The English Premier League is never short of controversy and talking points, shown again by the weekend action. Alan Dooley of The Daily Shift reports on the weekend fixtures…
Man City 2 – 3 Man United
A deflected Robin van Persie injury-time free-kick gave Manchester United a dramatic 3-2 derby win over their neighbours and Champions of England, Manchester City. United were given a first half lead through a Wayne Rooney double, but as soon as Roberto Mancini put on Carlos Tevez for Mario Balotelli the Blues of Manchester looked a different side.
Goals from Yaya Toure in the 60th minute and Pablo Zabaleta in the 80th minute looked like they had given United a taste of their own medicine by coming from behind, but van Persie broke City hearts in dramatic fashion right at the death.
It was a fierce, competitive and compelling game, that included many controversial moments. Ashley Young saw an effort disallowed for a controversial offside decision after van Persie had hit a post, despite appearing to be played onside.
Police have charged nine people following incidents at Sunday’s Manchester derby, while police and the FA investigate an incident in which Rio Ferdinand was struck in the face by a coin at the end of the derby.
This moves United 6 points clear at the top on 39 points, and now have a superior goal difference. It was City’s first loss of the season, with the difference between the two sides clear when you see that United have won 13 games this season, whereas City have won 9 but couldn’t turn 6 draws into all 3 points.
Arsenal 2 – 0 WBA
Two Mikel Arteta penalties gave Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal a lift, and gave West Brom their 3rd Premier League loss in a row. The breakthrough of the match came when Steven Reid was judged to have taken down Santi Cazorla in the box, despite replays showing no contact.
The second penalty was a clearer decision, with Chris Brunt bringing down Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arteta again scoring from the spot kick. Arsenal again weren’t at their best, but didn’t need to be against Steve Clarke’s out of sorts side.
The Gunners move up to 7th, but are only 2 points off the top 4. West Brom meanwhile are in a poor slump, and have fallen to 6th on 26 points.
Sunderland 1 – 3 Chelsea
Rafa Benitez finally got his first Premier League win as Chelsea boss, beating Sunderland, 3 – 1 at The Stadium of Light. Fernando Torres scored twice, first with a volley in the 11th minute and then from the penalty spot in the first half injury time after a rash tackle from Seb Larsson on Ramires. Juan Mata made it 3 nil, early in the second half, making Adam Johnson’s 66th minute strike just a consolation.
Rafa’s first win keeps Chelsea in 3rd, still 10 points off the top. They now go to Japan for the Club World Cup. Sunderland’s poor season is getting worse, and now they have dropped into the Relegation Zone. They are 18th, 2 points from safety but do have a game in hand.
Everton 2 – 1 Tottenham
Two stoppage time goals from Everton stole all 3 points from Tottenham at Goodison Park. Clint Dempsey gave the visitors the lead in the 76th minute with a deflected shot, and had looked to have given Spurs all 3 points until two dramatic late goals from Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic in the 90th and 93rd minutes snatched the victory for the home side.
Everton move into the top 4 with this victory on goal difference. Spurs are 5th drawing on 26 points, with the battle for Champions League getting very interesting.
West Ham 2 – 3 Liverpool
Two ex-Hammers came back to haunt West Ham losing 3-2 to Liverpool at Upton Park. Glen Johnson had given the visitors the lead with a superb strike but a Mark Noble penalty and a Steven Gerrard own goal put the home side in front at the break.
Joe Cole equalised for the visitors in the 76th minute with an unfortunate James Collins own goal giving the visitors all 3 points, despite missing Luis Suarez through suspension.
West Ham drop to 11th, level on 22 points with The Reds who are 10th. This shows just how tight mid-table is, with only 4 points separating 4th and 12th.
Swansea 3 – 4 Norwich
Swansea and Norwich played out a 7 goal thriller, with Norwich surviving a Swansea comeback to win 4-3 at The Liberty Stadium. The Canaries took a 3 goal lead in the first half through Steven Whittaker, a header from Sebastien Bassong, his third goal in four games, and Grant Holt.
However, The Swans came out a renewed side and had reduced the deficit by the hour mark through Michu and Jonathan de Guzman. Substitute Itay Shechter had the ball in the net soon after as Mark Bunn failed to hold the ball under pressure from Michu, but referee Howard Webb ruled the Spaniard had fouled the goalkeeper.
On review, the decision looked harsh and Robert Snodgrass curled in a free kick in the 77th minute making Michu’s second of the match in injury time too little too late. On a sour note, a Swansea fan was arrested and is currently being investigated by police for racially abusing Bassong.
The Swans drop a place to 9th, while Norwich stay in 12th, and are on a 9 game unbeaten run.
Fulham 2 – 1 Newcastle
Fulham secured their first win in eight games with a 2-1 victory over Newcastle after an entertaining clash at Craven Cottage. Fulham started the brightest of the two sides, and were rewarded with the opener on the 19th minute with a goal from Steve Sidwell.
The equaliser came from Newcastle on the 54th minute, a stunning strike from Hatem Ben Arfa out of the blue. The home side responded with the winner, a Hugo Rodallega header on the 63rd minute, which sunk the visitors who are yet to hit their form this season.
Fulham are 13th, 3 points ahead of the Magpies who are in 14th on 17 points.
Wigan 2 – 2 QPR
QPR are still without a win this season, with Harry Redknapp’s men drawing 2-2 with Wigan at the DW Stadium. Wigan took the lead first with a James McCarthy volley, with Ryan Nelson equalising 7 minutes later from an Adel Taarabt corner.
Although Wigan then dominated the second half, Djibril Cisse briefly looked to have won it for the visitors until McCarthy’s second strike of the match denied them their first win of the season.
Redknapp seemed to favour grit and hard work over flair in his team selection, showed by his decision to drop Granero in favour of Shaun Derry. Although they got a point, they are winless in their 16 games this season, and have the worst Goal Difference of -16, scoring the least goals in the league – 13 – and conceding the second most, 29.
Wigan drop to 17th, and are 2 points from the Drop Zone. QPR remain bottom on 7 points, 8 points from safety.
Southampton 1 – 0 Reading
Southampton beat fellow relegation strugglers Reading 1-0 in St. Mary’s Stadium. The home side looked to have broken the deadlock after 33 minutes when Puncheon rose at the far post to nod a corner home, but Ref. John Moss blew for a Maya Yoshida push on ‘keeper Adam Federici, although the decision looked harsh.
Puncheon did score the only goal of the game in the 61st minute, finally turning The Saints’ dominance into substance with a strike from distance. Southampton jump up the table to 15th on 15 points. Reading’s 4th loss in a row means that they stay 19th, 6 points from safety.
Aston Villa 0 – 0 Stoke
Aston Villa and Stoke played out a goalless draw at Villa Park. Villa put on near exiled striker Darren Bent late, to salvage all 3 points put the main talking point was Ryan Shotton’s controversial sending off at the death, getting a second yellow despite there being minimal if any contact.
However, this didn’t give Villa enough time to go for all 3 points with both teams having to settle for a point and a clean sheet. A point isn’t enough to move either team, with Villa remaining in 16th and Stoke firmly stood in 9th.