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Naismith, Mirallas get Everton back on track New boys Jones, Zaha lift Cardiff

LIVERPOOL, Feb 1, (AFP): Everton responded to their Merseyside derby drubbing at Liverpool’s hands by coming from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 in the Premier League on Saturday. Everton were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool on Tuesday, but a 74th-minute goal from substitute Steven Naismith and a fine Kevin Mirallas free-kick five minutes from time got them back to winning ways at Goodison Park. Victory took Roberto Martinez’s side up to fifth place in the table, a point behind Liverpool, who visit West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, while Villa, who opened the scoring through Leandro Bacuna, remain 10th. Everton handed Aiden McGeady a first league start following his January move from Spartak Moscow and he almost opened his account for the club in the third minute with a rising 20-yard shot that hit the post.

However, despite enjoying the majority of possession, Everton were unable to make inroads in the Villa defence and in the 34th minute the visitors hit them with a sucker-punch. After Fabian Delph had won the ball from Ross Barkley, Christian Benteke played in the overlapping Bacuna to slide a low shot between the legs of Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard from a narrow angle. Everton felt that Delph should have been penalised for his challenge on Barkley and the home side almost fell further behind when Sylvain Distin’s back-pass obliged Howard to make a hurried clearance as Benteke closed in. Martinez introduced Steven Pienaar in place of Barkley at the interval and the home side began to threaten, with Leon Osman dragging a shot across goal and seeing another attempted deflected wide. Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan had to save from Pienaar, while Benteke came within inches of putting through his own goal when a cross from Leighton Baines struck him in the face and bounced narrowly wide. Martinez made another change with 20 minutes remaining and it quickly paid dividends, with Naismith running through to finish from Pienaar’s flick just four minutes after coming on. Mirallas completed the comeback with five minutes remaining, whipping a superb 30-yard free-kick into the top-left corner to resurrect Everton’s top-four challenge.

Cardiff 2, Norwich 1

In Cardiff, UK, New boys Kenwyne Jones and Wilfried Zaha both impressed on their debuts to lift Cardiff to a 2-1 win at home against relegation rivals Norwich. Substitute Zaha set up Craig Bellamy for the equaliser after the break with Jones firing home the winner just two minutes later. Robert Snodgrass had put Norwich ahead after five minutes. It gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a first Premier League win since taking charge of the Welsh club and got them off the bottom of the table at Fulham’s expense. Zaha had started on the bench on his debut following his loan move from Manchester United, but came on minutes before the break to replace Peter Whittingham. Brazilian full-back Fabio and Trinidadian striker Jones were also handed their Cardiff debuts, with captain Mark Hudson ruled out with a hamstring problem. Norwich boss Chris Hughton brought in Alexander Tettey, Jonas Gutierrez and Johan Elmander. And it was Norwich who got off the mark fastest in a tie between two of the lowest scoring teams in the Premier League.

Jonas Gutierrez picked up a Russell Martin cross after three minutes but his header from the centre of the box was high and wide. But two minutes later Snodgrass made no mistake. The tables were turned after the break as the game came to life. Zaha set up Bellamy and the Welsh striker became the first player to score for seven Premier League clubs. Jones’ presence was also felt in the second half and he fired home at the second attempt after his initial header was blocked. Johnson almost equaliseed for Norwich but David Marshall tipped his strike over the bar, and Cardiff needed some heroics from Marshall to keep them in front in the final quarter. The Scotland international saved from Nathan Redmond, who also had an effort ruled out for offside, before Bellamy headed Hooper’s effort off the line. Norwich’s final chance came when Snodgrass headed against the post from a Redmond corner, as they remain two points above the drop zone.

