Best of the Weekend
Sky Sports casts an eye over this weekend's Premier League action and picks out some of the key highlights.
Last Updated: 16/12/13 7:59pm
Performance of the Weekend
Brendan Rodgers described Liverpool's display in the 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham as the 'most complete performance' since he became manager. It must also rank high up in the discussions of any performance by a Premier League team this season. Luis Suarez scored a goal in each half and had a hand in the other three goals scored by Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling. Though Tottenham were poor, Liverpool didn't let their opponents settle at any stage and Rodgers' side could easily have run up double figures as several chances were missed, while Philippe Coutinho and Mamadou Sakho were both denied by the woodwork.
Player of the Weekend
England international Henderson has often been a maligned figure at Liverpool since his 2011 move from Sunderland, but he has been enjoying an impressive season. In the absence of injured captain Steven Gerrard, the 23-year-old sparkled at White Hart Lane, with his runs from midfield a constant source of consternation for the Spurs defence. He was rewarded with a goal before half-time and the Sky Sports' man of the match award.
Game of the Weekend
It's not every weekend the Premier League fixtures are kicked off with a nine-goal thriller, so Manchester City's 6-3 demolition of Arsenal was always going to take some beating. Still buoyant from the midweek win over European champions Bayern Munich, Manuel Pellegrini's side continued their merciless form at the Etihad Stadium, taking their goal tally to 35 from their last seven home games in the league. A pulsating opening 45 minutes saw the hosts take a 2-1 lead into the break, with Theo Walcott's first Premier League goal in seven months sandwiched by finishes from the in-form strike partnership of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo. The instrumental Fernandinho made it three on the 50-minute mark with his first City goal from the edge of the area, before Walcott netted a sublime second to ensure that the game remained a contest. However, David Silva soon regained City's two-goal lead from close-range and Fernandinho added his second to make it five late on. A frantic finale saw a header from Per Mertesacker and a Yaya Toure penalty round-off a compelling tie as City climbed up to third in the table, closing the gap on the league-leaders to just three points. A thriller for the neutral, but Pellegrini opted to take a more guarded view: "It's very important to be an entertaining team but I would prefer we won 6-0 rather than 6-3," he said.
Goal of the Weekend
Gary Hooper's volley in first-half stoppage-time stole the show as Norwich and Swansea shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road. A lengthy lay-off for Swans winger Nathan Dyer with a suspected broken ankle meant that the opening half would be extended, with Hooper striking to level proceedings in the fourth of five minutes added on. Steven Whittaker's long ball found the chest of Johan Elmander who weighted his knock-down perfectly for the striker to hit his second goal in as many weeks. The former Celtic man teed himself up with a cushioned touch off his chest before lashing the ball past the flailing arms of Michel Vorm from 25 yards out. The goal rescued a point for the Canaries, who had gone behind through Dyer's earlier effort, and Hughton was full of praise for Hooper's well-executed finish: "It's a super goal from Gary and the timing was perfect," he said. "I think anybody seeing that will agree it's a wonderful strike."
Save of the Weekend
Cardiff collected a vital three points to take into the hectic Christmas period with a closely-fought 1-0 win over West Brom, a result secured in no small part thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper David Marshall. With minutes remaining on the clock, and the Baggies piling men forward in search of a late equaliser, the Scotsman pulled off a stunning save to ensure that Cardiff were able to move four points clear of the drop-zone with their first win in six. A pacy delivery from Chris Brunt was flicked into the path of Shane Long by Stephane Sessegnon and the Ireland international looked as though he had done everything right, guiding it back across Marshall's goal, only for the 28-year-old to somehow manage to adjust himself and fly across his line to claw it to safety. Speaking of the save, Cardiff boss Malky Mackay said: "I didn't fear the worst because I knew my keeper would save it. Shane Long is someone who has scored regularly and he got hold of it well. But David Marshall has been immense for me. That was a top, top save."
Gaffe of the Weekend
Returning to the defence in place of Jose Fonte, Southampton's Jos Hooiveld did himself no favours in his attempts to stake a claim for a regular run in the side with a costly error in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle. The Dutch centre-back was relatively unchallenged when Mike Williamson's header fell into his path inside the area and it looked as though the Saints would be able to clear their lines, only for the former Celtic man to make a hash of his attempted clearance and allow Yoan Gouffran to capitalise, putting the hosts into a first-half lead after rounding Paulo Gazzaniga. Hooiveld did somewhat atone for his earlier blunder as he helped begin the move which led to Jay Rodriguez' equaliser, but Mauricio Pochettino will surely be left pondering the what-ifs and the maybes had the defender managed to prevent the opener.
Moment of the Weekend
The spirits amongst the travelling Manchester United fans were lifted even higher at the sight of Darren Fletcher preparing to make his Premier League return after almost a year out of action. Having undergone an operation for ulcerative colitis, the 29-year-old made his first United appearance since Boxing Day last year when he replaced Ryan Giggs in the second half of his side's 3-0 win at Aston Villa. His introduction was greeted with a chorus of 'there's only one Darren Fletcher' from the away end, and he soon settled into the final 20 minutes of the game, almost scoring with a header and successfully completing 82 per cent of passes as David Moyes' men ended their run of four league games without a win. It was Fletcher's 313th appearance in all competitions for the Red Devils and the United faithful will now be hoping that he can play a significant part in the remainder of the season as they now look to climb up the table.