>Chelsea the only winners from Manchester Derby stalemate

>The Manchester Derby took centre stage at Eastlands last night, for what had been built up as one of the most intense and pressurised games between the two sides for many years.  Perhaps then it should not have surprised many that the game finished goalless, with few attempts on goal in what turned out to be a classic example of both sides cancelling each other out.

City were without the suspended Mario Balotelli, while Ryan Giggs missed his first Manchester Derby in nineteen years. Had these two creative players been involved then who knows we may have actually seen a winner.

The game began as it meant to go on. City had much of the early possession but never troubled Van Der Sar.  Tevez looked isolated alone up front, while Silva could not find the ingenuity to unlock the United defence.  In return United opted for Berbatov over recent goalscoring hero Hernandez, but he too was guilty of been found too far away from goal when his side did attack.  United created the first real chance, as Patrice Evra danced his way around three City players and found himself in the box.  However, he snatched at the right foot shot that went straight at Joe Hart. United came as close as they were going to do when the ball was whipped into the City box and Berbatov, from the edge of the area ,managed to volley the ball at speed back at goal.  Again Joe Hart was well positioned to make what looked like a routine save.

In return City tried to hit United on the counter attack, just as they had done in their win against Chelsea a few weeks ago.  City were awarded a free kick close to the edge of the United area.  Tevez struck it well and bent it up and over the wall, only to see veteran goalkeeper Van Der Sar make a terrific save that many below his age would only dream of.  The free kick turned out to be City’s best chance of the game.  Tevez and Rafael then came to blows just before half time with both players throwing their handbags at each other, and perhaps gesturing that they wanted the scuffle to continue at half time.
The second half began, and as the game continued United continued to press. If either side looked as though they were going to win it, it would have been the red side of Manchester.  However, unlike in recent times, the City defence stood strong until the final whistle and even when groans rang around the stadium at four minutes of ‘Fergie time’, time having to be played, City did not look in danger of conceding.  

Overall, Sir Alex Ferguson will be disappointed his side could not take all three points while Mancini, although showing a lack of ambition to win the game, will be happy with a point that keeps the pressure off him for now. 

Elsewhere, current leaders Chelsea extended their grip at the top of the table with a one nil win against Fulham at Stamford Bridge.  Chelsea welcomed back Drogba to the side, but it was midfielder Essien who broke the deadlock with an emphatic bullet header.  Chelsea continued to create chance after chance but could not find the all important second.  Things got even more edgy when the goalscorer was sent off for a two footed lunge on Clint Dempsey that was well spotted by the referee.  However, Chelsea hung on to claim all three points.

Similarly, Arsenal faced a stern challenge at Wolves.  Wolves who had impressed in their previous two games against the two Manchester clubs got off to a bad start as Marouane Chamakh scored a header in the first minute.  Wolves continued to compete for the rest of the game, and Kevin Doyle went close on numerous occasions, before in the final minute of injury time Chamakh broke the offside trap to make it two and send Arsenal home with what looked like a comfortable victory.

Elsewhere in the Premier League there were plenty of goals. At Villa Park the hosts and Blackpool played out a five goal thriller.  Downing gave Villa a well taken lead before Marlon Harewood equalised in first half injury time. Blackpool had made ten changes to the side that played at the weekend, and it is admirable that a team who were favourites to be relegated from the Championship last season are now holding their own with established top flight sides such as Villa.  Delfouneso gave Villa the lead again with a tidy break away before DJ Campbell levelled with minutes left.  However, Villa were not done as Collins headed home an 89th minute winner to seal all three points.

Meanwhile at Upton Park West Ham drew two all with West Brom. The Baggies took the lead thanks to a Peter Odemwingie penalty seven minutes before half time. The penalty initially looked harsh as Steven Reid was bundled to the ground by Boa Morte as a corner was whipped in but replays showed the foul was needless and the punishment was correctly issued.  Scott Parker instantly replied with a cracking effort from twenty yards meaning the sides went in level at half time.  West Ham themselves were then awarded a penalty in the 50th minute as Dyer was fouled in the area.  Piquionne stood up and confidently dispatched the penalty.  Nevertheless, as on previous occasions this season, West Ham could not hold on to their lead and Pablo equalised with a header as he ghosted in at the back post to send The Baggies home with a point.

Elsewhere Bolton looked to be sneaking an impressive away win from Goodison Park thanks to a Klasnic goal from close range. However, Jermaine Beckford came off the bench to curl in a brilliant goal from the left hand side of the box.  The goal was his first league goal since signing on a free from Leeds.

Everton’s local rivals Liverpool also had to make do with a one all draw at the DW Stadium.  Torres gave Liverpool the lead with a classy finish early in the game that looked to set them on their way to a victory.  However, much of the hard work they displayed in beating Chelsea at the weekend went to waste as Rodellega took full advantage as Liverpool failed to clear their lines to smash the ball home from ten yards. 

Finally, in the other game of the night Joey Barton reignited his old bad boy image during Blackburn’s two one win over Newcastle.  Pederson finished well to give Blackburn the lead before Andy Carroll equalised with a trademark header.  Forgotten man Jason Roberts then scored the winner to make it two goals in two for him and Blackburn are now moving away comfortably from the relegation zone. However, the game was marred by an off the ball incident with the controversial Barton involved.  While the referee was not looking Barton appeared to punch Pederson hard in the chest which then caused the victim to fall to the ground. The punch, a tad too reminiscent of CCTV footage from a certain McDonalds store in Liverpool, will do Barton no favours when this season had been doing well to move away from his previous bad boy record.  However, it appears the midfielder still has anger management issues as the punch was unnecessary and he could well find himself in trouble yet again with the F.A.

by Oliver Holmes

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