Premier League round-up

Newcastle were the day’s big winners in the Premier League as their home victory over Bolton moved them above Chelsea and level on points with Tottenham in fourth after Norwich City left White Hart Lane with a surprise three-point haul.

Chelsea, meanwhile, lag two points behind in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification after being held by local rivals Fulham.

Everton also had reason to smile as an emphatic second-half display saw them defeat Sunderland 4-0 after what was an instantly forgettable goalless first 45 minutes at Goodison Park.

Owen Coyle’s decision to utilise Kevin Davies as a lone front man ahead of a packed middle five was always likely to manifest a war of attrition and so it ensued at St James’ Park as Newcastle struggled to break down a resolute Bolton backline in an insipid first half.

Newcastle, so decisive on the counter-attack at Swansea on Friday, found it considerably more difficult when the roles were reversed in being charged with the task of taking the game to their visitors.

Indeed they were indebted to Tim Krul not long after the commencement of the second half as he had to be at his best to repel Chris Eagles’ effort.

In such games a moment of individual brilliance is always likely to decide things and, in Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle have at their disposal a playmaker with few equals on his day.

On 73 minutes he showed all his class with a goal that will live long in the memories of those Newcastle fans present. A majestic turn on the halfway line had Eagles bamboozled before Mark Davies was left in his slip-stream. To be fair Bolton’s backline then parted like the Red Sea but that should not detract from a memorable slalom run and composed finish that set Newcastle on their way to a fifth successive victory.

What followed had a sense of the inevitable about it as Papiss Demba Cisse etched his name on the scoresheet when substitute Shola Ameobi broke down the right and laid the ball on a plate for his strike partner to tap in his tenth goal since landing in the North East in January.

That Tottenham had kept just one clean sheet in six home appearances prior to the visit of Norwich would have encouraged Paul Lambert’s side and there was a sense from the off that the Canaries had no intention of curbing their natural attacking inclinations.

A sense of purpose accompanied their every forward foray in an engrossing first period and there was little surprise when it was Norwich that opened the scoring in the 13th minute.

Tottenham’s backline was guilty of some Keystone Cop defending as Aaron Wilbraham’s infectious hustling punished first Younes Kaboul’s loose touch and then Ledley King’s failure to read the danger, as the ball fell fortuitously to Anthony Pilkington in the box to calmly convert his eighth Premier League goal of the season.

Norwich’s inventive movement and ability to push the ball around at will drew further chances and just past the half-hour mark Grant Holt was left apoplectic when referee Michael Oliver ruled King’s challenge on him in the box to be a fair one. Replays showed a tug back on the Euro 2012 hopeful should have led to a Norwich penalty and likely red card for the Spurs centre-half.

Holt and his team-mates’ frustrations were exacerbated just seconds later when Pilkington had his pocket picked in the centre of the field to allow Jake Livermore to deliver a perfectly weighted slide-rule pass to Jermain Defoe. Given a chance to impress ahead of their forthcoming FA Cup semi-final the diminutive front-man did just that in dinking a delicious effort past John Ruddy.

Rather than be buoyed by their stroke of good fortune Spurs again found themselves on the back foot after the break, with Norwich full value for the winner they bagged on 66 minutes in spectacular fashion. There seemed little danger when Elliott Bennett picked up possession down Norwich’s right but as Tottenham’s defenders continued to back off the young winger smelt an opportunity and from the edge of the box delivered a howitzer of a strike that arrowed passed Brad Friedel at his far post.

Tottenham looked flat in their attempts to find a leveller and now face an almighty battle to fend off Newcastle and Chelsea for the final Champions League spot.

Clint Dempsey scored his 16th Premier League goal of the season as Fulham came from behind to earn a deserved 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Craven Cottage.

In a free-flowing London derby, the Cottagers produced the better football and Kerim Frei was a particular threat during the first half.

However, it was Chelsea who went into the break a goal to the good after Frank Lampard drove home a superbly-taken penalty after Salomon Kalou was brought down in the box by either Danny Murphy or Stephen Kelly, depending upon your viewpoint.

Chances came and went for both sides in the second period and Petr Cech produced a superb save to deny Aaron Hughes an equaliser.

The reprieve was short-lived, though, as Dempsey was left unmarked from a corner to guide his header inside the post for his fourth goal in three games.

Everton continue to limber up for an all-Merseyside semi-final at the weekend in fine fettle as they recorded a 4-0 victory over a lacklustre Sunderland.

With Everton’s recent FA Cup duel with the Black Cats still fresh in the memory it was a tale of familiarity breeds contempt at Goodison Park as both sides in the first half looked as though they would rather be on the couch eating leftover Easter eggs than contesting a Premier League game.

Marouane Fellaini flashed an effort high over the top when well-placed for the home side, before Stephane Sessegnon sent an acrobatic overhead kick a yard or so wide at the other end.

It could only get better after the break and there was much to admire about Magaye Gueye’s flashing finish that opened the scoring in the 52nd minute and marked his first in Everton colours.

When Leon Osman’s drive from range was too hot for Simon Mignolet to handle, Gueye was ideally positioned to lash past the Belgian custodian from the tightest of angles in the 52nd minute.

Steven Pienaar then underlined his importance to the Toffees as he took Gueye’s pass in his stride on the edge of the box before taking a touch and bending a sumptuous curling effort past Mignolet’s despairing dive.

Osman was next to get in on the act as he proved anything Pienaar can do he can do just as well as he produced a carbon copy of the South African’s peach with a bending effort of his own.

With Everton running riot it was left to substitute Victor Anichebe to hammer the final nail in Sunderland’s coffin as his deflected snap-shot with ten minutes left gave the scoreline a somewhat flattering gloss.

Aston Villa’s miserable home record gets no better as a 1-1 draw with Stoke means Alex McLeish’s side have now won just one of their last ten at Villa Park.

A spirited point garnered from their last outing at Anfield saw Villa entertain Tony Pulis’ Potters in decent spirits, with McLeish again putting his faith in a youthful line-up.

It was a faith Andreas Weimann, 20, more than justified just past the half hour mark as he gave Asmir Begovic not a prayer with an exquisite, perfectly placed bending right-footed drive from distance, after exchanging a neat one-two with Stephen Ireland on the edge of Stoke’s box.

On the stroke of half-time a Stoke long throw caused consternation in Villa’s penalty area but Jonathan Walters’ header looped onto the roof of the net.

This was hardly a classic being played out in the Midlands and with neither side creating too many chances from open play, the scoresheet only looked likely to be troubled via a set-piece.

It was then with little surprise that Stoke’s leveller with 19 minutes left came from a free-kick as Jermaine Pennant’s perfectly flighted delivery hung in the air long enough for Robert Huth to climb above James Collins to power in his fifth goal of the season.