By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
It was a weekend of two halves in the Premier League, to paraphrase a cliché. Saturday was mostly a Halloween horrorshow of dull games and Sunday a frightful festival of tricks and treats.
Saturday’s early kick-off was the inevitable thriller of Aston Villa taking on Norwich. Paul Lambert’s team faced Paul Lambert’s old team in this week’s edition of the “ex-manager makes return to old club -oooh it could get spicy!” soap opera.
Lambert’s Villa took the lead through Christian Benteke in the 27th minute in a fairly lacklustre first half.
In the second half, Villa were reduced to 10 men. Norwich’s Ryan Bennett passed to Norwich’s Elliot Bennett who was taken out by Villa’s Joe Bennett who received his second yellow card of the game. Gordon Bennett is unfortunately out injured.
The game livened up from this point as Villa held on as the Canaries time and time again flocked forwards. Keeper Brad Guzan and his defence kept Villa in the game until one switch off at a Norwich corner led to Michael Turner’s headed equaliser.
Jack Wilshere returned for Arsenal in a 1-0 win over QPR at the Emirates. The young midfielder was brought in in an attempt to steady the good ship Arsenal who dominated play but struggled to break down a strong QPR defence.
That was until Stephane Mbia decided Thomas Vermaelen needed a kick and subsequently received a straight red card. QPR being down to 10 men meant that Julio Cesar had to pull out even more saves from his top drawer- surely he must be running out by now.
In the 84th minute, the Gunners eventually scored. Olivier Giroud’s header was clawed away by Cesar, before Mikel Arteta netted after a short scramble. Jamie Mackie went on a one-man stoppage time crusade to earn a point for his side, shaking off three defenders only to be thwarted at the last moment by Vitor Mannone.
The day’s most exciting game came as Reading and Fulham battled to a 3-3 draw. The Royals led at half time thanks to a powerfully thwacked shot from Mikele Leigertwood from the edge of the box.
Fulham’s equaliser was even better. Bryan Ruiz had only just been brought on as a substitute when he decided to hit a powerfully kerthwacked shot past Alex McCarthy just after the hour mark.
The Cottagers took the lead in the 77th minute with defender Chris Baird’s glancing header from a corner. That’s two weeks in a row he’s scored, he seems to be getting a taste for it. About time too.
Garath McCleary’s close range effort put Reading back in the picture, only for Dimitar Berbatov to give Fulham the lead again with a lovely low shot in the 88th minute.
It wasn’t over yet though, and Planet Funk’s Chase the Sun blared over the Madejski tannoy once more as the most exotically named Welsh international in history, Hal Robson-Kanu, tapped the ball in after a goalmouth scramble. Fulham were left deflated, Reading elated.
To Wigan v West Ham. Yes, Saturday’s fixture list wasn’t the best. Roberto Martinez will think otherwise, however, as his Latics beat Big Sam’s Hammers 2-1. A superb finish on the volley from a corner gave Ivan Ramis a memorable first Premier League goal in the eighth minute. It was the sort of finish that is usually locked securely in the very top drawer.
Wigan started the second half just as brightly, James McArthur doubling the Latics’ lead. Wigan’s slick passing play was impressive, and even Gary Caldwell started backheeling the ball.
The clean sheet was to evade Wigan, however, James Tomkins heading a late consolation past Ali Al-Habsi who at that point could be forgiven for wearing his slippers. The Hammers had rarely tested the Wigan keeper and deserved little from the game.
Stoke and Sunderland rather predictably drew 0-0 at the Britannia. If anybody chose this as their choice of game to watch in the evening on Sky Sports, they need their head examined. Unless they were watching it for the x-rated tackles that littered proceedings.
Stoke’s Marc Wilson was stretchered off early in the second half with a broken ankle, a convenient excuse to escape this miserable affair. Sunderland had a claim for a penalty waved away after Steven Fletcher’s shot appeared to be handled by Robert Huth. Unlucky Black Cats.
Yes, that’s about it.
