Football

Published: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 3:47:02 AM
Updated: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 3:47:02 AM

City go top with tough win over Palace

Manchester City's Edin Dzeko (2nd L) celebrates his goal against Crystal Palace with Alvaro Negredo (L) and Vincent Kompany (C) during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, northern England, December 28, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester City's Edin Dzeko (2nd L) celebrates his goal against Crystal Palace with Alvaro Negredo (L) and Vincent Kompany (C) during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, northern England, December 28, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City ground out a 1-0 win over struggling Crystal Palace to go top of the Premier League and champions Manchester United continued their recent revival with a 1-0 victory at Norwich City on Saturday.

With leaders Arsenal not playing until Sunday, Edin Dzeko's 66th-minute goal earned the points for City who maintained their perfect home record this season but showed none of their usual free-scoring swagger at the Etihad Stadium.

"I think the team that wants to win the title must have different faces," City manager Manuel Pellegrini told the BBC.

"We usually score lots of goals at home, but after 45 minutes we knew it would not be like that."

Mid-table Hull City hammered relegation-threatened Fulham 6-0, Aston Villa struggled again in a 1-1 home draw with Swansea City and West Ham United were held 3-3 by West Bromwich Albion in a thrilling early kickoff at Upton Park.

In the day's final match, managerless Cardiff City threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with bottom club Sunderland in their first game since Malky Mackay was sacked.

Pellegrini made six changes to the side that overcame Liverpool 2-1 on Thursday and Palace unexpectedly took the game to their hosts with England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who suffered a gashed face in a first-half clash with striker Jerome Cameron, making a string of fine saves.

Pellegrini made a double substitution, bringing on French forward Samir Nasri and Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo shortly before Dzeko struck.

Jesus Navas made room and crossed from the right for Bosnian Dzeko to turn and shoot into the roof of the net from 15 metres.

TAKING CONTROL

Manchester United struggled initially at Norwich, surviving a first-half onslaught before taking control.

Manager David Moyes left England striker Wayne Rooney out of his squad completely, but substitute Danny Welbeck's 57th-minute strike secured victory.

United climbed to sixth behind City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton while Hull's battering of Fulham took them to 10th and earned midfielder Tom Huddlestone an appointment with his barber.

The former Tottenham and England player drove in Hull's fourth goal and his first for the club, an achievement he had said would result in the trimming of his plentiful locks and a pair of scissors were duly brandished on the touchline in celebration.

On a triumphant day for Steve Bruce's Hull, Slovenian midfielder Robert Koren struck twice after Ahmed Elmohamady had opened the scoring. George Boyd and Matty Fryatt also found the net to inflict Fulham's heaviest defeat in the top tier since 1968.

"I'm shocked. I don't know if there was something in the tea - I did not see that coming and the players did not see that coming," Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen told reporters.

A home triumph seemed likely when Gabriel Agbonlahor put Aston Villa ahead after seven minutes, but Swansea fought back and Belgian winger Roland Lamah headed them level after 36 minutes.

The draw meant Villa avoided a fifth consecutive defeat and eased the pressure on manager Paul Lambert.

Cardiff looked on course for a comfortable win following goals from Jordon Mutch, with a deflected strike after six minutes, and Fraizer Campbell after 58, but Steven Fletcher pulled one back for Sunderland with seven minutes remaining.

Sunderland poured forward and levelled five minutes into stoppage time, a deflected shot by Jack Colback flying in after a concerted spell of pressure.

The draw lifted Sunderland to within one point of second-bottom West Ham and Cardiff stayed 16th.

Both Cardiff goals were celebrated with a theatrical 'thumbs-up' from controversial club owner Vincent Tan, against whom there were protests before the match at the Cardiff City Stadium and afterwards as boos filled the air.

Joe Cole shot West Ham ahead inside five minutes before two well-taken goals from Nicolas Anelka, his first in the Premier League since August11, put West Brom in charge before the interval.

Substitute Modibo Maiga fired the Hammers level and helped set up Kevin Nolan to volley them in front at 3-2 but they held the lead for only two minutes before Saido Berahino completed the scoring.

On Sunday, Liverpool visit Chelsea, Everton host Southampton, Arsenal go to Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur entertain Stoke City.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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