Last weekend in the Premiership, Manchester United gained a 2-1 win over Liverpool thanks to two goals in three minutes by Wayne Rooney at the start of the second half. The match was contentious throughout – starting with Luis Suarez refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand, continuing with an altercation in the tunnel at half-time, and ending with Kenny Dalglish’s interview afterwards, in which he claimed that any criticism of the Uruguayan was “bang out of order”. The following day, both Suarez and Dalglish apologised for those incidents, but the tribalism and animosity between the two clubs will only increase until behaviour in the games change. Evra was guilty of over-celebrating the win, jumping up and down right in front of Suarez, but the difference was that his boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, was willing to condemn the player for his actions afterwards.
The win moved Manchester United back to the top of table, but their stay there lasted little more than 24 hours, as City’s 1-0 victory away at Aston Villa returned them to first place in the Premiership. Just below them, there had been a fear amongst Spurs fans that all the speculation linking Harry Redknapp with the vacant England manager’s job might distract the team in their preparations for their match with Newcastle. While it does seems likely that Redknapp will be asked by the FA to handle the Euros – an offer he will readily accept and say they can be deposited in unmarked bills in his dog’s bank account in Monaco – his focus was clearly on Tottenham at the weekend, as they took apart Alan Pardew’s side in a 5-0 thrashing. Emmanuel Adebayor was particularly impressive up front, providing assists for the first four goals before scoring one himself, and Louis Saha netted twice in his home debut for the club.
Chelsea suffered another defeat, this time away at Everton, and with all of the clubs around them losing, it gave Arsenal the opportunity to move back into the Champions League places with an away win at Sunderland. Wenger’s side grabbed all three points thanks to a late winner from Thierry Henry, playing in his final Premiership game before his return to the New York Red Bulls. However, any momentum they could have gained from the victory was lost on Wednesday, as Arsenal crashed to a 4-0 defeat to AC Milan in the San Siro in the first leg of their Champions League tie. This weekend sees them return to Sunderland for an FA Cup fixture, before next Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham – victories in both of those games are crucial for the Gunners if they have any hope of salvaging anything from this season.
Wolves lost 5-1 at home to West Brom, a defeat that was the final game for Mick McCarthy as manager of Wanderers, as he was sacked the following day. Bottom-of-the-table Wigan won for the first time in 10 Premiership matches, defeating Bolton 2-1 at the Reebok Stadium; while Blackburn’s 3-2 victory over QPR moved Steve Kean’s side out of the relegation zone – albeit only on goal difference. Norwich gained an impressive away win over Swansea – only the second time the Welsh side had lost on their own patch all season – and Fulham picked up a vital three points against Stoke at Craven Cottage.
This weekend sees a break in Premier League action, as the FA Cup reaches its fifth-round – with 16 clubs, of which only half are in the top flight, still in contention to win the trophy. The only all Premiership tie is that repeat of last weekend’s league game at the Stadium of Light, as Sunderland host Arsenal once again. Chelsea, who have their Champions League tie against Napoli coming up on Tuesday, take on Birmingham at Stamford Bridge; Everton host Blackpool; Bolton travel to Millwall; and Norwich and Leicester square off at Carrow Road. In Sunday’s fixtures: League Two’s rich boys, Crawley, entertain Premiership Stoke; Tottenham make the short journey to Stevenage; and Brighton get an away day at Anfield as they face Liverpool.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Chelsea vs Birmingham
Everton vs Blackpool
Millwall vs Bolton
Norwich vs Leicester
Sunderland vs Arsenal
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Crawley vs Stoke
Stevenage vs Tottenham
Liverpool vs Brighton