Villa beat Hammers to go third; Big Sam starts his Rovers reign with a win over Stoke; Bolton, Sunderland & Fulham all move up the table

West Ham 0 – Aston Villa 1 (Premier League, December 20, 2008) After a goalless first half (highlights here), the Villains moved up to third in the league thanks to a lucky goal in the 78th minute, James Milner’s cross deflected off Lucas Neill and looped into the far corner of Green’s net.

Blackburn 3 – Stoke 0 (Premier League, December 20, 2008) It took just nine minutes for Blackburn to take the lead at home at Ewood Park as McCarthy converted a penalty kick after Ibrahima Sonko took down Morten Gamst Pedersen. Jason Roberts doubled the advantage nine minutes later and McCarthy’s second goal made it 3-nil after 27 minutes. (First half highlights here, second half highlights here.)

Bolton 2 – Portsmouth 1 (Premier League, December 20, 2008) (MOTD highlights here.) Matty Taylor gave Bolton the perfect start within 48 seconds when he beat Hreidarsson and flashed in a right-footed shot past James. Ricardo Gardner then doubled the lead before three minutes had even been played. Just before the twenty-minute mark Pompey got back into the game thanks to a Peter Crouch header, created by a delicious Kranjcar cross. (First half goals here.)

Hull 1 – Sunderland 4 (Premier League, December 20, 2008) (MOTD highlights here.) Steed Malbranque gave Sunderland an early lead at Hull with a terrific strike before Nick Barmby equalised after a scramble in the box. (First half highlights here.) With twelve minutes remaining Sunderland re-took the lead when Kieran Richardson’s long-range effort was deflected in by Kamil Zayatte. The Mackems strike force of Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse completed the win thanks to two fine assists from Malbranque, after both goals Jones and Cisse engaged in some choreographed celebrations which looked ridiculous. (Second half highlights here.)

Fulham 3 – Middlesbrough 0 (Premier League, December 20, 2008) Fulham went one-up five minutes before the break, Jimmy Bullard finishing from close range after Turnbull had saved from Zamora. After the break the Cottagers wrapped up the points, Danny Murphy scored a penalty won thanks to what looked like an unintentional hand ball from McMahon and Clint Dempsey finished off a fine move for the third.