English Premier League
With most teams having played three games, with the notable exceptions of Liverpool and Arsenel who have only played two, the English Premier League season is well and truly up and running.
Yesterday’s matches saw Liverpool versus Chelsea, whilst Manchester City entertained fierce local rivals and current champions, Manchester United. It is fair to say that United have had a poor start to the season by their high standards and yesterday’s derby loss only compounded the misery around Old Trafford as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s hastily assembled City side contrived to out defend and out fight the champions in a well earned 1 – 0 victory. This was City’s third straight win without conceding a goal and sees the blue half of Manchester sitting pretty on top of the league, two points clear of Chelsea who lie second.
Chelsea can count themselves fortunate to be in second place after some horrendous refereeing decisions saw them gifted a penalty against Liverpool at a vital stage during their game at Anfield. Fernando Torres gave the Reds a first half lead scoring in the 16th minute when he latched on to a Steven Gerrard pass, pushed the ball past a hapless Ben Haim before coolly slotting the ball past Cech. However Torres’s fine individual goal will forever be overshadowed by Rob Stiles highly contentious decision to award a penalty against Steve Finnan for a challenge on Malouda. Television replays clearly show Malouda bumping into Finnan and then going to ground. Stiles, who was only a couple of feet away from the incident, pointed immediately to the spot – much to the disbelief and horror of the Anfield crowd. Frank Lampard stepped up and drove the ball deep into Pepe Reina’s goal with the Spaniard diving the wrong way. With parity restored Chelsea looked content to play out the remainder of the game holding on to the point even they must have felt they did not merit.
Wigan, who now sit proudly in third place, beat Roy Keane’s Sunderland by 3 – 0 with a resurgent Emile Heskey proving to be a real thorn in the side of a rather vulnerable Black Cats defence. Heskey opened the scoring before penalties from Landzaat and Sibierski put the tie beyond the newly promoted Wearsiders.
Everton went down 1 – 0 to Reading at the Madejski Stadium with Irish international Stephen Hunt getting the decisive goal. Everton, who were looking to make it three victories out of three, could have snatched a draw in the dying moments of the game when substitute James McFadden curled in a shot which hit the Reading crossbar. Andy Johnson following up on McFadden’s effort failed to guide the ball towards the Reading goal and the score remained 1 – 0. Reading celebrated their first home win of the season whilst Everton had to be content with fourth place in the Premiership.
Portsmouth and Newcastle continued to consolidate their places in 5th and 6th. Harry Redknapp’s Pompey beat a Bolton side that looked a shadow of their former selves by 3 – 1. Bolton’s former manager, Sam Allardyce, now in charge of Newcastle faired rather better with a nil all draw against Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa. Michael Owen made a welcome return to first team action when introduced with 23 minutes remaining but failed to receive any adequate service from the Newcastle midfield to make a scoring impact.
Blackburn and Arsenal played out a one all draw at Ewood Park. Mistakes from Brad Friedel the Blackburn goalkeeper and his counterpart Jens Lehmann, gifted each team their goals. In a well fought and highly entertaining game both sides came close to securing all three points but for some stout defending and, it has to be said, poor finishing. Robin Van Persie gave the Gunners the lead when Friedel spilled the ball into his path. The talented Dutchman did not need a second invitation and calmly touched the ball home. Arsenel seemed destined for victory when Lehmann allowed David Dunn’s 75th minute shot slip through his fingers and into his own net – Arsene Wenger could only look on in dismay as his team trundled off the pitch in 7th position with Blackburn breathing down their necks in 8th.
The bottom three teams of Bolton, Derby and Birmingham are most pundits’ tips for relegation this season and unless they manage to grab a few points quickly it would be hard to disagree. What is a real surprise for most however is the position of Manchester United – 16th, with only two points from a possible nine and no Rooney or Ronaldo. Alex Ferguson’s men take on Tottenham and Sunderland at home in their next two fixtures, with Everton and Chelsea to follow. Football is a results business and Manchester United know that they better start getting results soon before it’s too late.
By Carl Power