By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
This week’s Premier League action had a bit of a Groundhog Day feel to it as it’s the re-run of the opening day pairings. Much has happened since the opening day, so what did this weekend have in store for our favourite footballing friends?
The early kick-off saw Spurs attempt to stop the French revolution as Newcastle visited White Hart Lane. Once again Gareth Bale was the star for Spurs, giving them the lead after 5 minutes with a 25 yard free-kick. Jeff Stelling had blogged about the Welsh winger being better than Cristiano Ronaldo (unbelievable Jeff) and that didn’t seem such a silly proposition with Bale’s performance. But it’s still a bit silly. Silly Jeff.
It wasn’t all Spurs action however, and Yoan Gouffran equalised for the Magpies after 24 minutes. The French midfielder turned and shot in the box, and the ball flew past his fellow countryman Hugo Lloris with the aid of a deflection off Michael Dawson.
Bale got the winning goal after 78 minutes, turning on the afterburners to burst through the defence and fire past Tim Krul at his near post, in another sensational display.
Hulk Hogan predicted Chelsea would beat Wigan 40-1 when taking part in the BBC’s predictor challenge against Mark Lawrenson. He probably knows more about football than Lawro. It turned out he was roughly a tenth right, as Chelsea hit four past the Latics.
Franco Di Santo had been with Lionel Messi on international duty during the week, but had to return to Wigan in what must be the most disappointing comedown in football history.
It got worse for him as Ramires was played in by a superb Fernando Torres pass and tucked the ball round Ali al-Habsi in the 23rd minute to give Chelsea the lead.
It was nervy for Chelsea even when they went 2-0 up after Cesar Azpilicueta wandered into the box and provided a low cross for Eden Hazard to finish nicely on 56 minutes.
Shaun Maloney put the “oh no we might lose a two goal lead again” fear into the home crowd as Petr Cech left the safety of his posts to try to deal with the scampering Scotsman, who managed to squeeze the ball in from the tight angle.
There was no Wigan comeback, however, as Frank Lampard thundered in a shot from the edge of the box in the 86th minute and Marko Marin’s 90th minute diving header at the near post completed the rout.
Swansea hammered QPR on the opening day of the season and promptly did the same this time around. Michu opened the scoring as Julio Cesar parried Nathan Dyer’s shot, allowing the Spaniard to flick the ball in after just 8 minutes.
In the 18th minute, Angel Rangel scored the second, his first shot was kept out by Cesar but the second attempt went in.
QPR pulled a goal back in the opening minutes of the second half and it was another rebound that provided the chance. Michael Vorm couldn’t hold Adel Taraabt’s powerful shot, and half time substitute Bobby Zamora took full advantage.
Swansea paid no notice, and just two minutes later they increased their lead further, Pablo Hernandez wriggling through the box and squirming a shot past Cesar. It should come as no surprise that Michu provided the fourth goal on 67 minutes, finishing deftly after holding off Christopher Samba.
Sunderland welcomed Arsenal to the Stadium of Light and welcomed back captain and zoological question Lee Cattermole, who took a grand total of a couple of minutes to find himself in the referee’s book.
Santi Cazorla scored the only goal of a game in which both Simon Mignolet and Wojciech Szczesny produced fine saves. The goal came in the 35th minute as Jack Wilshere surged forward and passed to Theo Walcott who teed up Cazorla to fire past Mignolet.
After an hour, Carl Jenkinson was sent for an early bath, presumably before snuggling up under his famed Gunners duvet. Szczesny had to be at his best as the 10 remaining Gunners weathered late pressure from the Black Cats to seal three points.
Stoke got their first win of 2013 as they saw off Reading. Robert Huth opened the scoring in the 67th minute, heading in off the bar from a corner.
Cameron Jerome bagged the Potters’ second as he turned and smacked a volley past Adam Federichi in the 81st minute.
The Royals looked like they could produce a trademark comeback as Adrain Mariappa headed in an 83rd minute corner, but it wasn’t to be, especially as Michael Oliver waved away Adam le Fondre’s late penalty claim.
Carrow Road played host to a goalless draw between Norwich and Fulham that isn’t really worth writing about. It was good news for Fulham as they kept their first clean sheet for 12 games and even better for Norwich as they lost 5-0 to the Cottagers on the opening weekend.
Luciano Becchio almost opened his goal scoring account for Norwich after his January move from Leeds United but couldn’t get past Mark Schwarzer on his way to the Royal Bank of Goals.
Steve Sidwell produced Fulham’s best effort, and when that happens you know it’s not going well.
In the early evening kick-off, Yaya Toure returned from blessing the rains down in Africa as Manchester City travelled to Southampton. He was a bit rubbish, and so were City as their defence failed to hold the line.
Jason Puncheon gave the Saints the lead in the 7th minute as sloppy City defending allowed the man who defecates whenever he wishes to follow up Jay Rodriguez’s initial shot.
A Rickie Lambert shot was fumbled by Joe Hart and Steven Davis slid in to put the Saints two in front on 22 minutes.
City pulled one back on the counter attack as Davis’s corner fell to Edin Dzeko at the edge of the box and the Bosnian, Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva combined well to burst forward with Dzeko providing an intuitive finish.
Martin Atkinson denied Southampton a penalty just before the break as a knackered looking Toure brought down Rodriguez.
Hart’s spectacular blunder proved not to be the most embarrassing mistake of the afternoon as Southampton’s 48th minute third was again provided by City shambolics. Lambert’s low cross in looked harmless until it was met by Barry who inexplicably slotted the ball past his own keeper. Duh!!!
If City keep up this sort of woeful performance, is the title race over? Probably.
Sunday started with a borefest between Aston Villa and West Ham. Andreas Weimann had a horrible miss in opening minutes, missing an open goal from close range.
This set the tone for a dire game, which did spring into life slightly later on. A Christian Benteke penalty in the 74th minute gave Villa the lead after Mark Noble bundled over Charles N’Zogbia.
N’Zogbia scored just 4 minutes later with a curling 20 yard free-kick. A late Ashley Westwood own goal in the 87th minute gave the Hammers one back but Villa went on to record their first win in nine matches.
The second half for sleepy Sunday wasn’t that much better, despite being a tasty Manchester United v Everton clash. United went into the break 2-0 up, and the first goal was provided by a young talent named Ryan Giggs. The Welsh pensioner found space in the box after good work from Robin Van Persie before hitting a composed shot in off the post in 13th minute. As no doubt everyone has told you already, he’s scored in 23 consecutive seasons.
On the stroke of half time, Van Persie added a second. He sprung the offside trap, rounded Tim Howard and finished with the aid of a desperate lunge from Johnny Heitinga. The goal atoned for RVP’s earlier, almost identical chance that he smashed off the post.
The second half was less than noteworthy until the 65th minute. A scramble after a corner saw Jonny Evans blocked thrice before Howard made a great save from an equally good shot from Tom Cleverley. United are now 12 points clear at the top, can they be stopped?