By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
I’ll never be as good as Messi. Those words will be echoing around most footballers’ heads (except for Messrs Ronaldo and Bendtner) after the little Argentine’s record breaking endeavours. However, in a vain attempt to keep up with the scampering magician, the Premier League just had to get on with it.
First up, struggling Newcastle welcomed Manchester City, with City looking to bounce back from a sore derby defeat and the Magpies just looking to win a game for a change.
It looked like the home side would be first to score, but Joe Hart produced a superb stop in the 2nd minute to deny Papiss Cisse. This early chance was one of the scarce bright moments for Alan Pardew’s men.
City took a 2-0 lead into the break; Sergio Aguero opening the scoring after 10 minutes with one of those tap-into-an-empty-net goals that despicable people score on FIFA .
Newcastle were shoddy and careless, struggling to find their targets with hopeless balls. Speaking of which, Samir Nasri limped off after Davide Santon’s tackle caught the Frenchman in the gentleman’s area. Try not to laugh.
City’s second came from a corner, Javi Garcia’s header to the far post should’ve been cleared by Santon, but instead was bundled into the defender’s own net.
The champions were often very sharp, but Demba Ba took advantage of slack defending in the 51st minute to head past Joe Hart. The momentum was now with the Magpies but City held on and Yaya Toure got their third of the game after 78 minutes as the blue side of Manchester bounced back.
Manchester United headed north to Sunderland, andRobin van Persie gave the visitors the lead after 16 minutes. Three minutes later, United were sitting comfortably as Tom Cleverley’s excellent strike gave the Red Devils a two goal cushion.
Wayne Rooney deserved a goal for his contribution, and got one just before the hour mark, an easy tap in for the England striker.
Another positive for United was the appearance of Nemanja Vidic as a substitute, the Serbian defender returning after three months out.
Fraizer Campbell came on alongside Vidic and pulled one back for the Black Cats, and deservedly so. They had worked hard and forced David De Gea into a number of saves, and provided nervy moments for United’s still vulnerable defence.
United will be top of the table at Christmas, but Martin O’Neill is firmly on Santa’s naughty list – fixtures against City, Spurs and Liverpool to come over the festive period are hardly a wanted gift.
Aston Villa travelled to Liverpool, where Brendan Rodgers has been using very strong drugs and is firmly of the belief that his team can finish in the top four. The two incidents may be related. (Disclaimer: Jumpers for Goalposts distances itself from Mr Crae’s wild and speculative claims.)
Christian Benteke gave Villa the lead just before the half hour mark from distance, his 22 yard shot coming against the run of play and also the post on its way in.
Benteke was involved again for Villa’s second, a backheel that can only be described as audacious set up Andreas Weimann to fire past Pepe Reina five minutes before the break.
The Belgian striker was having a terrific game and piled more misery on the home side, thundering through the Liverpool defence to put Villa 3-0 up in the second half. Joe Cole lost possession, and Benteke held off several defenders before finishing smartly.
Steven Gerrard deflected in Glen Johnson’s shot to reduce the indignity slightly, but ran out convincing and deserved winners.
Norwich carried on their incredible unbeaten run against Wigan. Anthony Pilkington opened the scoring after 15 minutes, set up by man of the match Wes Hoolahan.
Half time substitute Shaun Maloney equalised for the Latics after 51 minutes with a powerful drive from the edge of the box. Ali Al Habsi also kept his side in the game with a number of crucial saves.
It was Norwich who were to go on to collect all three points, however, Pilkington toying with Emerson Boyce before providing a perfect cross for Hoolahan to head home. It capped off a wonderful performance from the Irish midfielder and provided the chance to play the infuriating goal music over the Carrow Road tannoy once again.
Ten games unbeaten in the league for Norwich, Wigan remain in the relegation zone.
Stoke and Everton are two teams who, like Hard-Fi, are hard to beat. The Potters decided to give the Toffees a hand to accomplish the task when Ryan Shawcross headed a Steven Pienaar cross into his own net after 36 minutes.
Stoke are unbeaten at home, and in the second half Kenwyne Jones outjumped Phil Jagielka and sent a powerful header past a dithering Tim Howard for the equaliser. It was the striker’s first goal in 28 league appearances, and you thought Torres was bad?
The words “unsavoury” and “Stoke” crop up together a lot, but it is Everton’s Marouane Fellaini who will be having his door knocked by the FA Police. The giant Belgian took umbrage at being handled by Shawcross and promptly “stuck the nut on ‘im”. That was one of three separate incidents in which big Marouane assaulted the Stoke defender – it’s almost as if he’s pining for a loan move to Marseille…
Stop everything. QPR have won a Premier League game. Rejoice and praise be to St Harry. Fulham were the unlucky victims of what is surely a cruel prank, and Adel Taraabt was the trickster in chief to give the Rs their first win of the season.
The mercurial Moroccan opened the scoring after 52 minutes, his shot deflecting off Brede Hangeland and past a helpless Mark Schwarzer.
His second was a bit more magical. A mazy run from midfield followed by a cool curl past Schwarzer was typical of Taraabt’s showboating skills.
Fulham’s Mladen Petric made it slightly nervy with two minutes remaining, a looping shot from just outside the box deflecting off Alejandro Faurlin to evade Robert Green.
At the final whistle, cheers rang out and Redknapp’s Rs had finally won a game. Hurrah!
On Sunday morning, Chelsea had a very long away trip to Corinthians, who have been newly promoted to the Premier League. As part of some sort of FIFA initiative, the game between the European champions and the small club from just outside Basingstoke was played in Japan. The winners got a trophy for winning and were declared world champions, which seems unfair to the rest of the Premier league. Chelsea weren’t the winners. Fernando was sad.
Back in Blighty, you might as well have watched the One Pound Fish man video over and over again as it would probably have proved more entertaining than the afternoon’s fixtures.
Swansea visited Spurs and frustrated the hosts by defending solidly and limiting chances. Spurs dominated and were very rarely troubled by the visitors.
It took until the 75th minute for Spurs to take the lead, and Jan Vertonghen provided the goal. The Belgian defender (it’s all about the Belgians this week) turned in a Kyle Walker free-kick on the half-volley from 12 yards.
The win moved Spurs into fourth place, level on points with Chelsea having played a game more.
In the final game of the day, it was the “West” derby as West Brom welcomed West Ham. It was another game that will hardly go down in history, ending goalless. In the first half, the combination of the Hammers’ solid defence and the Baggies’ lack of pizazz made for abysmal viewing.
The home side were much improved in the second half as the game livened up with a number of chances falling to them. However, the Hammers stayed resolute and kept them at bay.