Archive for ‘Premier League Results’

January 17, 2011

United stay top, but title rivals maintain pressure

>Manchester United ended the weekend at the summit of the Premier League, but only on goal difference. The Reds went into their clash on Sunday with three games in hand on their closest rivals Manchester City knowing that all three points would end Tottenham’s slim title hopes, as well as put them firmly ahead of the other challengers. At the other end of the league however things remained as they were prior to the weekend.

On a grey, rainy afternoon, the football action brightened things up. Chelsea returned to winning ways with a two nil victory over Blackburn Rovers. Ancelotti had threatened that he would start without Drogba and Essien, but both were present as Chelsea struggled to break down a stubborn Rovers side. Chelsea looked the more dangerous as Drogba went close, but efforts on goal were few and far between from both sides. The second half hour was a different story as Chelsea punished Blackburn from some set play routines. A corner was flicked on my Terry to Ivanovic, who guided his shot past a helpless Robinson to send sighs of relief around Stamford Bridge on fifty seven minutes. The lead was deserved, and Chelsea extended it when Ivanovic rose highest from yet another corner to head goalwards, with Anelka getting the slightest of flicks to send the ball home. Chelsea saw out the game to give them a much needed victory, a win that fans hope triggers the start of a good title charge.

Elsewhere, Manchester City and Wolves played out a rollercoaster of a game as new Bosnian signing Dzeko made his debut. City have been notoriously slow starters, and were punished by an efficient and hardworking Wolves side who took the lead, Milijas prodding home from close range. Wolves were much the better team, and could have made it two had it not been for a crucial block from Kolarov from Jarvis’ goalbound effort. City eventually got their act together, and got the much needed equaliser thanks to a scrambled effort from Kolo Toure before half-time. However, despite much of the pre-match attentions being focused on Dzeko, it was talisman Carlos Tevez who dragged City into the lead once again with a brilliant individual effort. The Argentinian picked the ball up on the left, cut inside and used his quick feet to twist and turn inside three defenders before slotting the ball into the net. Minutes later it was three one as Yaya Toure received the ball, following great link-up play between Dzeko and Tevez, and buried it past the Wolves ‘keeper. It was soon to be four as Tevez then nodded home a Zabaleta cross, and City looked to be cruising their way to the top. Wolves though were not finished. They found a way back into the game through a Kevin Doyle penalty, after Lescott clumsily bundled over Doyle. Wolves then hit the bar, before Zubar’s header was adjudged to have crossed the line, setting up a nervy finale to the game. City clung on though, and the result that leaves Wolves in the drop zone.

Similarly, West Ham remain rooted to the bottom of the league thanks to a three nil defeat at the hands of Arsenal. The Gunners took the lead through a clinical Van Persie effort, and the lead was doubled thanks to Walcott nipping in behind Bridge to tap home. Arsenal’s work was completed when Walcott outpaced Bridge who hacked the England winger down in the box, to bring an end to what was a miserable debut for the left back. Van Persie converted the penalty convincingly, and sealed the three points for Arsenal who lie third. West Ham however face a massive challenge to beat the drop and find some stability, as doubts continue to grow over the future of manager Avram Grant.

On a brighter note, Blackpool and West Brom played out a thriller at The Hawthorns. Vaughn put Blackpool in the lead with a brilliant curling effort, while West Brom turned the game on its head with well taken goals from Odemwingie and Morrison. Taylor-Fletcher looked to have salvaged a point for The Seasiders, only for his effort to be undone by a long ball down the field that was not dealt with by Cathcart, and was punished by a tidy finish from Odemwingie to give West Brom a much needed win.

Slightly further up the league, Stoke gained an impressive win over Bolton. A Matthew Etherington penalty and a Danny Higginbotham goal were enough to see off the increasingly impressive Lancashire team. Higginbotham scrambled home an untidy goal eight minutes before half time, before Knight committed a bad foul on Etherington, and could have no complaints at the decision. Jaaskelainen was unlucky not to keep the effort out as he guessed the right way and got a hand to the ball. The result meant that Bolton and Stoke are now level on points in the league in seventh and eighth, although Stoke do have a game in hand.

