By Ross Crae

It was an exciting week in the Premier League

This week the Champions League returned, throwing together some titanic tussles between top title winning teams – Real v City, Chelsea v Juve etcetera, etcetera. But this round-up isn’t interested in that. It is interested in the real world, you know, Wigan, Stoke, that lot!

So back in the world of the Premier League, Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off saw Swansea welcome Everton. The Swans had suffered the indignity of losing to Aston Villa last week and hoped to get back to the form that saw them shoot up the table in the first few games of the season. Everton had other ideas and despite losing Nikica Jelavic to injury in the midweek draw with Newcastle, they fired 3 past the Swans with no reply.

Everton put the pressure on in the first half, with Victor Anichebe finally opening the scoring after 21 minutes, volleying in from an assist which looked to have come from the elbow of Marouane Fellaini.  Everton’s second came on 43 minutes from a glorious team goal which started in their own half at the corner flag and was finished off by Kevin Mirallas.

Swansea had chances, summer signing Ki unlocking the Toffees’ defence with a superb pass – Tim Howard saving the resultant effort from Angel Rangel. Howard pulled off a number of great saves as Everton squandered chances at the other end by the barrow-load.

Swansea’s Nathan Dyer had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes when he picked up a second booking for a nasty tackle on Leighton Baines. It was indeed a Dyer attempt at a challenge. With the Swans a man light, Fellaini finally added an 82nd minute third for Everton, heading in a Baines free-kick with the aid of a deflection off Ashley Williams. Everton continue to fly high, ending the weekend in third place.

Fellaini: “I don’t need these, I just use my head.”

Stoke travelled to Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea had drawn with Italian champions Juventus in midweek. It wasn’t as high scoring an encounter, and the Blues had to wait until the 85th minute for Ashley Cole to score the only goal of the game.

Jon Walters rattled the crossbar with a first half header as Stoke threatened an upset. Certainly upset was Branislav Ivanovic, who wasn’t given a penalty after going down easily. Or “like Jimmy Krankie” as the bold Lawro described it in the Match of the Day studio. Midweek hero Oscar was booked for diving after his own theatrical fall. It was one that was certainly worth of an… oh forget it.

Fernando Torres spurned a chance, doing well to beat the offside trap only to waste a lovely clipped pass from Juan Mata. Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard all play similar roles and were responsible for some lovely football that just couldn’t penetrate a stubborn Stoke defence, but the breakthrough finally came as Ashley Cole popped up in the box to finish a fine passing move. Quite what he was doing there nobody knows.

Late in the game David Luiz was booked for a tackle on Walters which looked like it could easily have been a red – handbags and some good old argy-bargy ensued and the game ended on a sour note.

“Leave it John, he’s not worth it.”

 

To Southampton, and Nigel Adkins must have been in the dressing room before this clash telling his players that surely, surely, this would be a game they can win. And they decided to win it in style against Aston Villa, if Villa and style can ever be mentioned in the same sentence.

The last meeting of Adkins and Paul Lambert as managers came in a match between Scunthorpe and Colchester. Lambert would be the happier of the two when Darren Bent opened the scoring after 26 minutes. His first goal since February came from a miscued Stephen Ireland ball in, Danny Fox allowing Bent to slip by and finish.

Bent could have had a second, a gorgeous ball from Benteke allowed him to pull the trigger, only to see his shot saved by Paulo Gazzaniga. Rickie Lambert was the source of the Saints’ equaliser, chesting the ball down at the edge of the box and evading the Villa defence to fire home after 58 minutes. Nathaniel Clyne got their second, a chipped ball in from the impressive Gaston Ramirez fell to the defender who coolly slotted the ball under Brad Guzan after 63 minutes.

Nine minutes later, a third came from Jason Puncheon. His shot from close range took a deflection off Ciaran Clark before beating Guzan. Guzan’s day got worse and worse, bringing down Emmanuel Mayuka and failing to stop Rickie Lambert continuing his 100% penalty scoring record.

