>Chelsea continue winless streak as City go joint top

>Yet again, the Premier League action did not disappoint this weekend as both the top and bottom of the table were shaken up and things just got that little bit closer.  With three of the top four playing each other there was the chance for the gap amongst the top teams to be extended or shorted, while at the bottom, Wigan, Wolves and West Ham were all scrapping away for the points.

With Manchester United against Arsenal not taking place until tonight, the game of the weekend was undoubtedly at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham welcomed Chelsea.  Tottenham, who have excelled in Europe, now have a chance to build up their form in the league, while Chelsea would do anything for a win following their recent relegation form. Tottenham took the initiative in the game as they looked to test Chelsea’s resolve.  Essien had an early effort, but Chelsea looked nervous and found themselves behind as Roman Pavlyuchenko’s superb first touch and then finish deservedly put Spurs ahead.  Chelsea tried to find a way back into the game before half time as Kalou tried to find a way through. John Terry even joined the attacks when he could!

Drogba was then introduced off the bench as a replacement for Mikel, and the Ivorian was to have a real impact on the game.  The frontman took advantage of some slack defending by Dawson to steel through and power a shot at Gomes.  The save looked routine as the effort was straight at the ‘keeper, but the ball had momentum and ended up in the back of the net.  Chelsea blew a sigh of relief as they had fought their way back into the game.  However, they must have thought Christmas had come early as Gomes brought down Ramires in injury time, with a penalty kick the end result.  The usually deadly Drogba struck the penalty but Gomes made up for his previous errors with a fine save.  The game finished one each with Chelsea continuing their winless run that now stretches over a month.  Although a point is never a bad result at White Hart Lane for the visiting team, Chelsea will surely rue throwing away the chance to rejuvenate their season.

Prior to the game down in London, a fantastic Lancashire Derby had taken place.  Sam Allardyce returned to The Reebok, and things looked to be going his way as Mark Davies was sent off for an elbow on Blackburn’s Phil Jones. In what was a fairly dull contest before Davies saw red, the game sprung into life as Martin Petrov produced dangerous chances that Bolton could not take advantage off.  Zat Knight was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch following a tackle on Roberts but it was Bolton who took the lead.  Muamba, who had come on as a substitute for Chung-Yong Lee to sure things up following the dismissal, scored as he skipped past Neilson to fire home.  Blackburn looked shocked but soon attacked the Bolton goal and found themselves thanks to Diouf scoring a looping effort.  The game looked set to finish a draw but Bolton, who are so impressive this season, snatched all three points as Holden struck from twenty yards to make it a very unhappy return for Allardyce.

The other derby of the day saw relegation contenders Wolves take on Birmingham.  Wolves were impressive right from the off and were only prevented from taking the lead thanks to the fine form of Ben Foster.  However, Foster was soon beaten thanks to a clinical finish from Stephen Hunt.  That goal proved crucial as Birmingham struggled to muster efforts on goal.  Kevin Phillips went close late on with a header from six yards but Wolves clung on for a valuable victory.

The victory by Wolves put three points between themselves and West Ham who had lost on the Saturday thanks to an impressive display by Manchester City.  Yaya Toure’s superb left footed goal from the edge of the box fired City into the lead.  Toure then went on a fine run and struck the post only for the ball to rebound off Robert Green in goal and end up in the back of his net for the second.  This came after the controversial Balotelli had been substituted following his constant petulance that Mancini will do well to stamp out.  The substitution seemed to  have caused a set back to City, who all of a sudden looked disjointed.  However, once City got the second it was game over and Johnson, Balotelli’s replacement, rounded Green to slot home a third.  Tompkins pulled a consolation goal back for West Ham but the signs look ominous for The Hammers.

Meanwhile, at Villa Park, Gerrard Houllier continued his mission of winning over the Aston Villa fans with a two one victory over neighbours West Brom. Prior to the game there had been talk of unrest amongst Villa fans and Directors who were not impressed with Houllier’s reaction to the defeat against Liverpool.  However, Downing eased the tensions as his effort put Villa ahead and Heskey doubled the lead with ten minutes left.  Villa looked to be cruising for victory before Paul Scharner pulled a goal back to set up a tense finish. Villa hung on to claim all three points, a result that Houillier needs to build upon.

Blackpool continued their journey in the Premier League with a one nil win at Stoke.  Stoke, a notoriously difficult place to go, were undone by a DJ Campbell goal just after half time.  Stoke had no answer to the goal in a win that moves The Seasiders up to tenth with sixteen games gone.

Elsewhere there were goalless draws between Everton and Wigan and Fulham and Sunderland. Fulham now lie precariously above the relegation zone on goal difference, with Wigan just behind them.  Birmingham and Everton find themselves closer to the drop zone than they would have expected at this point in time while Bolton continue their brilliant climb up the league.

by Oliver Holmes

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