The only draw of Saturday came at the DW Stadium. Wigan took the lead against Fulham thanks to a cheeky chip from Rodallega. The Latics seemed to be closing out the game, until Andrew Johnson came off the bench to nick an equaliser and send Fulham back to Craven Cottage with a share of the spoils, with a result that leaves both sides hovering nervously above the relegation zone.

And so attentions turned to Sunday its three derby contests. David Bentley produced a man of the match performance on his Birmingham debut, but could not do enough to help the Blue side of Birmingham go home with all three points. Birmingham took the lead through Roger Johnson’s close range volley, and looked to be in control of the game. Villa looked short of ideas but threw on Bannan and Delfounso, who changed the outcome of the game. Shortly after their introduction the impressive Albrighton lifted a delicate ball into the box which was smashed home by Collins. Richard Dunne produced a brilliant block to keep Villa in the game. Delfounso smacked the bar with an adventurous thirty yard drive, but the game ended all square.

The Merseyside derby also ended in a draw, but was filled with goals. Meireles gave Liverpool the lead at Anfield just before the half hour, but the lead did not last long as Distin levelled straight after half time. Dalglish must have feared the worst when Beckford gave Everton the lead eight minutes later. However, all was not lost for Liverpool as Howard, who had kept Everton ahead with some brilliant saves, brought down Maxi. Kuyt stepped up and converted the penalty, which meant both sets of fans had to settle with a point each, and King Kenny continues to search for his first win back in charge.

Up in the Northeast the points were also shared. Newcastle, minus the injured Carrol, took a second half lead through Nolan, and could almost taste another derby victory as the game went deep into injury time. However, Gyan had other ideas, and in the fourth minute of time added on he netted the equaliser to frustrate Pardew’s men.

With the local derbies now complete, White Hart Lane took centre stage. Former United hero Beckham was in the stands as he seeks to complete his longwinded deal to Tottenham, but all of the focus was on the pitch. The game was a close affair which Spurs arguably shaded. The usual suspects of Van der Vaart and Rooney went agonisingly close for their teams, but neither side could find a way through. As the game wore on United were becoming more tormented, and their frustration was told as Rafael received his marching orders for a second yellow after a cynical tackle on Assou-Ekotto. Tottenham sensed it could be their day, but in the end had to settle for a point as United stretched their unbeaten run to twenty-one games.

By Oli Holmes

December 13, 2010

>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

December 6, 2010

>Arsenal gun down Fulham to finish weekend on top

>It turned out to be yet another weekend of brilliant Premier League action that continued the unpredictable foundation the current campaign has been built upon. There were plenty of goals, controversial refereeing decisions, as well as a postponement as Blackpool’s clash against Manchester United fell foul of the freezing temperatures.

A Samir Nasri double made sure Arsenal overcame a spirited Fulham side at The Emirates.  The Frenchman has been in sensational form this season, taking the limelight away from other fans’ favourites such as Fabregas and Van Persie.  The midfielder produced some amazing footwork and tidy finishing to grab a brace in what was not an easy game for Arsenal.  The deadlock was broken on fourteen minutes as Nasri smashed home, only for Kamara to break the Arsenal offside trap and provide a tidy finish to equalise.  It looked as though it could have been another frustrating afternoon for The Gunners as they continued to press without scoring.  That was until Nasri weaved his magic in between the Fulham defenders and slotted home a second in similar vein to his goal against Tottenham only a few weeks ago.  The win put Arsenal top for the time being while Chelsea took on Everton at home.

