Premier League Roundup, Dec. 19

Manchester City fired manager Mark Hughes, Fulham swept to a

stunning 3-0 victory over Manchester United and last place

Portsmouth beat Liverpool 2-0 on a day of shocks in the Premier

League on Saturday.

Although Man City beat Sunderland 4-3 to climb to sixth in

the standings, it announced less than two hours after the game that

Hughes had been sacked and replaced by former Inter Milan coach

Roberto Mancini who will be unveiled as the new manager on Monday.

“A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly

not in line with the targets that were agreed and set,” chairman

Khaldoon Al Mubarak said in a statement.

Hughes’ departure was despite the victory over Sunderland

with Roque Santa Cruz scoring twice after he had left Robinho and

Emmanuel Adebayor on the bench. City, which lost 3-0 at Tottenham

on Wednesday, now has 29 points from 17 games, 11 fewer than leader

Chelsea which has 40 and visits West Ham on Sunday.

Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff punished United’s

makeshift defense at Craven Cottage and denied the defending

champion any chance of drawing level on points with leader Chelsea.

United’s fifth loss of the season could now leave the team

six points off the pace if Chelsea wins at Upton Park.

Murphy dispossessed United’s Paul Scholes and shot Fulham

into a 22nd lead from 30 meters and the second half was only

seconds old when Zamora fired home after Clint Dempsey’s headed

pass.

Duff added the third with a left foot volley in the 75th

minute against a United defense which was missing four central

defenders through injury.

Nadir Belhadj and Frederic Piquionne fired home angled shots

as Portsmouth stunned 10-man Liverpool to put more pressure on

manager Rafa Benitez.

Making his first league start for three months, Algerian

international Belhadj struck the first in the 33rd minute before

Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano was sent off for an ugly foul on Tal

Ben Haim.

Piquionne added the second in the 82nd to improve

Portsmouth’s chances of avoiding relegation. It was Liverpool’s

seventh league loss from 18 games and the defeat pushed the Reds

further out of title contention.

“If you analyze the first half I think we were doing well,”

Benitez said. “We conceded a goal and then the sending off of

Mascherano changed everything.”

Asked if he thought the red card was justified, the Liverpool

manager, who appeared furious about the decision at the time,

replied: “The referee was perfect, in everything. He never made

mistakes.”

Asked if he was worried about losing his job, Benitez

replied: “I’m worried about winning the next game.”

Arsenal outplayed Hull 3-0 to stay in third place and move

within two points of second place Man United with a game in hand.

Goals by Denilson, Eduardo da Silva and Abou Diaby settled a

game that had a first half flareup with several players pushing

each other after a challenge by Samir Nasri on Hull’s Richard

Garcia.

Hull should have equalized when 1-0 down but Geovanni’s

penalty was blocked by Manuel Almunia and, when three teammates

went for the rebound, Stephen Hunt headed wide of the net.

Two goals by Peter Crouch steered Tottenham to a 2-0 victory

at Blackburn and substitute John Carew gave Aston Villa a 1-0

victory over Stoke, a fifth straight win for Martin O’Neill’s team

which remained level on points with Arsenal.

Also on Sunday, Everton faces Birmingham and Burnley goes to

Wolves and, on Monday, Wigan hosts Bolton.a, which goes to

relegation-threatened West Ham on Sunday.

United’s fifth loss of the season could now leave the team

six points off the pace if Chelsea wins at Upton Park.

Murphy dispossessed United’s Paul Scholes and shot Fulham

into a 22nd lead from 30 meters and the second half was only

seconds old when Zamora fired home after Clint Dempsey’s headed

pass.

Duff added the third with a left foot volley in the 75th

minute against a United defense which was missing four central

defenders through injury.

Nadir Belhadj and Frederic Piquionne fired home angled shots

as Portsmouth stunned 10-man Liverpool to put more pressure on

manager Rafa Benitez.

Making his first league start for three months, Algerian

international Belhadj struck the first in the 33rd minute before

Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano was sent off for an ugly foul on Tal

Ben Haim.

Piquionne added the second in the 82nd to improve

Portsmouth’s chances of avoiding relegation. It was Liverpool’s

seventh league loss from 18 games and the defeat pushed the Reds

further out of title contention.

“If you analyze the first half I think we were doing well,”

Benitez said. “We conceded a goal and then the sending off of

Mascherano changed everything.”

Asked if he thought the red card was justified, the Liverpool

manager, who appeared furious about the decision at the time,

replied: “The referee was perfect, in everything. He never made

mistakes.”

Asked if he was worried about losing his job, Benitez

replied: “I’m worried about winning the next game.”

With speculation mounting about the future of manager Mark

Hughes after a 3-0 loss at Tottenham on Wednesday, Manchester City

beat Sunderland 4-3 with Roque Santa Cruz scoring twice.

Rumors swept Manchester that Hughes would be fired even with

a victory and replaced by former Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini

and the Welshman, who has been in charge of the team since June

2008, appeared emotional as he waved to the fans after the game.

City announced it would make a statement later Saturday.

Two goals by Peter Crouch steered Tottenham to a 2-0 victory

at Blackburn and substitute John Carew gave Aston Villa a 1-0

victory over Stoke, a fifth straight win for Martin O’Neill’s team.

Arsenal faced Hull at home in Saturday’s late game.