In a weekend in which the table toppers Chelsea were occupied elsewhere in the continent, all eyes were on Anfield for the clash between Liverpool and Arsenal on Sunday. Most of the talk in the buildup to the game centered on the Merseyside club’s transfer activity, or rather the lack of it, on deadline day. The club’s failure to replace outgoing Andy Carroll was reflected in the disconcerting fact that Stewart Downing was the only attacking option that Brendan Rodgers had in reserve for the match. Their opponents too have had problem in the striking department, with the new look strike-force drawing blanks in the opening two stalemates.
But on this sunny afternoon in Merseyside, it was the Gunners frontmen who had the last laugh as Lucas Podolski and Santi Cazorla struck in each half to notch up Arsenal’s first league victory of the season. In contrast, Liverpool strikers – Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini – were utterly toothless in the final third and had an afternoon to forget. After this performance, it was no wonder that Rodgers publicly expressed his bewilderment at the club’s transfer policy that has left him to operate with only two strikers till January at least. The situation has turned so dire that the Northern Irishman has refused to rule out a move for former striker Michael Owen, who was released by Manchester United over four months back. For Arsenal, the performance of Abou Diaby in midfield was a real highlight and went someway in explaining Arsene Wenger’s insistence on keeping faith with the often injured Frenchman.
Later on in Sunday, Southampton hosted Manchester United in a league fixture for first time since May 2004 when a 2-1 reversal at the hands of the Red Devils castigated Saints to relegation. The only common factor between that match eight years back and this one was the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who was taking charge of his 1000th league fixture for the club. But the United players nearly made a mess of the landmark occasion and twice went behind to the hosts thanks to strikes from Ricky Lambert and the highly impressive Morgan Schneiderlin. When Robin van Persie, who had earlier brought United level at 1-1, fluffed his lines while trying to be too cute in converting a spot-kick, the writing seemed to be on the wall. But the Dutchman more than atoned for his indiscretion by first turning in the rebound from Rio Ferdinand’s header with three minutes of regulation time left and then by flicking on a near post corner in injury time to seal all three points for United. For Nigel Adkins’ men, who had also lost to City on the opening weekend after leading 2-1, this was yet another bitter lesson on how unforgiving the Premier League can be.
In the day’s third fixture, Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa picked up their first point of the season against Newcastle at the Sports Direct Arena. The game will long be remembered for Hatem Ben Arfa’s stunning strike from 25 yards out which cancelled out Ciaran Clark’s first half headed goal.
On Saturday, Andy Carroll made an instant impact on his West Ham debut when he headed down for Ricardo Vaz Te to set up Kevin Nolan’s strike within the first minute of the match against Fulham at Upton Park. The on-loan Liverpool striker continued to torment the Fulham defense all through the rest of the half in which Winston Reid and Matty Taylor scored to give West Ham a commanding 3-0 lead. In a goalless second period, Fulham introduced their debutant striker Dimitar Berbatov before Carroll was forced off due to a tight hamstring.
Manchester City took on Queens Park Rangers in Saturday’s tea time kick-off with the Rangers’ last visit to Etihad Stadium still fresh in the memory. But unlike the dramatic final day fixture of last season, City came away with a comfortable 3-1 victory with goals from Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez ensuring Bobby Zamora’s equalizer early in the second half was nothing more than a mere aberration.
Tottenham’s dull start to the season continued with couple of more points dropped at home; this time to Norwich City. Debutant Moussa Dembele gave home team the lead after coming on in the second half but for the second time in two weeks Spurs were guilty of conceding a late equalizer with Robert Snodgrass powering a left footed strike past Brad Friedel in the bottom corner. With just three games gone in the season, the pressure is already on manager Andre Villas-Boas to turn the boat around.
In Liberty Stadium, a brace from Steven Fletcher on his Sunderland debut meant a share of the spoils for his new team with Swansea City. Even though this result brought an end to Swans’ perfect start to the season, manager Michael Laudrup was impressed with the character displayed by his team by twice coming back from a goal down.
The 2-2 scoreline was also replicated in the fixture between Wigan and Stoke City. The two teams traded a pair of first half penalties before in-form Franco di Santo put the Latics in the lead. But with a quarter of an hour remaining on the clock, Peter Crouch equalized. Late on, Charlie Adam, on his Stoke debut, was denied winner by a fantastic Ali Al Habsi save.
Everton’s fine start to season came to a crushing halt at The Hawthorns, where a resilient West Brom side bagged all three points thanks to second half strikes from Shane Long and Gareth McAuley. The undefeated Baggies under new manager Steve Clarke have now recorded their best start to a Premier League season with seven points from first three games.
Premier League Gameweek 3 Results: Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal, Manchester City 3-1 Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa, Southampton 2-3 Manchester United, Swansea 2-2 Sunderland, Tottenham 1-1 Norwich, West Brom 2-0 Everton, West Ham 3-0 Fulham, Wigan 2-2 Stoke