Villa’s misery returns, but Southampton finally have some joy and some points on the board. Plus they are now bolstered by the news that Artur “The Holy Goalie” Boruc has joined their cause, the Pole finally achieving his dreams of becoming a Saint. Good news all round.

“Um, Darren, remember you play for Villa. Stop being happy.”

 

West Brom faced Reading at the Hawthorns. James Morrison had an early shot palmed away, and at the other end Garath McCleary had an attempted overhead kick saved. On-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku also came close to scoring, a heavy touch allowing Chris Gunther to put in a fine saving tackle to prevent the Belgian striker getting a shot away. From the resultant corner, Jonas Olsson headed off the bar, and the first half ended goalless.

In the second half, Morrison had another fine effort saved, Alex McCarthy stopping the singer/songwriter’s sweet dipping volley. Wrong James Morrison? Lukaku finally scored in the 71st minute, his left foot shot from edge of box went through 3 sets of legs before beating McCarthy. Another win for the Baggies, and more worries for Reading, who sit bottom of the table with a measly one point.

Luk to the skies.

Sunderland made the long trip down to London town to meet West Ham at Upton Park. Summer signing Steven Fletcher seems hell-bent on making Craig Levein miserable and the only thing he misses these days is Scotland games. He grabbed his fourth goal in three Premier League games, collecting a ball in from Sebastian Larsson and firing past Jussi Jaaskelainen after 9 minutes.

Sunderland led for the rest of the game – until stoppage time at least. Kevin Nolan had an earlier stupendous scissor kick effort saved spectacularly by Simon Mignolet, and managed to beat the Belgian keeper in injury time to earn a point for the Hammers.

 

Fletcher’s mind powers reduce another victim to a quivering wreck.

 

Wigan against Fulham is hardly the highlight of a football fan’s calendar but spare a thought for the referee. Poor old Lee Probert. Not only does he have the misfortune of a)being a referee and b)having the word “probe” in his name but he had the additional misery of being sandwiched between Steve Sidwell and Ben Watson (who I always assumed were the same person) as the two contested the ball and ended up flat on the floor. Ouch. Luckily he saw the funny side and jokingly brandished a red card – but to Gary Caldwell who, to be fair, is the usual recipient of such a gift.

Hilarity over, the action continued and Hugo Rodallega opened the scoring on 31 minutes, heading in from a Berbatov cross. This was his first return to Wigan since his move to the London side, and who could blame him for not coming back sooner. It’s Wigan.

The home side had a chance to equalise as Arouna Kone managed to force his way through on goal, but Mark Schwarzer came out to smother the ball and ruin the moment. Fulham got a second goal after 68 minutes, Bryan Ruiz under pressure from four Latics, but still managing to get the ball to Damien Duff for the Irish pensioner to score his third of the season.

Kone got a consolation goal for Wigan in the 90thminute as scrappy Fulham defending from a corner allowed the Ivorian striker to pounce.

Referee Lee is Probed.

Colin Murray would be rubbing his hands with glee as Match of the Day 2 had a bumper billing. Sky of course referred to it as a “Super Sunday” and the line-up was certainly stellar.

Liverpool and Manchester United are arguably the two biggest rivals in the Premier League. At the start of the game, the rivalry was temporarily put aside as tributes were paid to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.  Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra also shook hands, in the latest episode of Handshakegate, the one where the story seems to have a vaguely happy ending.

On the pitch, the derby was as fierce as ever. Liverpool were dominant in the first half, but couldn’t find their way to goal. To make things more difficult, human egg and owner of a ridiculous name Jonjo Shelvey was sent off after 39 minutes for a reckless tackle on Jonny Evans.

Liverpool took the lead seconds into the second half, captain Steven Gerrard hitting a left foot volley past Anders Lindegaard to give the home side a deserved lead. United levelled in the 51st minute, Shinji Kagawa chesting down a cross from Antonio Valencia for Rafael to curve a fantastic effort past Pepe Reina from inside the box.