Chelsea, who have struggled of late to produce their amazing early season form, took the lead thanks to a Didier Drogba penalty.  The Ivorian smashed home from the spot after Anelka was brought down by Howard, having latched on to a poor backpass from Phil Neville. The decision was controversial as Anelka appeared to twist his run into Howard when he could have arguably rounded the keeper, who stayed on the pitch. Chelsea looked set to be on their way to three points, but they have definitely lost some of their free flowing cutting edge, and paid the price for not putting the game beyond Everton.  Everton carved the frail Chelsea defence open thanks to a creative run from left back Baines.  The homesick England left-back put in a brilliant cross that was nodded back by Cahill to Beckford who couldn’t miss.  The Everton striker wheeled away in jubilation to bring a point home for The Toffees.

The attention then turned to fourth placed Manchester City against European hopefuls Bolton. City have struggled to score goals at home all season, and have the joint lowest home scoring record in the league alongside Birmingham and Wigan. However, it took only four minutes for Tevez to notch in his tenth league goal of the campaign after good work from Yaya Toure.  City could have bagged plenty as they tore Bolton apart. Balotelli hit the post when he should have scored, while the impressive Silva struck the bar with a powerful effort.  To their credit Bolton never gave up, and were always in the game as long as City continued their poor finishing.  Davies struck a ferocious volley over the bar, while Joe Hart dropped a seemingly routine catch into the goal mouth, and had to be rescued by the solid Kompany.  Kolarov was harshly sent off for two fouls on Lee as Bolton tried to press for an equaliser, but City held out for the three points, although Tevez was not impressed at being substituted in the final minute.

At the bottom end of the table, three teams beginning with W fill the relegation zone.  Wigan twice fought their way back from behind to get a draw at home to Stoke while Wolves were comprehensively beaten 3-0 away to Blackburn, who showed no signs of their thrashing last weekend against Manchester United.  West Ham also lost this weekend thanks to a neat goal from Jordan Henderson, as Sunderland claimed all three points against the relegation strugglers.

West Brom climbed up the table with an impressive win against Newcastle.  The Baggies now sit eighth thanks to a 3-1 win as they battered the team that strode so easily to the Championship league title last season.

Finally, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was disappointed to drop points away to Birmingham.  Spurs took the lead through Bassong and were cruising, only for Craig Gardner’s second half header to snatch victory away from them.  The weekend’s action has now tightened up the top of the table with only three points between Arsenal on top and Manchester City in Fourth.  Manchester United now have a game in hand, while at the bottom Fulham, Wigan, West Ham and Wolves are all looking ominously at the drop zone.

By Oliver Holmes

November 29, 2010

>Weekend’s action creates Premier League history

>All twenty English Premier League sides scored this weekend, a feat that will go down in the history books as it had never been done before. In total, 41 goals were scored across ten games to produce a brilliant advertisement for English football ahead of the week that decides the 2018 World Cup bid.

The goal blitz began at Villa Park on Saturday when Arsenal took on Aston Villa. The Gunners looked in superb form as they took apart a very young Villa side without managing to get the breakthrough. However, a defensive mix up was punished by Arshavin as he showed his class to break the deadlock.  Minutes later Nasri should have made it two as he rounded Friedel, only to hit his effort into the side netting.  However, he redeemed himself moments later with a superb volley from a corner following poor Villa marking.  The Midland outfit were then booed off at half time by their fans, which would have rattled the Villa youngsters.  Nevertheless, the teams emerged from the break with Villa looking the more potent going forward. Ciaran Clark scored a superb half volley from the edge of the box to put Aston Villa back in the contest, only for Chamakh to poke home and extend Arsenal’s lead four minutes later.  Clark then made sure the Villa fans once again had something to get excited about as he headed home his second.  The goal set up a thrilling finish to the game, in which Arsenal made defensive substitutions to try and close it out. With Villa pressing for an equaliser, Arsenal counter attacked to great effect which enabled Wilshere to nod home a fourth and seal the three points for Arsenal.

The win moved Arsenal momentarily to the top of the league with only Manchester United being able to take over them on the day should they overcome what looked like a tricky tie against Blackburn Rovers.  However, any chance of this game being a contest was soon over.  United, who have not been free flowing this season despite being unbeaten, simply swept Blackburn away with some clinical football.  Dimitar Berbatov became the fifth Premier Player to score five times in a game, with Nani and Park getting the others.  Samba scored a consolation for Rovers, but it could have easily been more for United as Robinson did well to prevent Berbatov grabbing a double hat trick.  The Bulgarian’s link up play with Rooney looked telepathic at times, but Rooney’s failure to score yet again may cause concern for United and England fans alike.

