And so we wrap up the Premier League action with our first festive classified check:
Arsenal 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Aston Villa 0-0 Stoke City
Southampton 1-0 Reading
Sunderland 1-3 Chelsea
Swansea City 3-4 Norwich City
Wigan Athletic 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
The last word to Alan Harris: "I think Mr Occleshaw might fall foul of Euro weights and measures now, trying to sell his hothouse in yards." No wonder our classified revenue is falling. And to think they've been blaming the internet!
The Scottish results are in, too: Inverness Caledonian Thistle beat Hibs 3-0, Hearts best Aberdeen 2-0, and happy birthday dear Rangers, happy birthday to you: it's a 2-0 win over Stirling.
It's over at Sunderland, Chelsea notching their first domestic win under Rafa Benitez. And Norwich hold on in south Wales, winning a majestic tussle with Swansea by one in seven.
GOAL! Swansea City 3-4 Norwich City (Michu 90)
It's not quite yet over at the Liberty! Michu heads home to set up a frantic period of injury time. Meanwhile, it's all over at the Emirates: 2-0 to Arsenal. And it's a 2-2 draw between Wigan and QPR, which means a Premier League record of 16 games without a win from the start of the season. Congratulations to Swindon Town!
It's all over at Southampton, who beat Reading 1-0. It's all over at Villa Park, too, thankfully. That ended 0-0, the only notable incident being Ryan Shotton's last-minute dismissal for a second bookable offence.
More from north of the border. Andrew Little has ensured Rangers will enjoy their 140th birthday party, providing they don't think too much about what's happened this year, or where they are, or what Celtic are up to. He's scored their second, making it 2-0 at Ibrox against Stirling. "So they don’t have a tv in the ref’s room at the Emirates then," surmises Adam Hirst. "No way could you have ever given Arsenal a second penalty after having watched a rerun of the Cazorla dive at half-time."
Not much going on in the Premier League at the moment. Everyone's caught the vibe from Villa Park. Thank the Lord for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, then, who will go second in the SPL after beating Hibs 3-0 and leapfrogging the Edinburgh side. Billy McKay with the third there. Sitting in my flat in Baku watching the Sunderland/Chelsea match," brags the jetsettin' John Tumbridge. "I can confirm that Sunderland are indeed giving Chelsea a working over. But they aren't going to score." So there you have it.
MORE BREAKING NEWS, AS IT HAPPENS, LIVE! In our other featured Scottish match, Hearts are now 2-0 up against Aberdeen. Callum Paterson got the second on, eh, 54 minutes. Thank you for keeping me up to date, my Guardian Sport!
BREAKING NEWS: Mr Occleshaw's sold his hothouse.
Anyone remember Aston Villa and Stoke City? Well, they're still playing. Yep, that's what they're doing.
Sunderland are, by all accounts, giving Chelsea a good working over at the Stadium of Light at the moment. They'll need that second goal quickly if they're really to unsettle the visitors, though. Ten minutes or so to go...
Meanwhile in Scotland, Caley Thistle are 2-0 up against HIbs now, their captain Richie Forlan with the goal on 76 minutes. "Off to apologise to my wife now," mumbles a contrite Nick Parker.
THERE GOES THAT COMEBACK! Swansea City 2-4 Norwich City (Snodgrass 77)
Robert Snodgrass, the Scottish Garrincha, has hoicked a free kick home from 25 yards. That'll be that, then. Except of course that might not be that, a qualification I'm only making to keep Nick Parker happy. The things I do for you lot.
GOAL! Wigan Athletic 2-2 QPR (McCarthy 74)
It's an equaliser for Wigan, that's what. And a second goal for James McCarthy. Three minutes that took. This could easily end up 3-3, or perhaps 7-7. Speaking of 3-3, Swansea have just bundled the ball into the Norwich net, but the referee's blown up for a non-existent foul on the Canary keeper Mark Bunn. Great news for Swindon Town!
