By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
First it was the Olympics, then Andy Murray with his tennis, and now a bunch of lads playing golf. Every sport this summer seems to want to steal the limelight from football. But the” beautiful game” brushed itself off and delivered another great weekend of action in the Premier League.
Manchester City raised this week’s curtain with a comfortable home win against Sunderland. Serbian heartthrobAleksandar Kolarov opened the scoring with a superb free-kick after just 5 minutes and the Black Cats never looked like they would cause too many problems for the reigning champions.
Sergio Aguero added a second on the hour mark and the third and final goal came from a James Milner free-kick which took a slight deflection off Craig Gardner to pile the misery on Martin O’Neill’s side.
Chelsea have been making headlines this week with John Terry’s “improbable, implausible and contrived” defence against FA disciplinary charges and Ashley Cole’s Twitter tomfoolery. Both started for the Blues and were soon feeling the blues as Grant Holt fired visitors Norwich ahead early on.
Minutes later a Fernando Torres header provided the equaliser and Frank Lampard soon put the home side in front as normal service resumed.
The table-toppers were cruising and Eden Hazard was set up perfectly by Juan Mata on the counter attack for a third after just half an hour. Branislav Ivanovic put the icing on the cake with a sumptuous volley inside the box late in the second half.
Swansea came from two goals down to earn a draw with Reading. The Royals had travelled to Wales in a repeat of the 2011 Championship play-off final and took the lead through Pavel Pogrebnyak after half an hour.
With the Swans’ feathers ruffled, Noel Hunt proved he’s not just there to provide rhyming slang fun and scored a great volley to double Reading’s lead just before half time.
Miguel Michu’s diving header gave Michael Laudrup’s side hope in the 71st minute and seven minutes later a powerful shot from Wayne Routledge earned the Welsh side a point.
Mark Hughes is under increased pressure as his QPR side slumped to a defeat to West Brom at The Hawthorns. Five minutes into the game, James Morrison headed the Baggies into the lead, continuing his efforts to see whether or not this round-up will feature a joke about him having the same name as the famous singer every single week.
Zoltan Gera (who doesn’t have a pop music alter ego) added a second, taking advantage of a slip from Anton Ferdinand.
Adel Taarabt – feeling cold enough to wear gloves – pulled one back for QPR, controlling a long ball into the box on his chest and smashing it past Ben Foster.
Late in the second half, Youssouf Mulumbu got a third for the Baggies, finishing up a lovely passing move with a relatively easy tap-in. The final goal in a thrilling game was scored by Esteban Granero, who made it 3-2 with a deft lob from just outside the box. He probably still regrets swapping Real Madrid for this shambles.
In addition to being a gentleman adventurer, Leighton Baines is also something of a penalty specialist. His late penalty meant that Everton left Wigan with a point along with the usual depression that comes with spending time in Wigan.
Arouna Kone opened the scoring after 10 minutes for the Latics, although he was clearly offside when he headed in. Just 72 seconds later Nikica Jelavic provided an equaliser from a clearly onside header.
Franco di Santo’s thunderously emphatic finish from inside the box put the Toffees in a sticky situation after 23 minutes, but Baines stepped up late on to earn the draw. Everton had had a number of penalty claims dismissed and were relieved when Kevin Friend finally pointed to the spot.
West Ham welcomed Arsenal in this weekend’s capital clash with the afternoon derby televised on ESPN. Sam Allardyce may not look good in full high-definition but Olivier Giroud started for Arsenal to provide some sort of balance.
Mohamed Diame opened the scoring for the Hammers in the 21st minute, working his way into the box before curling the ball past Vitor Mannone from a tight angle.
Giroud equalised for the Gunners five minutes before half time, sliding in to poke the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen for his first Premier League goal. Arsenal took the lead in the second half, substitute Theo Walcott collecting a fantastic through ball from Giroud and finishing at Jaaskelainen’s near post.
You could have been forgiven for thinking that a woman called Cath Orla was running the game if you were only half listening to the commentators and the little Spaniard Santi Cazorla certainly deserved a goal – and a wonderful 20 yard strike late in the game made his performance all the more impressive.
Sunday’s early afternoon kick off paired Southampton with Fulham. Jose Fonte’s last minute goal spared the Saints defeat, the Portuguese defender also having opened the scoring after just 4 minutes.
A second half own goal from Jos “Hapless” Hooiveld allowed the Cottagers back into the game and Kieran Richardson’s late deflected shot seemed to seal the three points for the London club but Fonte’s 90th minute header saved the day.
Liverpool and Stoke played out a goalless draw at Anfield. Stoke did what Stoke do and defended strongly – at times too strongly. Luis Suarez in particular felt aggrieved on several occasions at the treatment handed out to him, and was quite right to be upset with Robert Huth’s possibly accidental, possibly not stamp on his chest.
The Potters frustrated the home side as Liverpool couldn’t make a breakthrough. Suarez also provided some amateur dramatics in the penalty box as desperation seemed to set in.
Spurs continued their winning run with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa. Brad Friedel missed a Premier League game for the first time since the Stone Age and didn’t really miss much action.
After a fairly unspectacular first half, Jermain Defoe’s second half shot deflected off Steven Caulker to give Spurs the lead. Aaron Lennon provided the second, using his pace and trickery to fire home his first goal in nine months.
Perhaps the pick of the weekend fixtures was a mouth-watering clash at The Stadium Formerly Known as St James’ Park between Newcastle United and Manchester United. The two had been in European action in midweek and United swapped Transylvania for Tyneside, although both are full of pale people looking for blood.
United, like their city rivals, seemed to hit top gear this weekend and put three past the Magpies with no reply. First half headed goals from Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra put the Red Devils firmly in control of the tie.
Newcastle were very tame in attack and Alan Pardew’s men went three down when Tom Cleverley curled a gorgeous shot (or was it meant to be a cross?) into the top corner. It was a thoroughly miserable day for the lacklustre Magpies who claimed for a goal as David de Gea clawed the ball off the line, but it did look as if the whole of the ball wasn’t over the line.