Midweek Premiership Review
In an exciting, action packed round of midweek fixtures in the Premiership, the most notable result was Everton winning in the league at Old Trafford for the first time since 1992, when Ryan Giggs was just 18 years old. After 11 years in charge of the Toffees, David Moyes finally found the secret to getting them to win away at either Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea – take over as manager of the Red Devils. Cheap shot though that may be at the Scotsman, the fact is that while his new team are languishing in 9th; Moyes’ former club are sitting in fifth place, level on points with their Merseyside rivals in the race for Champions League qualification and only seven behind the leaders, Arsenal, whom they face this weekend. There is still plenty of time to go in this season of course and a 12 point deficit can easily be overcome – which means that United might want to look over their shoulders since not only is that the gap between themselves and the Gunners, but also the margin by which they are above the relegation zone. Everton’s winner was scored by defender Bryan Oviedo – who also scored in the weekend victory over Stoke – a player who is only in the team because of an injury to Leighton Baines, whom Moyes is expected to pursue once again in January, having failed to land him during the summer transfer window.
While the victory for the Toffees at Old Trafford was secured with the only goal of the game, on Wednesday four of the fixtures that were played saw a haul of 23 combined goals. Four of those were scored by Luis Suarez against Norwich in Liverpool’s 5-1 win at Anfield, which means that in his last three games against the Canaries, the Uruguayan has notched 10 goals, claiming at least a hat-trick on each occasion. What was particularly impressive about Suarez’s haul was the spectacular nature of all of the strikes: the first from 35 yards; the next, a well taken left-foot finish from a corner; his third was an effort reminiscent of Matt LeTissier, as he flicked the ball past a defender before applying this finish; and finally, a free-kick he put over the week and into the top corner. Somehow, despite missing the first five games of the season through suspension, Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker now sits at the top of the Premier League scoring charts having racked up 13 goals already – as many as the entire Tottenham squad has managed so far this campaign.
Even with six goals, the match at Anfield was not the highest scoring game of the night, as Chelsea beat Sunderland 4-3 at the Stadium of Light, with Eden Hazard and Phil Bardsley both getting on the scoresheet twice, though unfortunately for the latter, only one of those was at the right end. The Black Cats took the lead when Jozy Altidore got his first goal in the Premiership, but Frank Lampard cancelled that out before Hazard gave Chelsea the lead in the 36th minute with a 20 yard effort he curled into the top corner. After the break, Sunderland equalized through John O’Shea, but Hazard scored another classy goal to restore Jose Mourinho’s team’s one-goal advantage. The match then became the Phil Bardsley show, as he diverted Demba Ba’s cross into his own net despite not being under pressure, then two minutes later, he got one at the right end to set up a grandstand finish, yet Gus Poyet’s men could not find another equalizer and they slumped to a defeat that kept them rooted to the bottom of the table.
The other high-scoring encounters saw Aston Villa win 3-2 away at Southampton, despite having been under pressure for the majority of the match, as they exploited the openings in the Saints’ defence on the counter-attack; and Manchester City claimed an away victory at the Hawthorns by the same scoreline, though that slightly flattered West Brom who struck twice in the last five minutes to make the result look like the game had been closer than it was. City’s win means that they remain in third place, six points behind the leaders, Arsenal, who defeated Hull 2-0 at the Emirates thanks to goals from Mesut Özil and Nicklas Bendtner’s, his first for the club since March 2011; while his former teammate, Marouane Chamakh also made a rare appearance on the scoresheet, as his strike earned Crystal Palace a 1-0 victory over West Ham on Tuesday night.
Elsewhere in midweek, Newcastle’s winning run ended at four games as Swansea beat them 3-0 at the Liberty Stadium; Stoke and Cardiff had an unsurprising goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium; and against Fulham, Tottenham did a couple of things they had not done all season – came from behind to claim all three points (in fact, every time they had conceded first this campaign, they had lost); and they won a match in which the opposition scored. It had looked bleak for Spurs as the Cottagers, who seemed renewed in spirit in energy for Rene Meulensteen’s opening game as manager, took the lead after 56 minutes through Ashkan Dejegah. Nevertheless, a 35 yard strike by centre-back Vlad Chiriches (which should have been ruled out since Jermain Defoe jumped over the ball in an offside position, but I am not complaining) and a stunning effort from just outside the box by Lewis Holtby gave Tottenham their first win in six Premiership matches.
This Weekend’s Fixtures
Manchester United will have the opportunity to strike first this weekend as they attempt to close the gap between themselves and the top four, as they face Newcastle in the early kick-off on Saturday at Old Trafford. Later that day, West Ham – who could not stop Chamakh from scoring – face the daunting prospect of attempting to contain Suarez, as they are at Anfield to play Liverpool; there is a relegation six-pointer at Selhurst Park as Palace host Cardiff; Southampton’s suddenly porous defence faces Manchester City, who seem to have learned how to win away from the Etihad; Chelsea travel to Stoke; and West Brom entertain Norwich. The evening kick-off sees Sunderland take on Tottenham at the Stadium of Light, as for the second match in a row Gus Poyet sends his troops out to face a club for whom he used to play. On Sunday, the big match of the weekend is at the Emirates, as Arsenal start a run of tricky looking fixtures with a visit by Everton; while Fulham will hope for a similar performance – if a different outcome – from their midweek exertion when they play Aston Villa at Craven Cottage; and the Monday night game is between Swansea and Hull in South Wales. Before all that happens, there is the World Cup draw tomorrow to determine who will face whom in Brazil next summer – expect a post from me sometime on Friday about that. Next week, there is the final round of the Champions League and Europa League group stages; as Arsenal try to make it four English clubs through to the knockout stages of the main competition when they travel to Napoli; while Swansea and Wigan will try to join Tottenham in the last
512 32 of the Europa League.
Midweek round, 7-3; Season, 77-63
Home teams listed first
Manchester United vs Newcastle – Home win
Crystal Palace vs Cardiff – Away win
Liverpool vs West Ham – Home win
Southampton vs Manchester City – Away win
Stoke vs Chelsea – Away win
West Brom vs Norwich – Home win
Sunderland vs Tottenham – Draw
Fulham vs Aston Villa – Home win
Arsenal vs Everton – Draw
Swansea vs Hull – Home win