GOAL! Wigan Athletic 1-2 QPR (Cisse 71)
It'd been Wigan this, Wigan that, and Wigan the other at the DB Stadium. So of course it's Rangers who have taken the lead, Djinkin' Djibril Cisse sidefooting home from the edge of the area. As things stand now, Swindon Town will share the record of slow Premier League starts with QPR: 15 matches without a win. But there's plenty of time for Wigan to spoil it. And hello, what's this...
GOAL! Sunderland 1-3 Chelsea (Johnson 66)
Adam Johnson skelps a shot goalwards. Chelsea keeper Petr Cech looks like he's behind it, but decides to start hand jiving instead of parrying the ball, and Johnson's effort flies into the net. A lifeline for Sunderland, sort of, though Benitez teams rarely give up three-goal leads. Neither, for that matter, do Chelsea. Meanwhile Nick Parker has got the full-on radge with me for my "this game is over" comment regarding the Swansea-Norwich match. "It's all your fault," he cries, with Swansea in the full throes of a comeback attempt. "Either that or my wife's. Norwich were doing fine until she got home with warm beer. WARM! It's 32C outside. No more kiss of death updates, please." OK. And please look on the bright side, I'm sure your beer won't spurt out of the bottle when you open it. Ah, sorry.
GOAL! Arsenal 2-0 WBA (Arteta pen 64)
Another penalty for Arsenal. Controversy again, apparently, though nobody seems quite sure what's gone on other than the referee. I think there was a big cloud with fists and feet poking out of it, in homage to the demise of the Dandy. Anyway, Mikel Arteta makes no mistake, smacking home from the spot.
GOAL! Swansea City 2-3 Norwich City (De Guzman 59)
Oh the comeback's on at the Liberty all right! Norwich - who were an inch or so from going four up, remember - are now leading by just the one, Jonathan De Guzman halving Swansea's arrears. Meanwhile at Rangers 140th birthday party, David Templeton has opened the scoring against Stirling Albion, bundling home from close range at Ibrox.
GOAL! Southampton 1-0 Reading (Puncheon 61)
As things stand, Sunderland will end the day in the relegation zone, as Jason Puncheon has opened the scoring at St Mary's. Nothing's quite going right for Reading this season, is it. "I wish Di Matteo had asked me to speak to Torres as I once managed to motivate Chelsea's former no.9 Kerry Dixon into action," boasts Ian Burch. "In the mid 80's Kerry made the mistake of assuming that a few of us wanted his autograph before an FA Cup replay at then lowly Wigan. I pointed out that if he hadn't missed so many chances in the first game then we wouldn't be standing on a mud heap at Springfield Park. Kerry took umbrage at this and then banged in 4 goals in the match. He made a special signal to us after he scored his hat-trick."
It's all Wigan at, er, Wigan. Jordi Gomez has just twanged the bar so hard it's started playing the stings from Seinfeld. They're riffin', be-boppin' and scattin' on Harry's pain! "Who knew that all those years Jon Moss spent on a drum stool watching the world's favorite drama queen flouncing across the world's stages would prove such perfect training for officiating the acting and swan-diving of the divas of the Premier League?" asks Justin Kavanagh. "Did he really mean to hurt him, indeed?"
GOAL! Swansea City 1-3 Norwich City (Michu 51)
So close to going four goals down, are Swansea launching an unlikely comeback? Lee Mavers lookalike Michu fires home to at least plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the Canaries.
GOAL! Sunderland 0-3 Chelsea (Mata 49)
Torres is so close to claiming his hat-trick, but his shot stays out. No worries, Mata follows in and puts this game to bed. Sunderland are in a terrible state, aren't they? A fair chance they could be in the relegation zone this evening.