In the teatime kick-off, a fine strike from Carlos Tevez gave Manchester City a 1-0 victory against Swansea in the longest ever Premier League game. Injuries to Michael Vorm and Micah Richards ensured 12 minutes of extra time were added on.
Joe Hart denied Michu twice as City again failed to look anything more than a bit “meh”. Tevez’s goal, however, was something of a beauty – unlike the scorer himself. The 30 yarder forced Vorm to attempt the save but the Dutchman was helpless, and he sustained a groin injury for his commitment. That’s hardly fair.
Sunday’s games seemed a tad more exciting. First up was the always intriguing Merseyside Derby between Everton and Liverpool. The visitors had the better start as Luis Suarez’s shot was deflected in off the leg of Leighton Baines after 14 minutes. Suarez cheekily celebrated by diving right in front of David Moyes. What a rogue.
Liverpool’s lead was doubled minutes later, with Suarez again proving a handful for the Everton defence, heading in a Steven Gerrard free-kick.
The deficit was halved within two minutes as the always underrated Leon Osman powered a low shot past stand-in keeper Brad Jones. Or lie-down keeper Brad Jones as he was at that point.
Steven Naismith equalised with his first Everton goal, drifting into the box unnoticed to tap in from close range after good build up play from Belgian buddies Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini.
The second half wasn’t quite as exciting as the first as both sides spurned chances. Suarez was lucky to still be on the pitch with particularly nasty tackles on Mirallas and Sylvain Distin.
Suarez thought he had won the match for Liverpool in the dying seconds of the game, but his close-range finish from a late free-kick was ruled out for offside. Replays showed the Uruguayan miscreant was onside, and it was quite funny really.
Chelsea’s clash with Manchester United was given top billing. After just 4 minutes Robin van Persie’s shot cannoned off the post and then off the back of David Luiz to give United the lead. Van Persie doubled the lead minutes later as another counter-attack proved successful.
David De Gea saved a Luiz free-kick with his feet and produced a stunning save to thwart Fernando Torres before eventually conceding. Juan Mata’s free-kick pulled a goal back for the home side and created a lively end to the second half.
United couldn’t deal with the skill of Mata and Oscar who combined to create Chelsea’s 53rd minute equaliser. Oscar provided the perfect ball for fellow Brazilian Ramires to nod home.
Just as the European champions looked like they could go on to take all three points, Branislav Ivanovic was sent off just after the hour mark, clipping Ashley Young’s heels as he bore down on goal.
With at least 20 minutes left on the clock, Fernando Torres went down with the slightest of touches from Jonny Evans and received a second yellow card from Mark Clattenberg, much to the fury of most involved.
That wasn’t to be the only controversial decision as United took advantage of the two man advantage. A Van Persie shot was palmed onto the bar by Petr Cech and cleared off the line but only as far as Rafael. The defender’s shot was flicked in by Javier Hernandez – the Little Pea looked a little offside.
Referee Mark Clattenburg has now been accused by Chelsea of using “inappropriate language” towards players including Jon Obi Mikel. Oh it’s all fun and games.
Elsewhere, Gareth Bale was on the scoresheet as Tottenham travelled to Bale’s former club Southampton. The Welsh winger opened the scoring after 15 minutes, bouncing a header from distance past Artur Boruc.
Spurs’ second came five minutes before the break, Jermaine Defoe’s trundling shot should have been cleared by Jose Fonte, but the Saints defender tumbled and Clint Dempsey was on hand to take full advantage.
The Saints hauled themselves back into the game with Jay Rodriguez’s smart finish in the 66th minute and looked like they could somehow find an equaliser but it wasn’t to come.
Stop press! Demba Ba AND Papiss Cisse scoring in same game shocker! The two haven’t scored in the same game since Cisse’s debut in February, but combined to help Newcastle beat West Brom 2-1. Ba muscled his way through the Baggies defence for the opener ten minutes before the break.
Ten minutes after the break, Romelu Lukaku sprung the Magpies defence to head past Tim Krul, but Newcastle were to win the three points, Shola Ameobi’s long range shot deflecting off Cisse and wrongfooting Ben Foster deep into injury time.