Lower down the table West Brom thrashed Everton 4-1 thanks to strikes from Scharner, Brunt, Tchoyi and a Distin own goal.  Tim Cahill had brought Everton back into the game to make it 2-1, but Mikel Arteta saw red to which West Brom took control of the game.  The manner of the defeat will surely hurt David Moyes, who now finds his side only two points above the relegation zone. Fellow relegation candidates Wolves and West Ham both picked up crucial victories.  West Ham beat Wigan Three three goals to one while Wolves came from behind to beat Sunderland.

Elsewhere, there were score draws for Bolton against Blackpool, Birmingham against Fulham, and Stoke against Man City.  Stoke and Bolton both had to rely on injury time equalisers to share the spoils in what was a brilliant day of football.

With the amount of goals scored on Saturday, Sunday had a lot to live up to and it did not disappoint.  Chelsea who have struggled of late continued to show their frailties as a defensive error from Alex’s poor back pass allowed Carroll to race through and put Newcastle into the lead.  A deflected Kalou effort made sure the teams went into the break level, with neither side managing to find a winner in the second half.  Alarm bells may well be ringing for the Chelsea faithful who have now seen their side turn from unbeatables to vulnerables in a matter of weeks.

The last game of the weekend saw Liverpool go to Tottenham.  So far this season Tottenham have struggled in Premier League games when they have played a midweek Champions League game.  However, today they may well have just found a cure to the European hangover.  Skertel gave Liverpool the lead just before the end of a good first half.  However he went from hero to zero as he put through his own goal, after a great run from Modric, to give Tottenham the equaliser.  Prior to the goal, Jermaine Defoe had the chance to bring Spurs level from the penalty spot but sent his effort wide.  Both sides hunted for a winner, but Aaron Lennon stayed more alert than Paul Konchesky and, two minutes into injury time, ran through to beat Reina and send the Tottenham fans home happy once again after a very impressive week.

by Oliver Holmes

November 22, 2010

>Spurs and City show title race is wide open

>In a weekend packed with goals, the unpredictable start to the campaign continued in superb style with a weekend of stunning goals, comebacks and sendings off.

In the first game of the weekend, Tottenham produced a sensational comeback at The Emirates to take all three points, and the bragging rights, against their North London arch rivals, as they won at Arsenal for the first time in seventeen years.

The Gunners raced into a two goal lead and looked to be in cruise control.  Much had been made before the game of Samir Nasri stating he would not shake the hand of former Gunner turned Spurs William Gallas. True to his word Nasri did not shake the fellow Frenchman’s hand, and it was not long before the pair continued their feud on the pitch.  Nasri though then let his football do the talking. Fabregas put him through, Gomes hesitated, and the Frenchman to finish well from a seemingly impossible angle.  The Gunners inspired by an in-form Fabregas made it two when Chamakh tapped in the second, and when the half-time whistle blew it seemed like Arsenal would be the ones taking the honours.

Nevertheless, Spurs had other ideas, and pulled a goal back almost immediately as Van Der Vaart managed to slip the impressive Gareth Bale through on goal to finish well.  The goal sparked life into the Tottenham players, and Modric was looking dangerous, just as Fabregas had done in the first half.  Tottenham were then awarded a free kick twenty five yards away from goal, which Van Der Vaart struck into the Arsenal wall.  Referee Phil Down correctly adjudged Fabregas to have handled the ball unnecessarily, and the resulting Tottenham penalty was despatched calmly by Van Der Vaart, who must be one of the bargains of the season. Arsenal then had a chance to take the lead as Kosceilny headed a glorious chance wide. The miss proved crucial as Kaboul glanced a header home four minutes from time to snatch all three points. The Spurs fans were jubilant and rightly so, while Wenger was left mulling over his side’s capitulation.

