In what was the sixteenth games week of the season, the Premier League sees the objectives for teams being defined and in some cases revised. It is now long enough into the season for teams to be looking at where they would like to be at the end of the season and with the January transfer window looming ahead, December is a month where most teams normally look to pass by without getting into a lot of trouble.
Among the big guns, Chelsea and Arsenal kicked off on Saturday with both London clubs rounding off the weekend with wins. Arsenal were at home against the now crumbling West Brom, but were perhaps lucky to get away with a 2 – 0 win from two dubious penalties in a game which barely had much else to speak of. Santi Cazorla proved he was no saint as he blatantly dived to win a penalty for the Gunners and has since then refused to apologize for the incident saying that it is part and parcel of modern day football. One wonders what Arsene Wenger makes of it given he advocated a three match ban for those who went swimming on a football pitch.
Chelsea and Rafael Benitez on the other hand finally managed a win away from home against Sunderland. Their last victory in the Premier League had come against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and there was much relief at the final whistle after the convincing 1 – 3 win against the Black Cats. What is even more encouraging for the Blues fans would be the return back to form for Fernando Torres who scored his second brace in four days. Torres however, has flattered to deceive in his Chelsea career far too often and therefore even the most optimistic of the Chelsea support would wait before believing he’s back to the Torres of old.
When Will QPR Win?
QPR were left searching for their first win yet again after they drew 2 – 2 away from home. They looked to be on course for the win when Djibril Cisse put them 1 – 2 up against the run of play in the 71st minute but the excellent James McCarthy ensured Wigan weren’t to lose, with his second goal of the day. Meanwhile, Southampton continued their revival from doom by pulling themselves out of the relegation spots with a 1 – 0 victory against Brian McDermott’s Reading at home.
Robert Huth And Ryan Shawcross help Stoke earn 8th Clean sheet
There has to be that one game that is a dull draw on a weekend and it seems that Stoke and Aston Villa were tasked by the footballing gods to provide it this time around. Darren Bent made his first appearance in the league after he was axed from the Villa set up for reasons we are yet to know, but it showed Villa’s desperation that they brought him on in the 65th minute. The 0 – 0 draw also confirmed that Stoke officially have the best defence in the Premier League as of today with 8 clean sheets from their sixteen games. It is quite an irony that it is being marshalled by Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross who were both discarded by the currently porous Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.
Thrillers See Norwich And Liverpool Snatch Major Victories
Going in at half time with a 0 – 3 lead, Norwich would have been forgiven for thinking they had the game in the bag. However, Micheal Laudrup’s Swansea and Michu in particular, had other plans with Swansea scoring two goals within the 60th minute to give the Canaries an almighty scare. Norwich did score the pivotal 4th goal in the 77th minute courtesy of Robert Snodgrass, but the action didn’t stop there as Michu decided to score again in the 90th minute. The Swans, however, couldn’t score another to grab a late draw and Norwich exited the Liberty stadium with a well-earned victory for their efforts.
Sam Allardyce’s men managed a phenomenal comeback against Chelsea last week and almost managed an encore this time around, but were denied in pursuit by a Liverpool team that is beginning to find its feet under Brendan Rodgers. It was Liverpool who took an early lead in just the 11th minute through Glen Johnson but they appeared to shoot themselves in the foot after a Joe Allen handball in the box gifted West Ham a penalty which Mark Noble duly converted. To make matters worse, Steven Gerrard managed to score an own goal in the 43rd to leave the Hammers feeling in control of the game.
Luck then veered itself toward the Merseyside team again after the excellent Diame was stretchered off with a grade three hamstring injury when it still read 2 – 1. There on Joe Cole scored his first Premier League goal since April 2011 in the 76th minute and James Collins scored an unfortunate own goal in the 79th to help Liverpool win 2 – 3.
Spurs Capitulate In The Final Minutes, Yet Again
Everton were at Goodison park against the high flying Spurs who were steadily climbing the table. They had endured an almost Chelsea like run before this game. Therefore a morale boosting positive result was definitely what the doctor had ordered. Despite dominating most of the game, the home side couldn’t muster a goal as Tottenham held on. It was the 76th minute when Dempsey took a shot that rifled off Sylvain Distain’s boot and into the goal, as a crest fallen David Moyes saw his team fail to kill off an opponent yet again.
However, Everton are as dogged and determined as they come and the Toffees refused to let up until the very last minute. Literally speaking, Steven Pienaar made it 1 – 1 in the 89th minute and Nikica Jelavic piled further misery on Tottenham by scoring the winner in the 91st minute which had David Moyes dancing. Spurs have now dropped 14 points in the final 15 minutes of games this year and had they not, they’d be leading Manchester United by a point in the title race now.
Manchester Derby Steals The Spotlight
The final score line read 2 – 3 to Manchester United. It had it all. Top quality football, passion, rivalry, controversy and a fervently tense atmosphere gripped the background. It was Wayne Rooney who inflicted pain upon the ‘noisy neighbours’ with two first half goals. City did see more of the ball; they created chances as well but United took their chances better and it made all the difference. The second half saw Manchester City galvanized by the introduction of Carlos Tevez who came on for the sulking Balotelli in the 52nd minute. The Argentine relishes a battle against his former team and this was no different. Yaya Toure made it 1 – 2 in the 60th minute to give the City faithful some hope.
Just as it looked like United might hold on to a precious win Paulo Zabaleta scored off a poor van Persie clearance from a corner taken by Carlos Tevez. The momentum should have been with City, who looked good to get away with a draw but Mancini’s words about van Persie making a difference in the title race could prove to be prophetic as the brilliant Dutchman scored the winner from a free kick that deflected off Samir Nasri.
A few ugly scenes marred a wonderful spectacle towards the end of the match, but Roberto Mancini will be left wondering about his future at Manchester City if the team continues to stutter under his management. For Manchester United, this was sweet revenge not only for the double whammy they suffered at the hands of City last season but also(in a small way) for that last gap Aguero goal that clinched City the title. It is clear that if it is to be a two horse race for the title this season, then United have stolen an early march.