Lindegaard was forced to save from Suarez and half time substitute Suso as Liverpool were again the more forceful team. Then a fatal mistake came as Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson clattered into one another on the half way line, allowing Valencia to steal the ball and burst forward. Johnson managed to get back but brought down the Ecuadorian winger in the box. Reina got his hand to Robin Van Persie’s strong penalty, but it still found its way into the top corner. United left with the three points, leaving Liverpool still without a win.

Justice for the 96.

Demba Ba scored the only goal of the game as Newcastle beat Norwich at The Stadium Formerly Known as St James’ Park. Hatem Ben Arfa was the architect; his sensational pass split the Norwich defence, allowing Ba to take a touch before placing a clinical finish past John Ruddy. Ben Arfa caused the Canaries all sorts of problems all afternoon – he looked in the mood.

The Magpies were awarded a penalty when Mike Williamson was backed into by Steve Morison. Papiss Cisse stepped up but sent the ball way over the bar. It seems the Senegalese strike pair of Ba and Cisse have only one pair of shooting boots between them, as the two can never seem to be able to score at the same time. Norwich didn’t seem to have any at all, the best chance coming at the start of the second half, Steve Harper saving from Andrew Surman when he was clean through on goal.

“Excuse me sir, may I move you out the way?”

 

Lazio were the midweek visitors to White Hart Lane, but Tottenham Hotspur faced more local opponents as QPR came calling.Spurs were very poor in the first half, and were booed off at half time. QPR had dominated, and took the lead when Bobby Zamora pounced on to the end of a through ball from Ale Faurlin and beat Brad Friedel.

Big bad Brad kept Spurs in the game with a number of crucial and spectacular saves. The elderly American continues to keep France number one Hugo Lloris out of the starting eleven, and amazingly Friedel last missed a Premier League game when Lloris played for Nice Under-17s. Thanks to Jonathan Pearce for that stat.

Gareth Bale had been forced to cover at left-back due to injuries to Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton but was moved forward at half time as Andre Villas-Boas shuffled his pack to great effect. Steven Caulker, brought on at half time, met a Bale corner and his header deflected off the head of Faurlin and past Julio Cesar in the 59th minute.

Just over a minute later, Spurs took the lead. Jan Vertonghen slid the ball to Bale, the Welshman’s shot bounced up off Cesar and rebounded off the bar for Jermain Defoe to take advantage and score from close-range.

Vertonghen produced a great tackle to prevent Junior Hoillet scoring a late equaliser, the former Blackburn star waited too long to compose himself for the shot, allowing the Belgian defender to slide in and reduce the danger.

AVB may have soaked his suit standing out in the White Hart rain, but he has a second win in a row in the league. He can smile on his way to the dry cleaners.

“Not now Gareth, I’ve got a goal to celebrate!”

Finally from Super Sunday Manchester City and Arsenal, fresh from their exploits against the Spanish and French champions respectively, met at the Etihad. City had Sergio Aguero back from injury, much to the delight of Fantasy Football players.

Arsenal were the better team in this encounter, with slick passing and movement. Carl Jenkinson, of Gunners duvet owning fame, powered down the right flank and got the better of Joleon Lescott to pull back for Lukas Podolski to fire high and wide.

City were to take the lead, Lescott thumping in a header in the 40th minute from a corner. Eden Dzeko worked Vito Mannone, the slightest touch of the Arsenal keeper’s fingertips keeping the Bosnian striker from doubling City’s lead. City had more chances, Aguero thwarted on a few occasions.

At the other end, Gervinho also spurned a number of opportunities. Joe Hart was almost caught out by a swerving shot from Santi Cazorla, but the City keeper managed to push the little Spaniards shot away.

Arsenal eventually got their equaliser from a corner. The ball in was headed tamely away by Lescott and fell to Laurent Koscielny, who hit a rocket with his outstretched foot on 82 minutes.

There was one final moment of danger for Arsenal as Vincent Kompany tried an overhead kick, forcing a save from Mannone. The ball was parried to Koscielny who could only clear to Aguero and luckily for the French defender the Argentine dragged his shot wide. One point each.

“Celebration formation 4, go go go!”

 

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