The weekend of 26th November 2011 will be remembered by all fans and players of the Barclays Premier League for the loss of one of its greatest ambassadors. Gary Speed MBE, tragically, was found dead in his home on Sunday morning at the age of 42. The Wales boss, who made 535 appearances in the Premier league for Leeds, Newcastle, Everton, Bolton and Sheffield United, was a true professional and an example to all youngsters of how to play the game and conduct yourself, on and off the pitch, during his career. Not only a great player, but also, by all accounts, a great man, he will be sorely missed, and our hearts go out to his family and those who knew him best. R.I.P Gary Speed.
The Barclays Premier League served up another tasty weekend of action with plenty of goals and incident. With the division beginning to take shape and the crucial Christmas period just around the corner, there was plenty of jockeying for position with crucial games at the top and at the bottom.
We begin with, arguably, the game of the weekend. Runaway leaders Man. City faced a trip to Anfield, a ground where they have not won for over thirty years, doing so on this occasion would have meant opening up a seven point lead at the top of the table. City started the game well, controlling the pace of the match for the first fifteen minutes, however Liverpool managed to gain a foothold in midfield, Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam working tirelessly to ensure Liverpool came back into the game. City took the lead, slightly fortuitously, on the half hour when centre back Vincent Kompany rose in the box to glance David Silva’s corner into the net via his left shoulder. Liverpool’s immediate response also owed a great deal to good fortune, Charlie Adam tried his luck from 25 yards, his rather scuffed effort looked to be going wide before City defender, Joleon Lescott, hung out a leg on the edge of the box and sent it goalwards, giving Joe Hart, in goal, no chance of recovery. Hart was in magnificent form and made a great save from Adam to stop Liverpool from going in front, before Aguero drove straight at Reina at the other end. The second half saw Liverpool up the ante and they began to dominate possession, they created a number of good chances, Kuyt and Downing both put good chances wide, and the inspired Joe Hart pulled off excellent saves from Downing and then Suarez. With ten minutes remaining, Mario Balotelli was sent off for City, picking up his second yellow card only 18 minutes after coming on as a substitute. Liverpool pressed for the winner but Hart again kept Suarez out before David Silva wasted City’s best chance, Reina holding him up long enough for covering defenders to clear the danger. In the final minutes Hart was called into action again, this time a wonderful double save, first from Andy Carroll’s header and then Suarez’s follow up. Honours even at Anfield then, and on the final whistle City players surrounded their goalkeeper to congratulate and thank him, for stretching their unbeaten league run to 13 games. Liverpool are now unbeaten in 10 in all competitions.
Old Trafford, 3 pm, Saturday afternoon, Newcastle faced Manchester United as 2nd and 4th went head to head. Newcastle don’t have a good record at Old Trafford and many pundits felt that, having lost last week against City, their fantastic start would be dealt another blow by the defending champions. Newcastle however, held their own, Obertan and Ben Arfa causing United problems, and creating chances for Ryan Taylor and Demba Ba respectively, the latter testing David de Gea. United looked good going forward and Krul made two saves from the lively Hernandez before producing a great stop to deny Giggs. United took the lead early in the second half through a huge slice of luck. Newcastle failed to clear Rooney’s free kick and when the England man fired the ball back into the box, Stephen Taylor’s clearance ricocheted off Hernandez and into the net. Newcastle were then handed their own piece of good fortune, as Ferdinand was penalised for a foul on Ben Arfa. The United man clearly played the ball, however the assistant referee didn’t see it like that, and after much consultation the referee awarded a penalty. Demba Ba kept his nerve amidst the chaos and rolled the ball coolly into the net, in front of a Stretford End baying for blood. Both teams had chances before Jonas Gutierrez was sent off on 76 minutes after picking up two yellow cards in quick succession. From then on it was backs to the wall for the Magpies as a United onslaught ensued; Krul was in outstanding form as he made a number of brilliant saves and Newcastle held on doggedly, Simpson making an extraordinary goal-line clearance. Ashley Young saw his effort come back off the post and Javier Hernandez thought he’d won it for United in injury time, only to have his goal chalked off for offside. It was the correct decision although incredibly tight, Manchester United slightly unlucky, but Newcastle deserved their point.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Chelsea arrested their run of bad form by disposing of Wolves 3-0, goals from Terry, Sturridge and the impressive Juan Mata, doing the damage in the first half. Tottenham continued their fine form by coming from behind to beat West Brom at the Hawthorns, Mulumbu put the home side in front, Adebayor levelled in the 26th minute with a rebound-his initial spot kick saved by Foster. Defoe put Spurs 1-2 up in the second half and Adebayor added his second of the match in the closing stages to make it 1-3. Spurs’ winning run continues but they were pushed all the way by the Baggies, who were left feeling very hard done by after being on the wrong side of some contentious refereeing decisions in the first half. Arsenal’s winning streak was ended by a stubborn Fulham display at the Emirates in Saturday’s evening kick off. Thomas Vermaelen scored at both ends, he made amends for his 65th minute o.g. by heading in Theo Walcott’s cross eight minutes before the end.
In the battle of the newly promoted teams Norwich defeated Q.P.R. at Carrow Road. Russell Martin opened the scoring before Rangers hit back through Luke Young; substitute Grant Holt’s winner left Q.P.R. boss Neil Warnock rueing his side’s missed chances. Swansea, the division’s other newcomers, played out a goal-less draw against Aston Villa at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, the atmosphere in Wales a somber one, the news of Gary Speed’s death having just broken. Everton recorded a comfortable 0-2 victory against the ten men of Bolton at the Reebok, the home side were reduced to ten men on 20 minutes when David Wheater was sent off for a lunge on Bilyaletdinov. Second half goals from Fellaini and Velios sealing the win for the Toffees. At the bottom of the table Blackburn Rovers continued their run of poor form with defeat at Stoke. Stoke ended a run of four defeats with goals from Delap, Whelan and Peter Crouch, Rochina scored a consolation for Rovers, but the 1-3 defeat was met with further calls from fans for the board to sack manager Steve Kean. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was left delighted as his side broke an eight game losing streak by coming from behind to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, heaping the pressure on Sunderland boss Steve Bruce. Franco di Santo scored the stoppage time winner adding to Jordi Gomez’s penalty, which had put wigan back on level terms, Seb Larsson having opened the scoring for the home side. Sunderland have won just once at home all season and having spent big in the summer Steve Bruce’s side were met by a chorus of boos at the final whistle. Steve Bruce has subsequently become the first managerial casualty of the Premier League season.
This article was commissioned by and published on http://www.euro-2012-blog.com/ . First published on 30/11/11.