>Torres returns to form in weekend of weird results

>Although we had to wait until Sunday evening for the biggest clash of the weekend, it certainly did not disappoint. With current leaders Chelsea travelling to an improving Liverpool side, many were looking forward to what turned out to be a pivotal clash that has reduced the gap at the top of the table.

A rejuvenated Fernando Torres struck two world class goals in the first half to condemn Chelsea to only their second defeat of the season.  Chelsea arrived at Anfield choosing to leave out leading goalscorer Didier Drogba, perhaps a sign of Chelsea’s confidence or some would say arrogance that they could win the game without him.  The Ivorian cut a frustrated figure on the bench as he watched Torres torment Chelsea centre-backs John Terry and Alex all afternoon.  Kuyt’s pinpoint throughball was brilliantly controlled by Torres, who then took on Terry and smashed it past Cech.  The goal seemed to give Torres, the Liverpool team, and their fans a boost, and Liverpool did well to not allow Chelsea to have a meaningful effort on goal.  Just before the break Torres got his second as he picked up the ball on the left hand side of the Chelsea area, he cut inside and unleashed a spectacular effort that whistled past the motionless Cech.  A huge roar lifted Anfield from its foundations before the half time whistle blew.  Chelsea threw on Drogba to try and force a comeback but it was to no avail.  Reina made a brilliant reflex save from Malouda, Drogba had a couple of efforts that went close, and Anelka hit the bar late on.  This performance from Liverpool will go a long way to easing the frustrations of the fans that have dogged them throughout this season as they move up to ninth in the table.

Prior to the game at Anfield, Arsenal had the chance to apply pressure to Chelsea in one of the afternoon’s early kick offs. The Gunners welcomed Newcastle to The Emirates on the back of their massive derby win against Sunderland last weekend.  Despite allegations in today’s newspapers concerning the drinking habits of Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll both players started, and it was to be headline grabbing Andy Carroll who will be on the backpages again as he scored the winner in the first half.  A Joey Barton free kick was not dealt with my Lucasz Fabianski, reigniting Arsenal’s goalkeeping problems, leaving Carroll to head home into an empty net.  The impressive Toon Army held on, despite the introduction of Robin Van Persie, in a win that has moved them to fifth in the table.  Unlike on so many occasions in the past, Arsenal were unable to find a last gasp goal to take a share of the points. Instead Koscielny was shown a straight red card for holding back Nile Ranger as Arsenal displayed their frustrations at their afternoon’s work.

In the other Sunday afternoon game Manchester City needed a win against West Brom in order to take the heat off manager Roberto Mancini. City, on the back of three defeats in all competitions, dropped Milner and Adebayor and back came Yaya Toure and Balotelli.  Much had been said in the run up to this game about Mancini’s position as well as tensions in their camp.  However, City did their talking on the pitch as Balotelli struck twice to give City a two-nil lead at half time.  The frontman at the age of twenty has bags of talent, but unfortunately he also has bags of attitude, and the goalscorer was sent off for kicking out at Mulumbu.   Mulumbu was later sent off for a bad challenge on the returning Tevez. The win now sees City level with third placed Arsenal.  Later, Mancini confirmed Balotelli’s red card will be appealed and due to the time it takes to launch an appeal, Balotelli could yet play in Wednesday’s Manchester Derby.

City’s arch rivals Manchester United struggled to a 2-1 victory over Wolves. Ji Sung Park put United ahead but Wolves were back level thanks to an Ebanks-Blake equaliser from close range.  United had riskily put Owen Hargreaves in from the start as he tries to reignite a career at Manchester United that has so far been plagued by injury.  It was a sad sight to see, but after only five minutes Hargreaves pulled up holding his hamstring and looked gutted as he walked off the pitch for what will be another lay off for the midfielder. United were off form but can always rely on their winning mentality that not many other teams have to see out the game until the final whistle.  United didn’t give up and Park cut inside from the right to hit the winner with seconds left in a victory that now sees them two points behind Chelsea.

Earlier on Saturday, the first game of the weekend saw Bolton play Tottenham, who included the boy wonder Gareth Bale in their starting line up following his heroics against Inter Milan.  However, Bolton were in no mood to respect Tottenham and took a controversial lead as Kevin Davies struck to make it one nil.  Davies was offside but the goal stood.  Tottenham seemed to be suffering a European hangover as Bolton scored a further two.  However, Hutton and then Pavlyuchenko replied for Spurs with two classy strikes, which set up an edgy final few minutes before Bolton’s Martin Petrov raced through and applied a superb finish to win the game 4-2 for Bolton.

Blackburn and Sunderland both took three points in their games.  Blackburn overcame Wigan two-one thanks to goals from Pederson and the unwanted Jason Roberts.  Charles N’ Zogbia showed his class as he replied with a free kick for Wigan but it was not enough, as Blackburn moved out of the relegation zone.  Meanwhile at The Stadium of Light, two goals by record signing Gyan were enough to win three points for Sunderland.  Sunderland also missed a Steed Malbranque penalty when they were one up, and were lucky not to concede a goal and a man as Lee Cattermole handled on the line from a Kenwyne Jones header.  Stoke manager Tony Pulis was incensed at yet another refereeing decision going against his side, and was further aggrieved as Ryan Shawcross saw red for a strong challenge.

The three other Premier League games were draws.  Fulham needed an injury time equaliser from Brede Hangeland to draw one goal a piece with Aston Villa, who broke their goalscoring duck through Marc Albrighton’s superb individual effort earlier in the game.  West Ham looked to be heading for only their second win of the season against Birmingham as they went two nil up, only to surrender their lead as Jerome and then Ridgewell replied for The Blues.  Meanwhile, Everton twice came from behind at Blackpool to take home a two-two draw back to Goodison Park.

By Oliver Holmes


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