Title race on ice as snow blankets Premier League

LONDON, Dec 18, 2010 (AFP) - Heavy snow and freezing temperatures wreaked havoc with the Premier League on Saturday, all but wiping out the fixture list and putting the title race on ice.

LONDON, Dec 18, 2010 (AFP) - Heavy snow and freezing temperatures wreaked havoc with the Premier League on Saturday, all but wiping out the fixture list and putting the title race on ice.

Arsenal were denied the chance to regain top spot after their match against Stoke at the Emirates was one of four matches to be called off just hours before kick-off as blizzards blanketed Britain.

In the only two games to take place, Sunderland moved up to sixth place as Danny Welbeck's first-half header clinched a 1-0 win over Bolton at the Stadium of Light while managerless Blackburn were held 1-1 by bottom club West Ham.

Blackburn's English goalkeeper Paul Robinson (L) plays in the snow with West Ham United's English striker Carlton Cole (R) during the English Premier League football match between Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United at Ewood Park in Blackburn on December 18, 2010. AFP
Blackburn's English goalkeeper Paul Robinson (L) plays in the snow with West Ham United's English striker Carlton Cole (R) during the English Premier League football match between Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United at Ewood Park in Blackburn on December 18, 2010. AFP

The freeze has also ravaged Sunday's schedule, with all three matches -- including the heavyweight showdown between Chelsea and Manchester United -- falling victim to the Arctic weather.

There were no such problems in the early kick-off at the Stadium of Light however, where Welbeck struck with a low header in the 32nd minute which lifted the Black Cats into sixth place, leapfrogging Bolton in the standings.

Welbeck, on loan from Manchester United, said afterwards he was happy to be starting regularly for Sunderland after failing to establish himself in the first team at Old Trafford.

"That was my aim when I came here to get games. I'm just looking forward to carrying on my form," Welbeck told Sky Sports.

"Every game in the Premier League is going to be tough but to get the three points and go ahead of Bolton (in the table) is great.

"Everyone's working well together and the team spirit is very high."

Bruce meanwhile joked about trying to make Welbeck's loan move permanent when Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates his 69th birthday on New Year's Eve.

"I hope Sir Alex gets drunk on his birthday and lets us keep him," the former United stalwart said.

Blackburn, who sensationally sacked manager Sam Allardyce on Monday, looked to be heading for all three points after skipper Ryan Nelsen fired them ahead on 51 minutes. But a Junior Stanislas equaliser on 78 minutes gave the Hammers a share of the points although the Londoners remain bottom of the table.

Under pressure West Ham manager Avram Grant -- reportedly given three matches to save his job -- believed his team were unlucky not to win.

"Our performance deserved more," he said. "I'm very impressed with the spirit of the boys. Other teams in this position could give up but you saw today that the boys didn't give up."

The poor weather had earlier claimed Wigan's home match against Aston Villa, Liverpool's late game against Fulham, Birmingham's tie with Newcastle at St Andrews and Arsenal's tie with Stoke.

The forecast of more snow also claimed Chelsea's showdown with league leaders Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, Blackpool's meeting with Tottenham, and West Bromwich Albion's game with Wolves.

The white-out means Manchester City can move to first place in the table at Christmas if they beat Everton at Eastlands on Monday.

Although Liverpool's pitch is protected by undersoil heating, a club spokesman said the game was called off after police warned of treacherous conditions around the ground with sub-zero temperatures forecast for later.

Wigan earlier issued a statement confirming their game had been postponed, citing "freak snow" as the reason.

Birmingham-Newcastle was called off at the request of referee Mike Jones and the local authorities, citing safety reasons.

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