J.R. in Illinois will be wild: Seb Larsson is still complaining to the referee, carrying over his moaning from the first half. Meanwhile Norwich are so close to going 4-0 up at Swansea, Bradley Johnson hitting the crossbar with a dinky chip. "Is the Torres revival complete after only a few weeks?" wonders Paul Morris. "He used to never take penalties, even when he was 'en fuego' at Liverpool. Has Rafa found El Nino's cojones? Did I just use all the Spanish I know? Time for a cerveza." Sounds like a plan. A glass of el Julebryg? Pint of Ayudante de Santa?
And we're off again!
Nothing to report as of yet, so enough time to note that Rangers are being held at home by Stirling, 0-0. Oh Ally! "Oh I'm fuming now, Scott," writes J.R. in Illinois, who I assume is hovering in mid air, his legs tucked up into his chest, a jet of steam blasting out of each ear, and both hands tearing a clump of hair from his head, Dandy style. "Larsson absolutely scythed Ramires down in the box, Halsey called a penalty, and Larsson began complaining bitterly. And don't get me wrong here. I don't care for Chelsea one bit but the gall of some of these players just sends me over the edge. Bunch of cheating bastards."
Modern footballers and their sauce, eh? But there's always two sides to every story, and here's Charles Antaki with a passionate defence of Santi Cazorla's antics at the Emirates, in an email headed "Santi's magic leg": "The innuendo (in fact outright accusation) isn't fair on Cazorla - the very point of Reid's boot scraped his shin, and that was surely enough to disturb the magic aura around his boots. Definite penalty, in moral terms."
Anyway, the star of that is now the co-star of the best British film of the year:
So you'll need to get along and watch that.
Meanwhile those of you who prefer to look at stuff which doesn't move around in front of your eyes would do well to purchase a book instead. How about The Shape of Shit to Come, from Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur, the authors of Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?
The Shape of Shit to Come takes a funny tour of the future taking shape before our eyes - a future of sex robots, hotels in space, kids making their own pets with gene-splicing kits and people planning, for real, how they can turn themselves into hyper-intelligent genetically enriched cyborg immortals of the future.
Because these things are happening. As of yet only the geeks are talking about this stuff. But is that wise? Shouldn't we all be getting with the programme? Otherwise we're leaving the future of humanity in the hands of people who ride scooters indoors.
And who wants that, eh? Nobody, that's who. Get on it.
The Premier League half-times, then...
Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
Aston Villa 0-0 Stoke City
Southampton 0-0 Reading
Sunderland 0-2 Chelsea
Swansea City 0-3 Norwich City
Wigan Athletic 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
GOAL! Sunderland 0-2 Chelsea (Torres pen 45)
Chelsea fans, Chelsea fans... you have to admit Rafa's got something, no? He's rebooted Fernando Torres for sure: the striker's just thundered a penalty into the net on the stroke of half time. "Culture Club's drummer reffing at Southampton!" notes Gary Naylor. "Tony Hadley isn't fourth official at The Emirates is he?"
GOAL: Swansea City 0-3 Norwich City (Holt 44)
Dear me, Swansea are totally unreadable. So good so often this season, today they appear to be even more appalling than they were when skittering about in the shambolic manner against Everton in September. This game is over,
Robert Snodgrass, no hold on Grant Holt blootering a Robert Snodgrass free kick home with his forehead.
GOAL! Swansea City 0-2 Norwich City (Bassong 40)
The big defender bangs in a close-range header, and unpredictable Swansea are all over the shop. They've won handsomely at Arsenal, and been thrashed at home by Everton. Football, eh? I'll not try working out the whys and wherefores. I don't envy Michael Cox's job, I can tell you that for free. Meanwhile our old pal J.R. in Illinois is feeling warmth, approaching hot heat. "Damn it Scott," he begins. "They have to do something about both the referees and the players cheating. It was Hazard, not Mata, that Larsson pulled down in the second minute. It was a straight red but Hazard stayed on his feet and Halsey made no call. Then at Arsenal Reid took a little swipe at Cazorla but missed completely and Cazorla went down in a heap and got a penalty. It's a bunch of garbage, Scott." And that's just the 15.05 entry of this report.
