Arsenal, United enjoy Boxing Day comebacks

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Arsenal returned to the Premier League summit on Thursday after Theo Walcott scored twice as Arsene Wenger’s side came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham United.

Arsenal spurned several first-half chances at Upton Park and they were punished early in the second period when Carlton Cole put the hosts in front after Wojciech Szczesny spilled a shot from Kevin Nolan.

However, Walcott struck twice in three minutes to turn the game around, squeezing a low shot past West Ham goalkeeper Adrian in the 68th minute and then heading home a cross from substitute Lukas Podolski.

Podolski was making his first appearance since August after a hamstring injury and he marked his comeback with a goal in the 79th minute, drilling home from Olivier Giroud’s lay-off.

Victory sent Arsenal three points above former leaders Liverpool, who visit fourth-place Manchester City later on Thursday, while West Ham slump to second-bottom.

Chelsea also leapfrogged Liverpool, moving up to second place by beating Swansea City 1-0 in one of the day’s 10 traditional Boxing Day fixtures.

Belgian winger Eden Hazard scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute at Stamford Bridge, cutting in from the left in familiar fashion before letting fly with a low drive that squeezed beneath Gerhard Tremmel.

Everton’s hopes of making further ground on the Champions League contenders were thwarted, however, as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat at home to bottom club Sunderland.

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