The goals just keep on coming in the Premier League so far this season, and last weekend’s fixtures provided another bagful, 32 in all, to keep up the trend. Speculation as to why the number of goals scored has risen so dramatically is rife amongst pundits and fans alike, poor defending, better strikers, more attacking attitude, less tackles going in? Probably all of the above, but who cares? As long as the goals keep flying in, we’ll not be complaining.
We’ll begin the round up with Saturday’s late kick off at Loftus Road, where, in what turned out to be arguably the game of the weekend, newly promoted Q.P.R threatened to upset the league leaders Manchester City. Rangers took the lead midway through the first half when Jay Bothroyd rose to plant a header firmly into the far corner from Joey Barton’s free kick. In a first half that City would like to forget, Q.P.R. had two excellent chances to add to their lead before the break, first Joe Hart made a great save from Jamie Mackie’s drive, and then Jay Bothroyd put a free header narrowly wide from a magnificent Helguson cross. City, however, demonstrated their quality, even when playing poorly, two minutes before half time Dzeko broke down the left before cutting inside Ferdinand, and slotting the ball past Paddy Kenny. After the break City came out stronger, and took the lead when David Silva demonstrated majestic touch in the area to collect the ball and fire it past Kenny. Rangers though, were not done, and scored an equaliser when Bothroyd’s goal-bound effort deflected into the net off Helguson’s back. City showed their mettle and within five minutes had reclaimed the lead, Yaya Toure with a powerful, towering header making it 2-3. Q.P.R. kept fighting but couldn’t grab a third, Helguson rattling the crossbar late on with yet another header. A pulsating encounter which saw City have to come from behind for the first time this season, Q.P.R showed that they will have enough to stay up and City showed that they don’t scare easily.
Sunday evening saw Tottenham Hotspur travel to Craven Cottage for a second consecutive London Derby. Fulham had the best of the play in the opening exchanges; however it was Spurs who took the lead, after ten minutes, when Gareth Bale’s cross-shot was diverted into his own net by, Northern Ireland international, Chris Baird. Spurs made it two right on the stroke of half time, Aaron Lennon racing onto a pass from Bale before calmly placing it beyond Schwarzer. Fulham came out for the second half determined to make amends, and so began a relentless bombardment of the Tottenham defence. Friedel had to be at his very best to deny Hangeland, before Younes Kaboul’s own goal made the score 1-2 – Kaboul was powerless to stop it, Ledley King having headed an attempted clearance straight against the back of his team-mate. That goal came just before the hour mark, and the one way traffic continued. Friedel was a rock for Spurs, producing several fantastic saves from Riise, Zamora, and, in the dying moments, from Dembele, before substitute Jermain Defoe scored in injury time to seal it for Spurs, their only attack of the second half. Things could have been very different though, had referee Walton seen Kyle Walker almost holding onto the ball on the ground during a goal mouth scramble with the score at 1-2, he would surely have awarded Fulham a penalty for handball. It wasn’t to be however, and the game finished 1-3, leaving Spurs happy as their winning run continues, and Fulham cursing their luck, having fired twenty shots on target during the course of the match.
So, to St. James’ Park for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off between Newcastle United and Everton. Newcastle’s fantastic opening three months is in sharp contrast to the Merseysiders, who came into this fixture on the back of just one win in their last six, albeit after a tough set of fixtures. The game itself exploded into life right from the start, as Seamus Coleman dragged a shot wide in the opening minutes. It was Newcastle who took the lead however, as Heitinga deflected Simpson’s cross past Tim Howard and into his own net. Everton’s response was immediate as Royston Drenthe created two quick chances, but Saha and Osman respectively couldn’t find a way past Krul. Still Everton pressed and Saha found himself clean through with plenty of time, but, unusually for him, he lacked the composure to find the back of the net and instead blazed the ball comfortably over the bar. A terrible waste! That miss proved to be costly when a few minutes later Newcastle’s Ryan Taylor scored an early contender for goal of the season to make it 2-0. Chesting down Jack Rodwell’s headed clearance just outside the Everton box, Taylor let the ball drop before smashing a dipping volley which arched over Howard and crashed into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar. Magnificent! The closing minutes of the first half saw Saha hit the post for Everton and Taylor hit the bar for the home team, before Rodwell’s near post header made the score 2-1 at half time. In the second half Everton huffed and puffed but never really looked like blowing Newcastle’s house down, although, they were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after what looked like a clear handball by Newcastle substitute and Everton old boy, Dan Gosling. Final score 2-1 to the Magpies, they continue to climb, while Everton will be looking forward to a better series of fixtures over the coming weeks.
Manchester United celebrated 25 years of Fergie by naming the North Stand after him. On the pitch however, the mood was more pedestrian than it was party, as United stumbled to a 1-0 victory over Sunderland, a Wes Brown o.g. just before half time enough to take the points for United, as their stuttering form continues. Chelsea can count themselves very lucky to come away from Ewood Park with all three points, as Blackburn created a host of great chances during a rousing performance, without finding the net. Frank Lampard’s stooping header securing the points for Chelsea, who’ll be happy to get back to winning ways after two straight defeats. A thriller at the Villa saw Alex McCleish’s men edge out Norwich 3-2 with goals from Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Elsewhere, Swansea showed their class at Anfield, holding Liverpool to a goalless draw, although things might have been different had Andy Carroll scored instead of hitting the bar with a simple chance early on. Liverpool have now hit the woodwork twelve times in eleven Premier League games, far more than any other club. Dirk Kuyt had a goal correctly disallowed in injury time for offside. At the Emirates Stadium in North London Arsenal made easy work of an energetic but ultimately blunt West Brom side, which seemed to be badly missing injured striker Shane Long. Goals from Van Persie, Vermaelen and Fabregas were too much for the Baggies and the result was never in doubt. Bolton’s topsy-turvy season continued as they smashed a woeful Stoke City for five at the Reebok on Sunday. Quick thinking from an indirect free kick allowed Kevin Davies to open the scoring in somewhat controversial fashion, two from Eagles and two from Klasnic completed the rout. The result provided Bolton with sweet revenge for the 5-0 hammering they received from Stoke in last year’s F.A. Cup semi-final, a result that many felt Bolton had never recovered from, this may mark a turning point for them. Stoke are finding it difficult to cope with the added stress of playing in the Europa League this season and, after a promising start, face a difficult road ahead. To complete this week’s round up we travel to the midlands for Wolves vs Wigan. Wolves ran out 3-1 winners in the end, although Wigan contributed greatly to a thoroughly entertaining encounter. Unfortunately for Wigan their expansive play is not producing goals, Rodallega guilty of missing a terrific chance this week, and mistakes at the back are costing them dearly, this was their eighth loss in a row. O’ Hara, Edwards and Ward scored the goals for Wolves, who move up to 13th place; Watson with the only goal for Wigan who are rooted to the bottom.
This article was commissioned by and published on http://www.euro-2012-blog.com/ . First published on 8/11/11.