Tom Pyman reviews another dramatic weekend in the Premier League.
It was another fine weekend of entertainment in the Premier League, with two of the most hotly-anticipated fixtures on the calendar being played on Sunday.
Old rivals Liverpool and Manchester United did battle at Anfield, with a fantastic tribute to the Hillsbrough tragedy being shared between the sides before the match. However once kick-off came around, the time for friendship and unity was over and, as expected, it was another fierce encounter. Chances were few and far between but the hosts looked the most dangerous with Raheem Sterling catching the eye yet again. On the opposite flank, Fabio Borini has struggled to make a real impact and may struggle to keep his place in the coming weeks. However Liverpool’s strong start was halted just before half-time as Jonjo Shelvey, who has been enjoying a good period of form, was sent-off in a 50/50 collision with Jonny Evans. It’s a difficult one to judge because whilst it was a dangerous challenge, Shelvey did get the ball, and some could argue that the lunge by United’s Irish defender, made with two feet off the ground, was more worthy of a sending off. An argument between Shelvey and Sir Alex Ferguson as the player exited the field saw tensions begin to boil over.
Goals arrived in the second period as Steven Gerrard fired home less than a minute after the restart, although his strike was quickly cancelled out by Rafael’s curling effort. With a man advantage, United slowly seemed to grab a foothold and got a slice of luck when they were awarded a soft penalty with ten minutes remaining as Antonio Valencia had gone down easily under a challenge from Glen Johnson. Robin van Persie kept his cool to slam the spot-kick home for his fifth of the season. The win meant the Red Devils remained second in the table.
Later that afternoon Manchester City entertained Arsenal in another pulsating affair. The Gunners took the game to the champions and should have scored early on when Gervinho was put through but his touch let him down badly. Before the break, City snatched the lead from a corner as Joleon Lescott rose above Lukas Podolski to power home a header. Yaya Touré was a persistent threat for the home side but Arsenal impressed as well, particularly Carl Jenkinson at right-back who, remarkably, was playing non-league football only two years ago. Laurent Koscielny equalised for the visitors with a fine finish but minutes later gave the ball straight to Sergio Agüero. His relief when the Argentine put wide was there for all to see. Gervinho missed another good chance late on but a draw was probably a fair result.
On Saturday Chelsea cemented their lead at the top with a narrow win over Stoke courtesy of a late Ashley Cole strike. A horrific challenge from David Luiz also grabbed headlines, with Tony Pulis fuming that the Brazilian defender was not sent off. Elsewhere, Everton comprehensively beat Swansea 3-0, although there was controversy as Marouane Fellaini looked to handle the ball prior to the first goal being scored. Having suffered such rotten luck last week, perhaps this was proof that fortune and decisions do indeed balance themselves out?
Fulham continued their strong start with a 2-1 win over Wigan, with ex-Latics striker Hugo Rodallega getting on the score-sheet, and refusing to celebrate out of respect for his former club. Martin Jol’s side now sit comfortably in sixth. Meanwhile, Andre Villas-Boas claimed his first win at White Hart Lane as Spurs battled to beat QPR, with Jermain Defoe again scoring the winner, proving himself to be one of the hottest strikers in the league at the moment.
Next week Arsenal entertain Chelsea in the pick of another mouth-watering selection of fixtures. Expect more goals, more drama and more controversy.