Results: Arsenal 2-0 Fulham, Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa, Crystal Palace 0-1 Portsmouth, Southampton 0-0 Charlton Athletic, Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Newcastle United, Everton 2-1 Manchester City, Manchester United 2-0 Bolton Wanderers, Norwich City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur, Birmingham City 2-0 Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion 0-5 Liverpool FC
The festive period in the Premier League has always been a joyous period for fans and on Boxing Day 2004, the action was as intense as ever.
Chelsea were the league leaders and were looking to protect or even increase their five-point advantage over the defending champions Arsenal. The Blues beat Aston Villa 1-0 on a cold lunchtime afternoon at Stamford Bridge. Damien Duff’s strike after 30 minutes was enough to keep Jose Mourinho’s team clear at the top of the table. Villa had now lost four of their last five outings and slipped into the realms of mid-table after a promising start to the campaign.
Arsenal kept the pressure on, digging in after a tricky November which had seen them drop points against Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion and lose at Anfield to Liverpool FC. Thierry Henry opened the scoring in the 12th minute of their 2-0 victory over Fulham and Robert Pires added a second with both goals being set-up by Freddie Ljungberg. Fulham had lost 11 of their 18 league matches and were just four points clear of the relegation zone.
Considered as one of the relegation favourites at the start of the season, Everton had already reached the usual magical safety mark of 40 points when they defeated Manchester City 2-1. Tim Cahill scored for the second time in the season against the Citizens and although Robbie Fowler equalised on his return to Merseyside, Marcus Bent’s 63rd minute strike settled the contest. City’s defeat was confirmed by Christian Negouai’s late red card.
The team with no form whatsoever at this stage in the season were Bolton Wanderers. Since drawing at Stamford Bridge, Bolton went on a six-game losing streak. The fifth of these came at Old Trafford where Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes both scored in a 2-0 victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. The only negative on the afternoon for United was Wayne Rooney being caught on-camera striking out at Bolton defender Tal Ben-Haim. Whilst there was a clear overreaction to the contact from the Israeli defender, Rooney was charged with violent conduct and eventually banned for three matches. Ferguson was livid with the charge, even though the club accepted his fate. He said the FA’s disciplinary system was “completely flawed” and “immoral.”
If Ferguson was annoyed, his former skipper, Bryan Robson was having a very tough Christmas. West Bromwich Albion were bottom of the table and had lost their last four games. With just one win all season, Baggies supporters were getting the sense of déjà vu. Relegation was looking likely if you went with history and a 5-0 home battering from Liverpool FC on Boxing Day made the situation even worse. Liverpool had only won once all season away from Anfield but took full advantage of the situation to record their biggest victory since Rafa Benitez became manager. John Arne Riise was the star with two goals and Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored his first Premier League goal in a full calendar year.
What else happened in December 2004?
- The world is left stunned by the devastating Asian tsunami that strikes coastal areas of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and the Maldives. This was triggered by an earthquake within the Indian Ocean. Over 200,000 people are killed.
- After nearly four years in the role, David Blunkett resigns as Home Secretary.
- £26.5 million is stolen from a Northern Bank in Belfast after one of the biggest robberies in modern day Britain.
- Double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes is named as the 2004 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
- The first series of ‘The X-Factor’ concludes with victory for Steve Brookstein.
- 194 people are killed after a fire in a nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- France shows off the world’s tallest bridge. The Millau Viaduct is officially opened.