Arsenal and Arsene Wenger produced the best possible response to all their recent critics, including the ones calling for Wenger to leave, by beating the current Champions Manchester United in an excellent and thrilling game of football at the Emirates on Saturday. The result of which leaves Arsenal still firmly in the title race. It was the perfect response at the end of a difficult week to 10 days, in fact ever since they relinquished the 4 – 2 lead against Spurs in the final few moments. The fans at the Emirates are certainly getting full value for money entertainment wise recently, although I don’t suppose too many of them would argue that the Spurs game was “entertaining” for them!
It was an absorbing end-to-end encounter in North London and the result could have gone either way. And in the best traditions of the cliché, it was a contest neither side deserved to lose.
After overcoming a shaky start, which saw Manuel Almunia handle a Mikael Silvestre backpass and Dimitar Berbatov have a goal ruled out for offside, Arsenal took the lead on 22 minutes.
Berbatov could only clear a free-kick out to Samir Nasri on the edge of the box and the French youngster’s crisp shot took a decisive deflection off Gary Neville and flew past Edwin van der Sar.
You could say that Arsenal’s first goal had a small element of luck about it, however the second, also scored by Nasri, had the word “class” written all over, it as he thumped a shot beyond Van der Sar three minutes after half-time following a wonderfully intricate build-up from the Gunners.
Cristiano Ronaldo wasted a golden chance to pull a goal back almost immediately and, though substitute Rafael da Silva fired a volley beyond substitute keeper Fabianski in the last minute, United were unable to conjure up an equaliser within Sir Alex’s customary, when they are losing, six minutes of injury-time.
In the evening kick-off, which seems to be Liverpool’s lot at the moment, Robbie Keane finally got off the mark in the League as Liverpool eased to a 3-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion.
Irish striker Keane has endured a frustrating time of things in front of goal since his summer move from Tottenham Hotspur, but displayed his killer instinct to see off the Baggies at Anfield. These goals were a little like buses. You wait months for one then two turn up, one right after the other.
The breakthrough for Liverpool and Keane came on 34 minutes when Reds skipper Steven Gerrard’s pass picked out Keane’s angled run into the box and he deftly lifted his shot over the onrushing Carson.
The second followed shortly afterwards as Liverpool hit West Brom on the break, with Fabio Aurelio releasing Keane to round Carson and slide into an empty net. Not sure what Carson was doing so far out. If he’d stayed back it would have made it so much harder for Keane, but once he’d rounded Carson the outcome was inevitable.
Fernando Torres, who was not risked from the start and was on the bench, was brought on by Benitez to replace Keane. He probably wasn’t too thrilled as he was on the chance of a hat-trick but still it must have been such a relief to get those first goals under his belt. To finish off an outclassed West Brom, Alvaro Arbeloa curled home a sumptuous third in injury-time. I do like the way West Brom play open and attractive football, however you can’t help thinking that their complete lack of finishing prowess in from is going to mean they are candidates for heading straight back to the Championship.
Bolton Wanderers, not only climbed out of the relegation zone but rocketed up into the top 10 by beating Hull City. Just shows you how tight it is at the moment in the Premiership. Unfortunately for Hull it meant they slipped to a third consecutive defeat after this 1-0 defeat at home to Phil Brown’s former club Bolton. it’s a little tough on Hull when you consider they had to face Man Utd and Chelsea in consecutive games.
In a hard-fought first half, Hull came closest to breaking the deadlock when Marlon King’s improvised effort on 18 minutes looped on to the crossbar.
Bolton made the breakthrough five minutes into the second period when Matthew Taylor squeezed his volley just inside the post after Hull had only partially cleared a corner to the edge of the area.
Visiting keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was then in inspired form as he denied Geovanni and King with superb saves as the Trotters moved out of the bottom three. Jaaskelainen was brilliant all evening really, it wasw just one of those games for him where he couldn’t do anything wrong. And at the final whistle it was clear for all to see what a contribution he had made as he was mobbed by all his teammates. Definitely the Man of the Match!
There must have been a huge sigh of relieve as Tony Adams picked up his first win as Portsmouth boss. Portsmouth came from behind to record a last-gasp 2-1 win at Sunderland as Jermain Defoe stroked home an injury-time penalty.
Sunderland enjoyed a dream start by taking the lead after four minutes when a long ball sent Djibril Cisse clear and the French striker slotted his shot through David James’ legs.
The hosts created further chances before the break, but Pompey came out for the second half a rejuvenated team and levelled on 51 minutes through Nadir Belhadj’s well-struck shot from 25 yards.
In the final minute, Pompey snatched a winner from the penalty spot through Defoe’s clinical strike after Glen Johnson had been brought down by El Hadji Diouf’s clumsy challenge. What was he doing? I’m sure Roy Keane must have politely asked him that after the game. Bet he didn’t get a coherent answer
Everton came from behind to stun West Ham United at Upton Park. West Ham, who to be fair were the better side and looked to have secured all 3 points, were then torn apart by a crazy four-minute spell late in the game as Everton came away with an impressive 3-1 triumph and West Ham simply looked like they’d gone home early.
Freddie Sears was given a chance in the Hammers’ starting line-up and he almost repaid Gianfranco Zola’s faith when he clipped his shot against the bar following good work by Craig Bellamy on the half-hour mark.
Sears was involved in the opening goal on 63 minutes when he started the move which resulted in fellow youngster Jack Collison curling a superb shot inside the far post.
Everton then stunned the Hammers with a triple late blast as the unmarked Joleon Lescott headed home an equaliser on 83 minutes from Louis Saha’s cross.
Saha then put Everton in front just two minutes later as his right-footed effort from Victor Anichebe’s pass into the area took a deflection on its way past Robert Green.
And, on 87 minutes, Saha scored again as Everton pounced on a poor pass out of defence and the French striker smashed a shot beyond Green from 25 yards.
Meanwhile Stoke City made it three games unbeaten after a battling 0 – 0 draw at Wigan Athletic. Wigan failed to make their second-half dominance count. The visitors were indebted to goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen for denying Wilson Palacios and Titus Bramble late on in a match full of effort, but short on quality.
On Sunday, Chelsea leapfrogged back over Liverpool to regain the top spot on goal difference. In form Anelka scoring both goals for Scolari’s team as Chelsea beat Blackburn Rovers 0 – 2 at Ewood Park.
The remarkable turnaround of Tottenham Hotspur under Harry Redkanpp continued too as Spurs came from behind again to beat Manchester City at Eastlands 2 – 1. Both goals scored by the rejuvenated Darren Bent and the win meant they are off the bottom of the table. Bent has scored 5 goals in 4 days and 11 in total and Harry Redknapp said after the game, “Darren is flying!”
The same can’t be said of Mark Hughes and Man City at the moment though. It’s been a tough few weeks for the blue half of Manchester and they are slipping down the table. Although Hughes remains philosophical. I suppose he has too really.
Joe Kinnear was angered by the “Mickey Mouse” referee at Craven Cottage as Fulham beat Newcastle Untied thanks to a penalty converted by Danny Murphy. Newcastle were 1 – 0 down to an Andy Johnson goal but came out in the second half and really took the game to Fulham. They got they goal back, maybe a little fortunately, but then looked the team most likely to go on and win the game. That was of course until the penalty.
The final game of the weekend saw Martin O’Neill angered by what he described as “two poor goals” as Middlesbrough beat Aston Villa at Villa Park. O’Neill might not have been happy but his opposite number, Gareth Southgate, obviously was as he claimed his Boro team had “passed a huge test” with the away win.