A win for Arsenal over Liverpool ensure the Gunners sit pretty at the top of the Premier League table. There were wins for both Manchester sides while Chelsea dropped points away at Newcastle and Everton and Tottenham shared the spoils. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from this weekend's Premier League action.
Football was the gift that kept on giving over the weekend. In Serbia’s Belgrade derby, fans started a bonfire in the away stands. Partisan fans were throwing flares into the athletics track and play had to be halted for 10 minutes with smoke hanging heavily over the stadium. Two fire trucks were called in and order was restored. In La Liga, Real Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano, but the match saw Rayo’s defender, Anaitz Arbilla, bursting into tears after being substituted following defensive errors which resulted in two goals for Madrid. In the English Championship, Manuel Almunia (remember him, Arsenal fans?) thought he’d cleared the ball for Watford, but it went straight into the face of Leicester’s Chris Wood and rebounded back into the goal. A jam-packed weekend and we haven’t even gotten around to the Premier League yet. Here are five talking points from the weekend gone by.
Speaking of dodgy goalkeeping…
Stoke and Southampton drew 1-1 with Stoke scoring through goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. The keeper launched a long kick forward just 12 seconds into the game, clearing both his half and Southampton’s defence. What it also cleared was the head of his opposite number, the ball bounced over Artur Boruc’s head to put Stoke in the lead. Poor Begovic looked almost embarrassed to take the congratulations and join in the celebrations from his teammates as the goalkeeper’s union would have been dented just a little bit by his innocent effort. The goal was the fastest for a keeper in any competition, and quite frankly hilarious.
Manchester City’s seventh heaven
Manchester City mauled Norwich with a 7-0 victory with Joe Hart being dropped and Costel Pantilimon coming in. He was hardly needed, though. The canaries rarely made it into City’s half as they were wholly poor and quite embarrassing playing lazy football and not even trying to challenge the blue side from Manchester. Manuel Pellegrini showed that he has the guts to manage his side fearlessly and make changes even if they appear as harsh. Hart had featured in 123 Premier League games before he was dropped to the bench on Saturday. Mistakes shouldn’t be the begin-all and end-all of somebody’s career, but there’s no harm in trying something a little different. City’s title hopes remain legitimate, but they will have to start pushing for wins away from home. A win against a side likely to battle relegation this season might give them a little bit of confidence, but there are still some tough times ahead.
The Arsenal machine roles forward, but few think they can win the title
For the most part of Saturday’s fixture between Arsenal and Liverpool, Arsenal bossed the fixture. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez were kept on tight leash by Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny while the Gunners dominated midfield play with the Reds giving them far too much time on the ball. It was billed as one of Arsenal’s many acid tests and they came through it showered in glory. Arsenal were far better in every aspect and what many feared might be the first nail in their title ambitions coffin ended up being two fingers up to anyone who might have doubted Arsene Wenger’s men. Yet, very few people think that Arsenal have a realistic chance of actually winning the league. Time after time, pundits on Match of the Day are asked whether they think the Gunners can do it and answer remains a simple: no. That doubt has some merit, especially over fears of what would happen if any of the back four were to get injured or, even worse, Olivier Giroud picks up a knock. Arsenal sit five points clear at the top of the table, their biggest lead since February 2008. Arsenal finished third that season, four points behind Manchester United, with the Gunners losing just three games the entire season and never losing a game at home. Historically, November has been the month in which Arsenal drop the most points. With fixtures against Manchester United, Southampton and Cardiff to come, they’ve made a good start of rewriting that history.
Chelsea’s dodgy record away from home
Chelsea were flying high after going nine games unbeaten in all competitions, but got a rude awakening at St. James’ Park on the weekend. Jose Mourinho’s men were out thought by Allan Pardew’s with the Toon men quite happy to just stay in front of Chelsea and allow them possession. The Blues have won just once away from home this season, something which will need some tinkering if they are to win the league. Jose Mourinho was not a happy man, saying afterwards that “he’d made 11 mistakes” before clarifying he was exaggarating. Newcastle, though, deserve all the credit in the world. They stuck to their gameplan and constantly thwarted Chelsea when they looked like threatening. The hosts made 19 interceptions and 10 tackles to help them their fifth clean sheet of the season.
Sometimes the hype isn’t worth it
A derby in Wales! Crazy fans! It means everything to the people of Wales! These were the kind of strap lines used to promote the game between Cardiff and Swansea – to mark the occasion that would see the two sides face each other for the first time ever in the top flight. There was much hype, but the actual action itself ended in nothing but dull and dreary disappointment. Overall, the quality of football was poor until the 62nd minute when Cardiff found the back of the net through a header. There were a few oohs and aahs after that, but no bigger ooh and aah than when Swansea’s Michel Vorm was sent off in injury time and Swansea had to use an outfield player to go into goal. It didn’t last very long, but Angel Rangel managed one tip over the bar in his short few minutes as stopper. The result was massive, but overall, the game was kind of dross. DM
Premier League weekend results:
Photo: Swansea’s Angel Rangel. (REUTERS/Rebecca Naden)
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