West Ham 2, Swansea 0
In London, Kevin Nolan double strike clinched a 2-0 win over Swansea City. Sam Allardyce’s team secured only their fifth league victory this season thanks to two first-half goals from Nolan at Upton Park. The Hammers couldn’t relax until the final whistle however as they had to survive the final 30 minutes without England striker Andy Carroll, who was sent off for violent conduct following a clash with Swansea’s Chico Flores. West Ham made two enforced changes as defender George McCartney and Matt Jarvis came in for injured duo Joey O’Brien and Mohamed Diame. They created the first chance when Jarvis curled a cross towards Carroll, who directed his header over the crossbar. Allardyce’s defensive tactics in West Ham’s midweek goalless draw at Chelsea had infuriated Blues boss Jose Mourinho, who accused the Hammers of playing “football from the 19th century”. That battling point against one of the league’s top sides had clearly done wonders for West Ham’s self-esteem after a difficult period and they kept Swansea on the back foot before taking the lead in the 26th minute.

It was a simple but effective move that bore all the hallmarks of Allardyce’s preferred approach. A well-directed cross found Carroll and the former Liverpool striker rose highest to cushion a header into the path of Nolan, who had timed his run perfectly to drive a low shot past Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel. Allardyce’s team survived a scare when referee Howard Webb waved away Swansea’s penalty appeals after Wilfried Bony broke through on goal and tumbled under a challenge from James Tomkins that made just the slightest contact with the ball. That proved a crucial moment as the hosts doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time. Once again Swansea were undone by a textbook example of Allardyce’s direct philosophy. A Stewart Downing corner to the far post picked out Carroll, who peeled away from his marker and headed back across goal to Nolan, who glanced his header past Tremmel from close range. Carroll got his marching orders in the 59th minute after jumping with Flores in an aerial challenge. As the pair untangled following their collision, Carroll caught Flores with a flailing arm and, with the Swansea defender falling theatrically to the turf, referee Webb showed him the red card. That gave lacklustre Swansea hope of a late fightback, but they rarely tested Hammers goalkeeper Adrian.

Saints 3, Fulham 0
In London, Fulham’s new striker, Greek international Konstantinos Mitroglou, may have wished he hadn’t signed after his side went bottom of the Premier League after a 3-0 defeat to Southampton. Mitroglou, signed for £12.5million ($20.5million) on Friday, didn’t play but he will have not been encouraged by what he saw as Southampton weathered a first-half storm to run out easy winners and record only their third ever win at Craven Cottage and first since October 1947. Southampton consolidated their ninth spot and moved to within two points of Newcastle, who lost 3-0 at home to Sunderland earlier on Saturday, while Fulham’s fifth defeat in their last six league matches sees them trail second from bottom Cardiff by two points. Fulham were the sharpest side at the outset with Scott Parker, Darren Bent and Dan Burn all going close without really testing Artur Boruc.

Fulham didn’t let up in the opening 25 minutes as they piled the pressure on Saints, although their shooting accuracy let them down with Steve Sidwell and German Lewis Holtby, signed on loan from Spurs this week, ruining their good work by firing wide. However, Boruc had to be at his best to deny Brede Hangeland, whose powerful header was going into the top corner before the former Celtic stopper somehow got a hand to it to turn over for a corner. Boruc kept the visitors in the game by producing two more superb saves, both from Bent while Southampton’s only effort of note was Jay Rodriguez’s flashing header that went wide. Pocchettino made a change at the break taking off Kenyan international Victor Wanyama, who had looked rusty after having a long spell on the sidelines with an injury. However, there was nothing rusty about his team-mates in the second-half as having been let off the hook somewhat by Fulham they took full advantage.

First Adam Lallana fired home his eighth goal of the season, set up by fellow England international Rickie Lambert, in the 64th minute on what was his 250th appearance for the club. Lambert too got on the scoresheet six minutes later finishing off a simply tremendous move, started by Nathan Clyne, who did a 1-2 with Steve Davis, before he sent the ball into the area where Lambert was on hand to hammer it home after Rodriguez had generously left it for him. It was the third successive Premier League match between the two sides that Lambert had scored in. Extraordinarily it was 3-0 five minutes later as Rodriguez deservedly got one of his own, found by Lambert wide out on the touchline he looked unlikely to make much out of it but having cut inside he looked up and beat Dutch ‘keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

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