Just as impressive was Birmingham City’s one nil victory over Chelsea. The leaders travelled to Birmingham trying to put behind them two defeats in the previous three. However, Birmingham had other ideas as they took the lead through Lee Bowyer. The Birmingham defence resisted Chelsea’s attacking threat well with a combination of determination and bravery, much to the frustration of Ancelotti’s men.  Drogba hit the bar with a powerful header from Malouda’s cross, while Blues’ ‘keeper Ben Foster was in inspired form.  Chelsea pressed and pressed and provided a frantic final few minutes, but could not find a way to claim an all important point. The win moves Birmingham out of the relegation zone, while Chelsea only remain top of the league on goal difference.

Right on Chelsea’s tail are Manchester United, who picked up three points against nine man Wigan.  Patrice Evra and Hernandez scored headers to provide a comfortable win for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, who continue to win without finding top gear.  fFollowing his recent controversy surrounding his contract negotiation, Wayne Rooney made his return to action as a second half substitute to a mixed reception .  Wigan were then reduced to nine men quickly as Alcaraz and Rodallega saw red due to their frustrations.  

More impressive were the current league’s entertainers Bolton. [This is getting ridiculous! – Ed] The Wanderers beat Newcastle five goals to one thanks to braces from Elmander and Davies and a goal from Lee, while recent England call-up Carroll pulled one back for the visitors.  Bolton are clearly moving away from their one dimensional route of football that they were accused of playing under Megson, and have begun to play some impressive stuff under Coyle, with the goals flying in from everywhere.  Although they have not kept a clean sheet for some time, the rate at which they continue to score goals and beat their opposition is causing delight at The Reebok.

Elsewhere, Liverpool eased to a three nil win over struggling West Ham. The recently criticised Glenn Johnson scored the first, while Kuyt scored from the penalty spot to make it two.  Maxi added a third before half time and that was how the game stayed, with Liverpool seemingly happy with their evening’s work. Blackpool returned to winning ways with a two goals to one victory over Wolves.  Luke Varney and Marlon Harewood put Blackpool two up, while Kevin Doyle responded with his first goal of the season. The goal was not enough for Wolves, as Blackpool moved into the top half after taking all three points. Wolves dropped to second bottom.

In addition, Stoke comfortably beat West Brom three nil to make it three wins on the trot.  Jon Walters scored twice with Etherington getting the other as West Brom continue their slide down the table.

With Saturday’s action over, the attention turned to Sunday. Blackburn celebrated their new takeover with an impressive two nil win over Aston Villa. Morten Gamst Pederson scored a free kick just before the stroke of half time, which Freidel could have done better to save. The former Rovers’ stopper was then once again beaten by Pederson who diverted in a Ryan Nelson attempt.  Ashley Young came close for Villa with an effort that cannoned off the woodwork, but could not find a way past a resolute Blackburn defence.  New signing Robert Pires was introduced on sixty nine minutes, but could not do anything to force Villa back into the game.

The final game saw Mark Hughes host his former club Manchester City at Craven Cottage.  Many football fans thought Hughes was harshly treated by City when he was sacked just under a year ago with his side apparently on course to achieve a top six finish.  However, Mancini was brought in to replace him under Hughes’ nose, and the Italian ironically faced growing pressure heading into this game, following only one win in six.  The game began and City raced into the lead thanks to Carlos Tevez. Gareth Barry’s incisive pass found Tevez who struck home well.  The lead was then doubled thanks to fellow Argentinian Pablo Zabaleta, who lashed home from twenty five yards for only his second City goal. The goal provided the cushion that enabled City to hunt for more.  Yaya Toure scored a powerful effort, before Tevez added a fourth that had more than a slice of luck about it.  Fulham did not give up, and scored a consolation through Gera. In a weekend that saw Arsenal and Chelsea lose, City now lie only three points behind the leaders in this wide open title race.

by Oliver Holmes
November 15, 2010

>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

November 11, 2010

>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
November 8, 2010

>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

October 25, 2010

>Chelsea continue dominance as others stutter this weekend

>Chelsea moved five points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League this weekend with a convincing 2-0 victory over Wolves on Saturday.  The leaders then had to wait till the Sunday to see title rivals Arsenal take maximum points from ten-man Manchester City, while Manchester United needed a late winner from Javier Hernandez to beat off a spirited Stoke side.