Jason Puncheon has headed an Adam Lallana corner into the Reading net, but... referee Jon Moss claims there was a foul on visiting keeper Adam Federici, and chalks it off. Goals: they come and go, they come and go-oooh-oh.
In the other big match in Scotland, Hearts have gone a goal up at Tynecastle against Aberdeen, Ryan Stevenson from the penalty spot on 31 minutes. "'Urry up 'Arry'? QPR are not so much Sham 69 as Sham defence - but so many clubs are these days. Defenders seem to be (at least metaphorically) 'all going down the pub' every time a corner comes over." Some new material there from punk/oi! comic Gary Naylor. He's here all week. Try the glue.
It's still goalless at Villa Park between Aston Villa and Stoke City. Does this qualify as news? "I hope your suggestion that Walcott 'will be spending the day on the AA website planning his quickest route out of north London' doesn't mean young Theo's been taking driving lessons from Tony Adams?" quips dipsomaniac comic Patrick Cullen. He's here all week. Try the
Julebryg Santa's Little Helper.
GOAL! Wigan Athletic 1-1 QPR (Nelsen 26)
Arry's magic is already rubbing off, Benitez-Torres style, on QPR. They've not hung around searching for an equaliser, and the big defender Ryan Nelsen scores for the first time in two years (give or take) to level things up. A nice lively start to the afternoon, this.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 WBA (Arteta pen 26)
Santi Cazorla puts Arsenal 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 up with a marvellous dive in the Baggies box at the Emirates. Mikel Arteta slots away the referee's gift. "Hey, if you are plugging Julebryg you ought to give Santa's Little Helper a mention," writes Lars Eriksen, formerly of this parish, and now, rumour has it, ensconced 24/7 on the premises of Copenhagen cold drinks vendor Mikkeller, in the cubby hole at the back where nobody can prise him out.
"That guy Gregg seems a TV star in the making," he adds. "Could watch him all day. Just look at that plate collection!"
GOAL! Wigan Athletic 1-0 QPR (McCarthy)
The Celtic flavour briefly lingers, like the long smoky finish of a Laphroaig. From a poorly cleared corner, James McCarthy wallops a low volley goalwards. It's helped in by a deflection off Jamie Mackie. Rangers need to rouse themselves here, because 16 games without a Premier League win from the start of the season will trump the "achievement" of Swindon Town back in 1993. Hurry up, 'Arry! Come on!
GOAL! Swansea City 0-1 Norwich City (Whitaker 16)
Ross Draper has given Caley Thistle an early lead against Hibs in the big game in Scotland. Meanwhile several miles down south, Scottish international Steven Whitaker has opened the scoring at the Liberty for form team Norwich.
GOAL! Sunderland 0-1 Chelsea (Torres 11)
Chelsea fans may not care to admit it quite yet, but Rafael Benitez hasn't taken long to get Fernando Torres going, has he? After putting an end to his long drought during the week, the Spaniard has broken the deadlock at the Stadium of Light, stroking one home in the style familiar to Liverpool fans, perhaps less so to supporters of Chelsea.
No early goals in the Premier League, so there's time for me to tell you that the fastest goal in England was scored by Josh Simpson of Crawley Town against clip-art fans Shrewsbury. He found the net after 39 seconds. "As much as I'm looking forward to today's fine 3pm fixtures," begins Ryan Dunne, preparing to unleash a long moan, and here it comes, "surely I'm not the only perturbed that there's no 5.30pm game and so presumably no 5.30pm MBM? Although the present author's life is full of girls and thrills (ahem), what about those poor fellows who have, for example, already rewatched Dark Knight Rises every day this week and have no plans for Saturday night? Perhaps you guys could rerun an as-live classic MBM episode?" Will a classic OBO do? You'll get no better than this. Fire that up once we're done here.
