>Unpredictable start to Premier League takes new twist

>Sunderland provided the shock of the weekend as they thrashed Chelsea three nil to condemn the Stamford Bridge outfit to their second defeat in three games.  Chelsea, who have had a formidable record at Stamford Bridge over recent seasons, came undone thanks to a spirited Sunderland side who combined a lethal mixture of pace and accuracy to rattle three past the weakened Chelsea defence.  Full back Nedum Onouha danced his way around three Chelsea defenders before slotting home neatly from a difficult angle to give Sunderland a shock lead.  In what was an open game, Chelsea could not find their form in front of goal and Sunderland’s record signing Gyan soon produced a clinical second to stun the home crowd into silence.  Chelsea, not used to being two goals behind in any game, were losing their composure and struggled to force their way back into the game. Ashley Cole was chased back towards his own goal, and was pressured into making a terrible back pass that Danny Wellbeck latched on to before dispatching a great finish to round off a memorable win for the North East club. The defeat for Chelsea now means that they have lost two of the last three games without scoring, but more worryingly they displayed vulnerability in defence. 

The other Sunday game saw an in-form Everton welcome Arsenal to Goodison.  Everton were on a seven game unbeaten run prior to the game, but fell behind thanks to a bullet of a shot from Sagna that found its way past Howard.  Everton dug deep and tried to find a way back into the game, but were forced to rely on Tim Howard to produce a string of impressive saves.  When Everton did push forward, Saha, Beckford and Yakubu were all thwarted well by the impressive Fabianski.  Arsenal then made it two thanks to a tidy finish from Cesc Fabregas.  Everton were not to give up however, and their effort was rewarded when Tim Cahill scored from close range to continue his good start to the season.  However, the goal was not enough, and the win moves Arsenal up to second, only two points behind Chelsea.

Considering the way the two Sunday games went, Manchester rivals City and United will both be disappointed they could not take more from their games against two of the Midland clubs.  United went to Villa Park, a ground that has been very kind to them over many a season.  Villa though deservedly took a two goal advantage.  The first, a well taken penalty from Ashley Young beat Edwin Van Der Sar after Wes Brown had fouled in the box.  United attacked to find an equaliser, but an incisive break away led to a second Villa goal as Marc Albrighton tapped in a second.  However, in typical United style they somehow found a way back into the game with a never say die attitude.  First Macheda finished sublimely with a powerful shot that gave Freidel no chance, before Vidic popped up with a diving header that salvaged a point for the Red Devils. Villa struggled initially when Houllier took charge, but now seem to be finding their form and it is largely down to Houllier’s faith in young talent such as Albrighton and the rejuvenation of Downing.  

Meanwhile, Manchester City were booed off by some of their own fans after the second successive stalemate at Eastlands.  Carlos Tevez had a goal ruled out for handball, while Milner had an effort cleared off the line by Carr, but that is as close City came to breaking the Birmingham resistance.  Forgotten striker Santa Cruz, who is set to move away from City, was brought on to try and outdo the Birmingham height advantage in their defence, but the City faithful were left baffled as Mancini took Tevez off for Gareth Barry as they hunted for a winner. Coach David Platt, who is not the most popular of men at City, defended the decision by suggesting Tevez had a dead leg, but the decision was booed by many inside the ground.  The unrest will continue unless City find a way to break down the stubborn teams, but Birmingham must be applauded for defending so well.  Besides, Mancini and co cannot complain when teams show such lack of ambition; City did exactly the same in their previous game, the disappointing Manchester derby.

Continuing with the theme of goalless draws, Upton Park and St James Park witnessed them. West Ham and Blackpool could not find a way past each, other while Fulham continued to develop their draw specialist reputation at Newcastle.

In total contrast White Hart Lane saw six goals.  Gareth Bale netted twice and assisted one as they ran in a four goals to two victory against Blackburn.  Spurs raced into a four goal lead before Neilson and Givet pulled goals back for the visitors.  Tottenham looked extremely impressive in front of goal  and could have had more, but they will still be worried at the ease in which they conceded two late goals.  Similarly Bolton, who have improved massively under the leadership of Owen Coyle, beat Wolves three goals to two. The Wanderers played some great attacking football which resulted in a Richard Stearman own goal.  Elmander scored an unbelievable goal as he twisted through a wall of Wolves defenders to flick the ball home while Holden added a third.  Like Blackburn Wolves pulled two back, but in the end Bolton held on for the three points that sees them up to the dizzy heights of fifth.

Elsewhere, Stoke comfortably beat Liverpool two nil thanks to goals from Fuller and Jones, and the win was nothing less than they deserved. Liverpool are at best have been unpredictable, and need to find 
some consistency if they are to work their way up the league to where a team of their stature should be.

Finally, Wigan beat West Brom one nil thanks to a Victor Moses goal which moves The Latics out of the relegation zone while West Brom’s early good form appears to have ended.

by Oliver Holmes


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