With Chelsea welcoming Wolves to Stamford Bridge many would have had this down as a home-banker, and with goals from Malouda and Kalou, Chelsea duly delivered.  Although Chelsea’s only defeat of the season so far came away at Manchester City, the ease in which they appear to dispose of the rest of the league outside of the top four is incredible.  On this form, the title is surely Chelsea’s to lose. 

Manchester United may though have something to say about that. Buoyed by the news that Wayne Rooney has signed a five year contract at the club, the Old Trafford side achieved their first away win of the season.  United took the lead through an acrobatic header from Hernandez before substitute Tuncay cut in from the right and unleashed a spectacular equaliser for Stoke.  United fans must surely have thought it would be a case of another lead dropped, mirroring that of previous games against Everton, Fulham and West Brom. However, Hernandez popped up again just before full-time to grab a winner which could prove to be the turning point in how the rest of their season develops. Despite Stoke more than holding their own, Tony Pulis believes they would have had a better chance had Gary Neville been dismissed.  The right back was lucky to stay on the pitch following strong tackles on tricky winger Matthew Etherington, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to bring on Wes Brown for Neville perhaps an admission that Neville was a lucky boy.

Across the cityaAt Eastlands on Sunday, Mark Clattenburg had no choice but to give nineteen year old centre-back Dedryck Boyata his marching orders.  The youngster was the last man as he clattered into Marouane Chamakh who was potentially through on goal.  Arsenal capitalised on having the extra man with the superb Nasri finishing off a tidy Arsenal move.  Vincent Kompany then brought Fabregas down in the penalty box with Clattenburg pointing to the spot without hesitation.  Fabregas stepped up, but Hart pulled out a great save to keep City’s hopes of salvaging something alive.  The courageous City players tired out as the game wore on and were punished late on with goals from Song and Bendtner to give Arsenal a flattering 3-0 win.

Down at the other end of the table, Fernando Torres scored his second of the season to clinch a 2-1 victory for Liverpool against Blackburn. Liverpool still remain in the bottom three with Rovers surprisingly just above them.  West Ham surrendered a one goal advantage against Newcastle who came back with goals from Nolan and Carroll, while there were score draws for Bolton at Wigan and Everton at Tottenham.

Finally, Sunderland beat Aston Villa 1-0 thanks to another Richard Dunne own goal.  The defender is the highest own goalscorer in Premier League history. Villa had plenty of chances to take something from the game, most notably Emile Heskey being guilty of missing some chances he should have done better with, including missing the ball 3 yards from goal.  Meanwhile, Villa’s Midlands rivals West Brom continued their brilliant start to the season with a 2-1 win over Fulham.  The win put The Baggies within the top four for a short space of time. If Roberto Di Matteo’s surprise package can keep up this run of winning games and getting great results they will guarantee safety, and can look to establish themselves as a Premier League side.  

By Oliver Holmes

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September 11, 2010

>Premier League Results Saturday 9th September 2010

>Everton had a stunning comeback to steal a point of Manchester United, with Cahill and Arteta scoring 2 goals in 2 minutes of extra time. In other news West Ham’s woes continue as Chelsea cruised past them, Blackpool sit in 4th after beating Newcastle, and Tottenham were frustrated at the Hawthorns.

Everton 3 Man Utd 3
Arsenal 4 Bolton 1
Fulham 2 Wolverhampton 1
Man City 1 Blackburn 1
Newcastle 0 Blackpool 2
West Brom 1 Tottenham 1
West Ham 1 Chelsea 3
Wigan 1 Sunderland 1

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