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The Sports Matrix: Thursday 27 December 2012

Ferguson's lauds United's 'courage' after vital victory

Sir Alex Ferguson described Manchester United's display in their 4-3 win over Newcastle as "Championship-winning" form. United exploited Manchester City's defeat 1-0 against Sunderland when Javier Hernandez scored in the 90th minute, extending their Premier League lead to seven points. James Perch put Newcastle ahead and, though Jonny Evans levelled in the 25th minute, the United defender scored an own-goal three minutes later. Patrice Evra levelled before Papiss Cisse's shot made it 3-2 to Newcastle. Robin van Persie then equalised before Hernandez struck the winner for United – who were without Wayne Rooney – and who Ferguson said will miss "two to three weeks" having pulled a knee ligament in training. Ashley Young was also injured in the session. "Once again they have proved their courage," said Ferguson. "Never gave in. Down three times and eventually they deserved to win the game. The statement was the performance, never mind where we are at this moment in time. That was a Championship-winning performance." page 52

O'Driscoll sacked after Forest win

Nottingham Forest sacked manager Sean O'Driscoll after he led them to a 4-2 win over Leeds which left the club one point off the play-off places. Owners Fawaz al-Hasawi and Abdulaziz al-Hasawi said they wanted a manager with "Premier League experience". MORE

Stoke strike thrice to stun Liverpool

Stoke City claimed a 3-1 win over Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium last night. Steven Gerrard's second-minute penalty gave Liverpool the lead before Jonathan Walters levelled for Stoke and Kenwyne Jones headed the hosts in front, with Walters adding a third. MORE

Bale's hat-trick secures Spurs win

Gareth Bale struck a second-half hat-trick as Tottenham beat Aston Villa 4-0. Chelsea defeated Norwich 1-0 thanks to Juan Mata's 38th minute goal, moving the London club to within four points of second-placed Manchester City. MORE

Lambert claims Saints a point

Rickie Lambert's 85th minute penalty earned Southampton a 1-1 draw at Fulham, after the hosts led through Dimitar Berbatov. Meanwhile, basement club QPR suffered a 2-1 home defeat to West Brom. MORE

Long Run claims King George win

Long Run claimed victory in an enthralling finish to the King George VI Chase at Kempton, winning it for a second time. Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, last year's Gold Cup winner, made an error five out but persevered to triumph by a neck. MORE

Ospreys close in on play-offs with win

The Ospreys moved to within one point of the Pro12 play-off places with a 32-3 triumph over the Scarlets, who had replacements Rob McCusker and Gareth Owen sent off in the final minutes.

Interview: Courtney Lawes

Northampton's versatile forward tells Richard Rae about his high hopes for England and the Lions after the 23-year-old's 2012 was spoiled by injuries and a lack of motivation. MORE

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