It's all Chelsea at the Stadium of Light, Mata and Fernando Torres both missing early chances. Meanwhile the second result of the day - again this has nothing to do with the Premier League - comes at Pride Park, where Derby County have done for Leeds United 3-1. The Derby manager's dad may be looking down on events with a broad smile.
It's the big kick-off!
Everyone's underway. And it's a quick start at the Stadium of Light, where Juan Mata is practically disrobed by Seb Larsson in the area, but the referee is having none of it. Plenty more hot action this afternoon, please! "Hi Scott," begins a cheery Melanie Clegg. "Congratulations on being one of the few Brit journalists to use the correct Danish vowel in 'gløgg'!" No problem, Melanie. To be honest, we probably shouldn't pat ourselves on the back for getting simple things like that cørrect, but compliments are thin on the ground these days, so we'll take what we can while the going's good. Melanie, incidentally, is writing "from Vadsø in the furthest reaches of Norway, a place so removed from Manchester that the pre-derby nerves haven't yet hit me, but they will." Ah, Vadsø. The fame of Guardian Sport spreads ever further and wider. Now all we need to do is crack the British market, and we'll have ourselves a plan!
Meanwhile in Scotland... "It's like Christmas Eve up here," begins professional Caledonian Simon McMahon, who hopefully has a
bottle tumbler of Bunnahabhain on the go. "Tomorrow is the big day. Forget Fergie and Mancini, it's the Dundee derby at Dens when the world-famous Dundee United FC will follow up their 3-0 win back in August with another football lesson for the wee brother. Today's starters include Hearts v Aberdeen and second place Hibs at third place Inverness CT." Yep, that game on the Beauly Firth should be a cracker; the teams drew 2-2 at Easter Road in September. Caley Thistle are gloriously impossible to predict, too; they were skelped 5-1 by Motherwell in their last home game, then went on to win magnificently at Parkhead and Pittodrie. I'll keep an eye on it. Or better still, you can, and then email me. (If anyone else is reading and they object to this plan, now's the time to pipe up. I promise I won't ignore you*.)
* I may† ignore you.
This afternoon's Premier League teamsheets
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Giroud. Subs: Martinez, Rosicky, Podolski, Ramsey, Squillaci, Coquelin, Jenkinson.
West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Reid, Olsson, McAuley, Ridgewell, Brunt, Morrison, Mulumbu, Gera, Odemwingie, Long. Subs: Daniels, Popov, Rosenberg, Dorrans, Lukaku, Tamas, Fortune.
Bacary Sagna has recovered from a foot injury and is back, as are several other first-team regulars
I can't be bothered too numerous to mention. No Theo Walcott, though, as he's got calf knack and will be spending the day on the AA website planning his quickest route out of north London. West Brom have recalled Peter Odemwingie, James Morrison and Chris Brunt.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Baker, Clark, Lichaj, Herd, Holman, Westwood, Bannan, Benteke, Agbonlahor. Subs: Given, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Bent, Delph, Weimann, Williams.
Stoke City: Begovic, Shotton, Huth, Shawcross, Cameron, Walters, Whitehead, Nzonzi, Whelan, Etherington, Jones. Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Upson, Kightly, Crouch, Wilkinson, Jerome.
An unchanged side for Villa, with Darren Bent again on the bench. Stoke are missing Charlie Adam, who has
legged it to McDonalds is serving a one-match ban after incurring five bookings.
Southampton: Kelvin Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Puncheon, Cork, Schneiderlin, Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs: Boruc, Hooiveld, Steven Davis, Ramirez, Ward-Prowse, Do Prado, Mayuka.
Reading: Federici, Cummings, Mariappa, Morrison, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Roberts, Le Fondre. Subs: Taylor, Pearce, Hunt, McCleary, Guthrie, Harte, Samuel.
