After the excitement of last weekend’s events in the Barclays Premier League, United’s hammering in the Manchester derby for example; many fans may have been left wondering what else could possibly be left to surprise them. This weekend’s fixtures however did not fail to deliver.
We’ll start at Stamford Bridge where Andre Villas Boas Chelsea side looked to bounce back from the disappointment of last week’s West London derby result against Queens Park Rangers. Their opponents on this occasion, an Arsenal side who have been much criticised this season following some high profile departures and an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign. Looking at the fixture on paper, many fancied Chelsea to get back to winning ways without too much trouble against a defensively inexperienced Arsenal, the Premier League however, is not that simple. Chelsea took the lead inside 15 minutes through Frank Lampard, and despite Robin van Persie’s equaliser later in the half, looked to have taken control of the match when John Terry put them 2-1 up just before half time. Soon after the break, Arsenal’s Brazilian “left back” Santos made the score 2-2, before Theo Walcott turned the game on its head with a fine solo goal. Summer signing Mata equalised for the Blues with a fine strike from distance, but that was not the end of the tale. Arsenal captain Robin van Persie took advantage of a slip by a weary looking John Terry to race onto a loose ball, round Petr Cech and make it 4-3. Van Persie then completed his hat-trick, scoring his 28th goal in 27 appearances in the process and sealing a fine win for Arsenal at their London rivals. The result has provided food for thought for Arsenal’s critics and called into question whether Chelsea are playing too high of a line defensively, leaving themselves vulnerable to quick counter attacks. A fantastic game littered with defensive errors and filled with attacking prowess, a wonderful advertisement for the Barclays Premier League.
Arsenal’s fiercest rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, had to wait until Sunday afternoon for their London Derby against Q.P.R.. After their 1-5 home defeat against Man. City earlier in the season, questions were asked about Tottenham’s ability to keep pace with the big boys this season. Some shrewd deadline day signings, particularly Scott Parker and Adebayor, have really strengthened the Spurs squad and their fine run, since that result, continued at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Q.P.R played well and Neil Warnock’s team contributed to a fine match, but Tottenham’s quality shone through. Scott Parker turned in a fantastic performance cutting out virtually every Rangers attack at source. Two goals from flying Welshman Gareth Bale and one from Raphael van der Vaart (his fifth in consecutive games) were enough to see off Q.P.R., who briefly threatened a fightback when Jay Bothroyd scored just after half-time to make it 2-1. Spurs march up the table continues.
Two other teams are making quiet assured progress just behind the leaders this season, namely Newcastle Utd and Liverpool. Newcastle moved up to the heady heights of third place on Monday night as they continued their unbeaten start to the season, disposing of Stoke City 1-3 at the Brittania. Stoke had only conceded one goal at home in the league so far, and Stoke City themselves are notorious for bombarding opponents with long throws and set pieces, so that puts the result into context. Newcastle were comfortable from the moment Demba Ba put them ahead early on. Stoke were never in contention and two more goals from Ba (one a penalty) saw them through unscathed despite Jonathon Walters’ penalty for Stoke. Newcastle stride on! Liverpool continued their unbeaten run of seven games in all competitions by seeing off a lacklustre West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday evening. Liverpool dominated the game and went ahead through a Charlie Adam spot kick after Luis Suarez was clearly fouled in the area. Andy Carroll, who’s been the subject of criticism since his move to Anfield, capped a fine performance by linking up with Luis Suarez to make it 2-0 before halftime. Liverpool’s domination in the second half saw the definite makings of a real partnership and understanding between Suarez and Carroll, something which we haven’t really seen until now, both players made a real effort to link up with each other and both were unlucky not to add to the score line.
Elsewhere in the Barclays Premier League this week, Manchester United got back to winning ways at Goodison Park, but remained unconvincing as they ground out a 0-1 win against Everton, Javier Hernandez the scorer. Goals from Dzeko, Silva and Adam Johnson were enough for City to see off Wolves at Eastlands, City finished the game with ten men after Vincent Kompany was sent off for a professional foul, Steven Hunt scored the resultant penalty for the visitors. Bolton continued their miserable run losing 3-1 in Swansea, while Wigan continue to gift goals to their opponents, losing 0-2 at home to Fulham after creating enough chances to win two games, Wigan’s eighth successive defeat. Sunderland proved that they are becoming harder to beat after twice coming from a goal down against Aston Villa to snatch a point, the most pleasing thing for Manager Steve Bruce will be Connor Wickham’s first goal for the club since signing from Ipswich for £8 million in the summer, and a fine finish it was too.
Finally, I wanted to single out Blackburn Rovers this week. The club has not been performing well at all, results aren’t going for them and some of the fans, unsatisfied with the new owners, Venky’s, are desperate to have the manager sacked-holding protests against him before and after games. There has been a marked improvement in performances lately and Blackburn could have counted themselves unlucky not to get a point last week against an in form Spurs side. This week Blackburn went to Norwich to take on the Canaries, a side who’ve been punching above their weight since being promoted from the Championship in the summer. Blackburn played well with goals from Hoilett, Yakubu and Samba putting them 1-3 up and seemingly in pole position to win the game. It’s often said however, that when you’re at the bottom of the league things go against you, well that could not be more true in this case. On 83 minutes a shot from Norwich’s Johnson took a massive deflection and looped agonisingly over Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal to make it 2-3. Then to add insult to injury, Blackburn’s Nzonzi, in the midst of appealing for a free kick, inadvertently handled in his own area. The ref pointed to the spot, one of the harshest decisions I’ve ever seen in all my years of watching football, and Russell Holt makes it 3-3. I really feel for Blackburn this week, they were the better team, they deserved to win and would have held on had it not been for that unbelievably harsh call, but there it is, the Barclays Premier League, it rarely disappoints!
This article was commissioned by and published on http://www.euro-2012-blog.com/ . First published on 2/11/11.