 at Bolton), Sunderland (2-1 v Blackburn – Martin O’Neill’s first), Stoke (2-1 v Spurs) and Swansea (2-0 v Fulham).
Ipswich (5-3 at Barnsley), Blues, Hull, Derby, Portsmouth and Middlesbrough all registered welcome Championship wins; oops, Huddersfield lost again in FL1 and leaders Rangers (2-0 v Hibs) and Celtic (1-0 v Hearts) won the Glasgow-Edinburgh derbies.
Despite conceding the fastest goal in El Clasico history (22.2 secs) Barcelona recovered to beat Real Madrid 3-1 and so replace their arch-rivals at the top of La Liga.
Footy Extra – Rooney can play in England’s final Euro 2012 group game after UEFA reduced his three-match ban to two. He’ll miss the clashes with France and Sweden but is available for the Ukraine encounter….
WBA have conceded penalties in each of their last four home PL games…
The Manchester clubs will lose £20m each after exiting the Champions League. Both now enter the Europa League which yesterday/tonight featured Birmingham, Celtic, Fulham, Stoke and Spurs, with only two likely to progress!
TENNIS – World number one Novak Djokovic ended this season with a record £8.2m (€9.4m) in prize money. The Serb won 10 titles in 2011, including three majors, and his earnings easily beat the previous record of £6.36m (€7.46m) shared by Roger Federer (2007) and Rafael Nadal (2010).
Djokovic is fourth in the all-time money list behind Federer (£42.9m/€50.3m), Nadal (£28.65m/€33.6m) & Pete Sampras (£21.5m/€25.16m).
CRICKET – Last week, Indian batsman Virender Sehwag hit the highest-ever ODI score – 219 off 149 balls against the West Indies. This beat his team-mate Sachin Tendulkar’s 200 v South Africa in 2010.
Sehwag, dropped on 170, smashed 25 fours and seven sixes in surpassing his previous best of 175 v Bangladesh 10 months ago. His double century also saw him reach the 8,000-run mark in ODIs.
England’s Test squad for the New Year series with Pakistan in the UAE is: J Anderson (Lancs), I Bell and J Trott (Warwicks), T Bresnan (Yorks), S Broad and G Swann (Notts), A Cook and R Bopara (Essex), S Davies, K Pietersen and C Tremlett (Surrey), S Finn, E Morgan and captain A Strauss (Middlesex), M Panesar and M Prior (Sussex).
News In Brief Judd Trump beat Mark Allen 10-8 in the UK snooker final…
Amir Khan controversially lost his joint WBA/IBF title fight on points to Lamont Petersen in Washington but wants a quick re-match…. Luke Donald finished third behind winner Alvara Quiros (Spain) in the World Golf Championship in Dubai and in doing so completed a unique double by becoming the first player to top the European and USA merit list in the same year…
In the Heineken Cup, Toulouse ended Harlequins 14-match winning run…
Ex-Rugby star Arthur Beetson, the first Aboriginal to captain an Australian sports team, has died, aged 66….
And champion racehorse Denman has retired.
DID YOU KNOW? Ten football grounds with the biggest capacities are (a) May Day Stadium, N. Korea, 149,550, (b) Salt Lake Stadium, India, 119,750, (c) Azteca, Mexico, 105,064, (d) Azadi, Tehran, 100,120, (e) Nou Camp, Barcelona, 99,354, (f) Maracana, Rio, 95,095 (199,854 watched the 1950 WC final), (g) FDN Stadium, Johannesburg, 94,720, (h) Rose Bowl, Pasadena, 93,420, (i) Wembley, 89,950 and (j) GB Karno Stadium, Jakarta, 88,306.