Arsenal and Man City pile on pressure as Man Utd and Chelsea falter
Excitement was to be had all over the country last weekend as the eighth set of fixtures in the Premiership gave us a variety of thrilling matches and unpredictable results. A cracking game took place at Bloomfield Road as Blackpool faced the daunting task of hosting the ever-improving Manchester City. If money spent over the summer was proportional to performance then the 3-1 outcome to the visitors would have been far greater. Ian Holloway’s £3m expenditure compared with Roberto Mancini’s £120m was not evident from the start as Blackpool started off brightly, DJ Campbell missing a glorious chance in the first half. After bringing Adebayor off for David Silva, and reverting back to their preferred 4-3-3 formation, the class of Manchester City began to tell as Carlos Tevez produced a crafty back-flick at the front post, leaving Matt Gilks stranded. However, substitute Marlon Harewood flicked on a Charlie Adam free-kick to bring his team back into the game, only for Tevez to double his tally merely 45 seconds later. David Silva wrapped things up late on with a super run, jinxing past two players before curling it into the far post and although Blackpool did pull back late on through Steven Taylor-Fletcher, it was too little too late as the hosts continued their run of no Premiership wins at home. Meanwhile, Man City moved up to 2nd, piling the pressure on the teams around them.
Man United continue to throw away leads this season as West Brom came from 2 goals down to draw 2-2 at Old Trafford. With Wayne Rooney starting on the bench and questions being raised over his commitment to the club, it was his replacement Javier Hernandez(or ‘Chicharito’ as his shirt name goes) who opened his Premiership account with a simple tap-in following a Nani free-kick. The home team seemed to be in cruise control as Nani slotted home for himself after a simple yet effective one-two with Dimitar Berbatov. Nemanja Vidic could have made it 3-0 with a header that glanced the post just before half-time. However, Man Utd’s normally strong and reliable defence seemed to crumble in the first ten minutes of the second half as West Brom scored two embarrassing goals. The first resulted from a Chris-Brunt free-kick and finally deflected off Evra and in after a mini game of pinball in the penalty area. The second can best be described as a goalkeeping howler as the normally reliable van der Sar dropped a basic cross leaving new signing Somen Tchoyi with a gaping goal. Although Wayne Rooney did come on late on, his impact was minimal as West Brom continued their fine run of form, taking yet more points off top sides.
Meanwhile the Merseyside derby was a battle of two clubs in desperate situations. Both clubs have yet to find their feet this season and it was Everton who claimed all three points at Goodison Park, with their first derby win since 2006. An expectantly tense and nervous affair in the first half, the game livened up and it was Tim Cahill that opened the scoring following a surging run from Seamus Coleman. The latter had a superb game on the wing and is certainly one to watch for the future. Mikel Arteta made sure of the points after smashing it past a group of players from a corner, continuing Liverpool’s misery as they dropped to 19th, on goal difference.
Elsewhere in the top four, Arsenal came down from 1-0 down to beat Birmingham 2-1. The latter took the lead via a header from 6’8” striker, Nicola Zigic, rather against the run of play. Nasri then tucked home a penalty before Marouane Chamakh scored a tremendous winner to give Arsenal the points. However, the day was not all bright for the home team as Jack Wilshere ruined what had a been a fine performance with a horrific tackle on Zigic, leaving referee Martin Atkinson no choice but to dish out a straight red. With the likes of Arsenal and Man City breathing down their backs, Chelsea needed to secure a win at Villa Park but the tie ended goalless as neither team could break down their opponent’s defence. This tense affair never really got going until the last 10 minutes,as Branislav Ivanovic, Ciaran Clark and then Nicolas Anelka all hit the woodwork with headers. Nigel Reo-Coker missed a glorious opportunity to win it for the hosts late on as questions continue to be raised over how Chelsea cope in difficult games.
The biggest controversy of the weekend was at Craven Cottage, as Fulham played Tottenham. Diomansy Kamara opened the scoring after fine play by Clint Dempsey before Pavlyuchenko scored a simple tap-in after a superb turn and chip from Rafael van der Vaart hit the bar. However, the controversy came in the form of the last goal. Passed out from a corner, Tom Huddlestone hit a sweet low shot into the bottom corner, only for referee Mike Dean to rule William Gallas, who was judged to be interfering with play, as offside. However, after much consultation with the fourth official, the goal was awarded, much to the dismay and disappointment of the home fans. Elsewhere in the league, Bolton beat Stoke 2-1. The game seemed to be heading towards a draw after goals from Lee Chung-Yong and Rory Delap, but Ivan Klasnic snatched a last-minute winner. You could feel ‘hero to zero’ headlines being written all over the country though as moments later he was sent off for two bookable offences. At St James’ Park, 2 goals from Charles N’Zogbia were not enough to defeat his old team as Newcastle came back to draw against Wigan with headers from Shola Ameobi and Fabricio Colocconi while 10-man Blackburn somehow managed to snatch a draw against a hard-working but inefficient Sunderland. Finally, Wolves drew 1-1 to West Ham at Molineux in what was probably a fair result for both teams. Robert Green continued his World Cup hangover after his punch from a corner fell straight to opponent Matt Jarvis, who slotted home his second of the season while Mark Noble equalised from the spot as both relegation contenders continued their poor run of form.
I am going to be as bold as to make some predictions for next week’s set of games. The unpredictable nature of the League thus far will probably prove them all wrong but here goes:
Tottenham 2-1 Everton
Birmingham 2-0 Blackpool
Chelsea 3-0 Wolves
Sunderland 1-1 Aston Villa
West Brom 2-1 Fulham
Wigan 0-0 Bolton
West Ham 1-2 Newcastle
Stoke 1-1 Man Utd
Liverpool 3-1 Blackburn
Man City 2-0 Arsenal