The sixth round of Barclays Premier League has just *ended and the results are starting to tell a whole new story when you see the league standings. While Everton and David Moyes are all about the ‘small family, happy family’ and sitting pretty on the second spot, their neighbours Liverpool have finally emerged from relegation to breathe some fresh air with thumping 2-5 victory over Norwich City.
Chelsea and Arsenal were engaged in a fast paced game that saw Chelsea maintain their unbeaten run in this Premier League season. The Blues took the lead with a fantastic finish from Fernando Torres but Arsenal leveled with an equally good finish from former Lille forward Gervinho.
With the game well poised to go either way, you would expect a class finish from a player from either team to slot home the winner. Instead, it was a Juan Mata freekick which came in contact with Koscielny’s knee and into Vito Mannone’s goal. Heartbreak for Arsenal as they recorded their first Premier League loss this campaign; which, if it was the other way around, would have taken Arsene Wenger’s team to within a point of the European champions. The Gunners are now seventh on the Premier League table. The game just goes to show how important it is to get off to a good start early on in the season.
But Arsene Wenger had one more thing to frown upon from this high profile encounter. Abou Diaby, who has been a frequent visitor to the examiner’s table since the time he joined the club seven years ago, picked up another thigh injury in the game against Chelsea. The French midfielder is now expected to be out for up to three weeks. The good news is, Wenger is expecting the return of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky to the first team, which should alleviate any concerns over Arsenal’s midfield.
Over at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson was aiming to prepare his team for another victory on home soil against Tottenham, who haven’t got the better of Red Devils at the theater of dreams for a good 23 years now. Andre Villa-Boas though, had planned otherwise. After learning one of his many lessons i.e. not fielding Gareth Bale as a left-back (he did, against QPR), the young Portuguese manager went ahead with a five-man midfield, featuring Bale and Lennon as the boosters on the flanks while Sandro, Dembele and Dempsey made up the central region. Spurs got off to a flying start with Jan Vertonghen scoring a Premier League debut goal on one of the most famous pitches in the world.
Half an hour later, the Lilywhites doubled their lead with a blistering run by Gareth Bale on the right, ultimately ending with a strong finish from his weaker foot. Manchester United left dumbfounded after the second goal. The defense was the least bit effective, there was lack of desire from the midfield and van Persie’s hopes of a penalty kick were fading.
If you ever could recollect a game of two halves, Manchester United versus Tottenham should ring some bells. The second half was a total opposite of the first for both the teams. With the arrival of Wayne Rooney on the pitch, Manchester United earned a second life. The Merseyside-born striker was immediately commanding the attack while Paul Scholes was smooth and slick with his passing, as usual.
United pulled one back to reduce the deficit but soon after Nani’s goal, there he was – Gareth Bale running down the left flank this time. A ferocious shot on goal ricocheted off Lindegraad’s gloves as he went for the save but Clint Dempsey was at the right place, at the right time to tap the ball in and restore the two-goal lead. United answered back with a wonderful through ball from Robin van Persie through to Shinji Kagawa who was cool as a cucumber as he played the ball past Friedel to make 2-3 to the home team.
Manchester United now powered ahead with more determination. It was as though Spurs’ lead was irking Alex Ferguson’s team so much that it was throwing everything in its gamut to turn things around. One such attempt, Rooney’s freekick, hit the post and could have easily gotten the better of Brad Friedel. Spurs immediately knew that luck was on their side. After what seemed like a long and hard-fought evening, Tottenham finally walked away winners and AVB is the man who broke the 23 year jinx.
Old Trafford was not the only place where celebrations were on full swing. Luis Suarez scored an eye-catching hat-trick of goals against Norwich last season, one of them including a goal from halfline. Having secured victories in the Europa League and the Capital One Cup, everybody in the Liverpool camp was eagerly awaiting the club’s first victory in the Premier League.
When Suarez scored in the second minute, Brendan Rodgers & Co. were convinced that three points were definitely coming their way. A second goal from the Uruguayan in the 38th minute could attribute to this feeling. A wonderful, outside-of-the-foot finish behind Ruddy was an indication that the Reds haven’t lost confidence in the way they play. It was just a matter of time before that inch-of-a-tweak would make all the difference.
The Reds started the second half in the same manner they finished the first. Suarez dribbled to get away from the defender on the edge of the box and played the ball in, intending for it to reach Sterling’s feet. However, the defender’s futile intervention took the ball only a feet away as Nuri Sahin was entering in for to pick up the loose ball. Liverpool were leading 0-3.
Suarez completed his hat-trick ten minutes later with a delightful curler from the edge of the box. The Reds were looking in good stead to not just grab three points, but also reduce the goal difference thanks to some heavy defeats since the start of the season.
However, Pepe Reina’s hopes of a clean sheet were short-lived. In the 61st minute, Steve Morison scored Norwich’s first consolation goal after an initial fumble by Reina. The Spaniard isn’t enjoying the best of starts this season and could come under the scanner if his form continues this way.
If you were wondering how Rodgers’ philosophy of tiki-taka football is going to reflect on the pitch, then Liverpool’s fifth goal would be a fine example of it. After a string of 21 passes encompassing the midfield as well as defense, Raheem Sterling got away from his marker and laid the ball for a Steven Gerrard finish. Liverpool walk away with three points, their first victory in the Premier League and a boost in confidence ahead of their next encounter against Stoke City next week.
The other fixtures saw Reading earn a draw against Newcastle in what should have been a result in Reading’s favour. Demba Ba scored one of the goals of the season – a volley off a deep cross from Anita, his second goal to bring the Magpies level was clearly handheld, as replays also suggest. Over at Craven Cottage, Fulham took the surprise lead against reigning champions Manchester City but an equalizer from Aguero and a stoppage time goal courtesy Edin Dzeko ensured victory for the Citizens.
Over at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland edged past Wigan with a 1-0 home win, their first of the season too. Steven Fletcher was once again on the scorecard. Moving to the Britannia, a Peter Crouch brace saw the Potters get the better of Swansea, who, after a highly impressive start to the season, have earned just one point from a possible twelve.
Everton continued the fine Premier League form with a home victory against a tricky Southampton side. The Saints surprisingly took the lead but Toffees were quick to respond and fired in three goals before the half time whistle, sealing their fourth victory in the opening six games. On Sunday, Aston Villa and West Brom were up against each other at Villa Park. While the draw means Paul Lambert’s team is looking at the possibility of relegation with further lucidity, West Brom maintain their top half position in the table.
Results: Arsenal 1–2 Chelsea, Fulham 1-2 Manchester City, Sunderland 1-0 Wigan, Norwich 2-5 Liverpool, Reading 2-2 Newcastle, Stoke City 2-0 Swansea, Everton 3-1 Southampton, Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa 1-1 West Bromwich
*QPR and West Ham are set to kick off at 20:00 BST today, October 1st, 2012.