Swansea 0 – 3 Everton
The Toffees end the Swans undefeated home record in convincing fashion. Everton kept their fine form rolling as they dominated proceedings at the Liberty Stadium. They kept the Swans goal under siege throughout the first half. Kevin Mirallas should have scored in the 3rd minute when his header on goal was saved by keeper Michael Vorm. The first goal was a bit controversial as midfielder Marouane Fellaini, in his attempt to head on to Victor Anichebe, seemed to push the ball to the striker with his hand. Anichebe slotted home past the sprawling Vorm in the 21st minute. The second goal was a great build up that started from captain Phil Neville who beat Swans midfielder Michu to a long ball near his right corner. Neville was able to pass to Fellaini’s feet. Fellaini then put a great through ball over to Steven Pienaar. Pienaar made a great run into the Swans’ penalty area and coolly teed up Mirallas who initially put it off the bar then beat keeper Vorm to the rebound. Swans boss Michael Laudrup took off Pablo Hernandez at halftime and put on Nathan Dyer. The change helped the Swans put pressure onto the Everton goal, but keeper Tim Howard kept his clean sheet. In the 58th minute, any real hope of a Swans comeback was killed when Dyer was sent off for his second yellow for a dumb tackle on Leighton Baines. Dyer had been booked in the 55th minute for dissent so the tackle was a major brain cramp. Fellaini got the third goal in the 82nd minute when he headed home Bains’ cross partially deflected cross. Swansea almost had a consolation goal in stoppage time when Jonathan de Guzman’s free kick bounced off the post.
Chelsea 1 – 0 Stoke
A lucky rebound off Juan Mata allows Ashley Cole to score the winner at Stamford Bridge. It was the first time that the Chelsea trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Mata started with striker Fernando Torres on top. John Terry and Frank Lampard had been left on the bench and when I saw this line up, I was wondering if Roman Abramovich had told his manager Roberto Di Matteo that he wanted to make a “Barca in Blue” team with this line up. If that was the case, it really didn’t work. Although they did enjoy most of the possision, Torres, Hazard, Oscar, and Mata played like they had just met and nothing like the defenders of the UEFA Champions’ League trophy. The first half was quite dull and the closest anyone really came to scoring was when Stoke’s Jonathan Walters’ header from Glenn Whelan’s free kick bounced off the crossbar. In the 50th minute, the Blues did have a penalty claim when Oscar seemed to have been tripped by defender Ryan Shawcross. But the referee waved the claim away and booked the striker for diving. Both sides tried to bring the match to life and when Lampard came on for John Obi Mikel in the 81st minute, it was just what the doctor ordered. Four minutes later the Blues got the ball into the Stoke penalty area. It bounced around for a bit and when the Potters failed to clear properly, the ball bounced off Mata’s heel and rolled over to Cole. He coolly slotted home past keeper Asmir Begovic. It was ugly, but it was three points and the Blues are still at the top of the league. Kinda reminds one of how the won the BPL in 2006, right?
Southampton 4 – 1 Aston Villa
How do you get your first BPL win and make an emphatic move out of the bottom three? You deliver a smack down to the opposition in front of your home supporters. That’s exactly what the Saint’s did at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday. They came into this match rooted to the bottom of the table and are the bookie’s favorite to be relegated at the end of the season. In fact, it looked like Villa were going to continue Southampton’s miserable start when some sloppy defending in the 36th minute allowed striker Darren Bent to score the opening goal. Saint’s boss Nigel Adkins made several changes after their punch in the face from Arsenal. One of them was to drop captain keeper Kelvin Davis in favor of Paulo Gazzaniga. Adkins’ half time talk must have inspired something in the Saints as striker Rickie Lambert grabbed a 58th minute equalizer when he controlled a driven cross from Adam Lallana and fired the ball home under pressure from four Villa defenders. That was the start of the Saints’ revival and Nathaniel Clyne’s 63rd minute goal put the home team into the lead. The Saints got their third in the 72nd minute when Jason Puncheon received a great pass from Lambert and scored off Villa defender Ciaran Clark. Puncheon was substituted in the 74th minute for Emmanuel Mayuka. Mayuka went to work right away and nearly scored in the 78th minute when his shot went inches wide. He did earn his side a penalty kick in stoppage time when he was brought down by keeper Brad Guzan. Lambert took the spot kick and the final whistle confirmed that the Saints had indeed gotten their first BPL win since April 2005 and had advanced out of the bottom three.
West Bromwich Albion 1 – 0 Reading
West Brom win their third home match over hapless Reading. I have a feeling that Reading will be one of the teams who will have their fate sealed by December. They are winless in 4 matches played and are rooted to the foot of the BPL table. Their biggest problem seems to be what catches a lot of the newly promoted sides. The players that got the club into the BPL are not good enough to keep it in the league. That was evident Saturday as West Brom keeper Ben Foster had nothing to do for the entire match. The first half’s only scoring chance came from Albion defender Jonas Olsson’s header from the corner that hit off the corner of the goal. On-loan striker Romelu Lukaku scored the winner in the 71st minute when substitute Shane Long set up the Chelsea loanee to tap home. So Reading are still looking for their first BPL win of the season.