Kelvin Davis is back in the Saints goal, Paulo Gazzaniga paying the price for his howler against Norwich the other week. Reading name the same team from that preposterous 4-3 defeat at home to Manchester United last weekend.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Cuellar, O'Shea, Rose, Johnson,
Gardner, Larsson, McClean, Sessegnon, Wickham. Subs: Westwood,
Campbell, Kilgallon, Colback, Vaughan, Bramble, Saha.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Ramires, Romeu,
Mata, Moses, Hazard, Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Lampard, Oscar,
Ferreira, Marin, Azpilicueta, Bertrand.
It's the final match for the reigning European champions - does that sound wrong now? - before they head for Japan and a tilt at the Club World Cup. No change for Rafa's side, after their futile 6-1 Champions League win during midweek. The Black Cats meanwhile recall John O'Shea, and replace the jiggered Steven Fletcher with Connor Wickham.
Swansea City: Tremmel, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Dyer, Routledge, de Guzman, Ki, Michu, Graham. Subs: Cornell, Bartley, Monk, Shechter, Moore, Tiendalli, Agustien.
Norwich City: Bunn, Martin, Bassong, Whittaker, Garrido, Johnson, Snodgrass, Howson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Holt. Subs: Rudd, Jackson, Fox, Morison, Elliott Bennett, Barnett, Tierney.
Leon Britton is out injured for the home side, but striker Danny Graham is back. Norwich recall Russell Martin and Jonny Howson.
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Boyce, Lopez, Jones, Stam, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Gomez, Di Santo, Kone. Subs: Pollitt, Maloney, McManaman, Boselli, Fyvie, Golobart, Redmond.
QPR: Green, Bosingwa, Nelsen, Hill, Traore, Diakite, Derry, Mbia, Wright-Phillips, Mackie, Taarabt. Subs: Murphy, Ferdinand, Cisse, Granero, Da Silva, Hoilett, Faurlin.
Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa are both suspended, so in come Adrian Lopez and James McArthur. Meanwhile Arry has got shot of fancy midfielder Esteban Granero, replacing him with the ever-so-slightly-more-workmanlike Shaun Derry.
The first result of the day is in, and it's got nowt to do with the Premier League, but I'll be pressing on ahead anyway. Celtic have won 3-1 at Kilmarnock, the first time they've successfully returned to domestic duties from their European shenanigans for a while. Scott Brown, Joe Ledley and Georgios Samaras were the goalscorers. Samaras's strike in particular was a belter, a sort of poor man's version of that Terry McDermott goal for Liverpool against Spurs in 1978. And a negative copy: instead of the cross coming in from the left as at Anfield that heady day, it's sent in from the right by Adam Matthews, and Samaras rushes in at the left-hand post to belt an unstoppable header home. Superb. And a result that'll keep Neil Lennon's side top of the SPL no matter what happens later this afternoon.
There's plenty of entertainment on offer this afternoon, and not just in those two glasses you've just generously poured yourself either. Today's Premier League card promises to deliver a super Saturday. Arsenal have lost two on the bounce, and are looking to avoid an unwanted hat-trick at home to West Bromwich Albion. Aston Villa are still struggling for form, so the visit of the infernally awkward Stoke City could cause them some emotional tumult. Southampton versus Reading could easily end up 6-6. If QPR fail to win today, they officially become the Premier League's coldest starters of all time, trumping the travails of Swindon Town in 1993. Swansea and Norwich provide the aesthetics. And then there's Sunderland and Chelsea, who don't, one team flirting with relegation, the other currently in relegation form. Oh Martin! Oh Rafa! The only way for you two is up*.
*The only way is not up†
†There is also down
Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the first Festive Clockwatch (aka Xmas Clocko™) of December 2012
Too early? Nah. It's cold enough outside, so I don't think so. Pull up a chair next to the fire, pour yourself a pint of Julebryg ...
... and a Gløgg chaser, throw your feet up on the cat, and relax. Here comes Christmas! Here come the scores!