West Ham 1 – 1 Sunderland
Kevin Nolan rescues a point for the Hammers in stoppage time. So it seems that West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has his boys playing long balls up through Carlton Cole. That doesn’t sit very will with most of the Iron fans and they’ll point to Mohamed Diame and Ricardo Vaz Te as the players who can be shrewd and willing to run at defenders. But throughout the match most of the time the Hammers were trying to find Cole with a long ball and the Black Cats were comfortable intercepting those long passes and countering back the other way. Sunderland scored the first in the 9th minute when midfielder Sebastian Larsson pounced onto James Collins’ horribly scuffed clearance then lofted the ball over the defender’s head for teammate Steven Fletcher. The striker drilled a low shot that Hammers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen got a hand to but couldn’t keep out. West Ham did almost equalize in the 23rd minute when Nolan had a shot blocked and midfielder Matt Taylor’s cross for Vaz Te was headed just wide of the goal. But that seemed to be as close as the Hammers would get and you could tell they really missed injured striker Andy Carroll. So it seemed that the home side was set to go down to defeat when in stoppage time, Mark Noble launched a forward ball that substitute Matthew Jarvis was able to keep from going out for a goal kick. He then crossed over to substitute Modibo Maiga who crossed over to Nolan. Nolan hit the volley shot past keeper Mignolet, the draw was secured, and the bubbles of relief blew over Upton Park.
Wigan 1 – 2 Fulham
New Fulham signee Hugo Rodallega’s goal against his old club keeps the Cottagers in the top ten. OK, it looks like we have the first blooper highlight for the season. It happened in the early part of the match when the ref was knocked on his back side, having been caught in the middle of a hard challenge from Steve Sidwell and Ben Watson. There was a bit of a delay while he got treatment and he had no hard feelings as jokingly waved his red card around. When things got going again, Fulham began to boss the game and came close to taking the lead when Dimitar Berbatov hit a dinked cross that was headed straight into Latics’ keeper Ali Al Habsi’s hands. In the 24th minute. Berbatov nearly broke the deadlock when his shot was barely saved by Al Habsi. Berbatov, who is loving life with his new club, created Rodallega’s goal in the 31st minute when he made a beautiful cross for Rodallega to head home. The Colombian striker, in a moment of pure class, refused to celebrate in front of the home fans. When he was taken off in the 89th minute, he left to a standing ovation. The goal did put a bit of pep in the Wigan step and striker Jordi Gomez was very unlucky not to have scored in the 38th minute when his shot rebounded off the Fulham goal post. The second Fulham goal came in the 68th minute when substitute Bryan Ruiz was able to hold off the Wigan defense long enough to pass to an unmark Damien Duff who made a clinical finish in the bottom corner of the Latics goal. Wigan were able to grab a consolation goal in stoppage time from Arouna Kone, but it was too little, too late.
Liverpool 1 – 2 Manchester United
Controversy rears its ugly head as the Red Devils get their first win at Anfield since December 2007. The occasion always had an edge to it in the light of the recent news about the police department’s role in the Hillsboro tragedy. Before the match kicked off, the players from both sides showed their class and professionalism. Luiz Suarez and Patrice Evra actually shook hands during the pre-match hand shake. The United players had “96” on the back of their track suites to honor the Hillsboro victims which earned loud applause from the Liverpool faithful. United legend Sir Bobby Charlton gave Liverpool legend Ian Rush a bouquet of roses and captain Ryan Giggs released 96 balloons. When the match started, it was almost a relief for the Liverpool players. One could tell they wanted to get their season going in the right direction again and beating their fiercest rivals would have done quite nicely. Liverpool kept dominating throughout most of the first half and young midfielder Raheem Sterling was making Evra look old and foolish. The festive occasion was ended by the referee when in the 39th minute, he judged that Jonjo Shelvey, midweek Europa hero, was guilty of serious foul play and showed the midfielder the red card. Shelvey managed to nick the ball from Giggs, and went in hard against United defender Johnny Evans. The replay showed that both players had gone in hard after the loose ball and the fans felt the referee had gotten the call wrong. They really let him know it at halftime. But at the start of the second half, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who lost his cousin in the Hillsboro tragedy, got the fans going when he latched onto United substitute Paul Scholes mis-clearance and volleyed home into the goal in the Kop end. But the joy was short lived after only five minutes when United midfielder Shinji Kagawa laid the ball off his chest for defender Rafael to hit a wonderful left-footed curling shot over keeper Jose Reina and off the far post into the goal. A draw would have been a just result given the occasion, but in the 81st minute, United midfielder Antonio Valencia got onto the ball in the midfield and made a great run into the Liverpool area. Reds defender Glen Johnson raced back to cover and looked like he had done his job when the referee whistled him for fouling Valencia. United Striker Robin Van Persie did manage to drill the kick through keeper Reina’s hands and the final whistle left Liverpool without a win this season and in the bottom three for this round.
Newcastle 1 – 0 Norwich
Demba Ba’s fourth goal of the season is good enough for the win for the Magpies versus the Canaries on Sunday. It was the first time Canaries boss Chris Hughton had been back to St. James’ Park since being fired back in December 2010. He got a warm reception from the home fans who still remember he was the guy who got them promoted from the Championship in the first place. The Canaries almost took the lead in the 5th minute when striker Wes Hoolahan headed Javier Garrido’s cross straight into Magpie defender Steven Taylor. Although the Magpies had started another match a bit too slowly for boss Alan Pardew, they did get themselves going and in the 19th minute should have taken the lead if only Cisse had been able to make proper contact with Yohan Cabaye’s free kick. James Perch got the rebound, but his shot was blocked. The goal for the home side did come seconds later when Ben Arfa made a wonderful run down the left, cut inside, and slide the perfect pass into the path of Ba. Ba was able to slide the ball past on rushing keeper John Ruddy to cap a wonderful move. But the Canaries didn’t give up. Magpies defender Mike Williamson had to be in the right place at the right time to clear Robert Snodgrass’ header off the line from Hoolahan’s fine cross. The score should have been 2-0 at the break when, in first half injury time, Newcastle were awarded a penalty kick after Norwich striker Steve Morison barged into Williamson in the Canaries area. Ben Arfa had grabbed the ball, but was persuaded to let Cisse take the kick. The Senegalese striker skied the kick over the bar and earned Ben Arfa a butt-chewing from interim boss John Carver. The Canaries tried to equalize in the second half, with Snodgrass coming the closest in the 53rd minute, but the home side were able to see out all challenges for the victory.
Manchester City 1 – 1 Arsenal
The Gunners swipe a point from the Champions at the Etihad Stadium. Citeh have started their BPL defense with indifferent form. They’ve had two really scrappy wins and two draws and they suffered a last second loss to Real Madrid on the Champions’ League. But they were happy to have Sergio Aguero back from injury and in the 14th minute, he nearly scored when his curling shot was saved by Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone. But the Gunners were the ones bossing the match in the first half and really should have scored when Gervinho was put through by Aaron Ramsey, but the winger’s bad touch allowed the ball to be scooped up by keeper Joe Hart. Arsenal had another chance in the 24th minute when defender Carl Jenkinson made a great move down the right side and slotted over to Lukas Podolski. But the midfielder hit his shot well over the bar. So it went until the 40th minute when defender Joleon Lescott headed the Champions into the lead from David Silva’s corner kick. Citeh could have had a second right before half time Gunner keeper Mannone managed to get his finger-tips to Edin Dzeko’s curling shot. In the second half, Citeh though they had a chance to seal the result when Aguero thought he had been fouled by defender Laurent Koscielny and wanted a penalty awarded after he skied his shot over the Arsenal goal. In the 80th minute, Citeh again should have killed of the match when Yaya Toure had his shot saved by keeper Mannone. The resulting counter saw the Gunners hed up to the other end and Santi Cazorla’s shot needed a fine save from keeper Hart. The resulting corner kick was not cleared properly by Lescott who could only divert the ball to the feet of Koscielny who calmly put the ball home to secure the draw. And so the Champions have conceded at least one goal in each of their matches this season. Boss Roberto Mancini knows that must change if the Premiership is to stay on their side of Manchester.
Tottenham 2 – 1 Queens Park Rangers
Spurs score twice in Andres Villas Boas’ first London Derby in charge. This one almost didn’t start will again for Spurs. Four minutes in, QPR nearly scored when Spurs keeper Brad Friedel made a brilliant save from Clint Hill. In the 13th minute, Friedel again proved why he is the American legend that he is when he bailed out defender Kyle Walker by making a brilliant save from QPR striker Junior Hoilett. Clint Dempsey thought he had gotten his first goal for Spurs in the 21st minute but was denied by an offside ruling against Jermain Defoe. And so it seemed that Villas Boas’ unlucky streak in London would continue when midfielder Alejandro Damian Faurlin carved open the Spurs defense and found striker Bobby Zamora who was able to slot the ball past a sprawling Friedel. It was no surprise that, when the half time whistle blew, the White Hart Lane crowd expressed their displeasure at Villas Boas. Maybe he finally got the message because Steven Caulker was brought on for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Gareth Bale went back to his natural left wing position. But it wasn’t until the 60th minute that Spurs fans finally had a reason to cheer. Caulker’s header from the back post miraculously bounced off the chest of Faurlin and into the QPR net, turning him from hero to goat. One minute later, Jan Vertonghen charged through the QPR defense and laid the ball off to Bale. His shot ricocheted off the QPR defenders and landed in the path of Defoe and the England striker calmly slotted the ball into the net. Dempsey, and later Bale both missed a chance at getting the third goal for Spurs. Defoe should have had his second in stoppage time when his shot was saved by keeper Julio Cesar. So Andres Villas Boas finally has his win. Not too sure if it will stop the haters who are still calling for his head…