Tom Pyman brings us the latest from the Premier League.
Some shock results last weekend confirmed the Premier League’s status as one of the most unpredictable and, consequently, thrilling leagues in the world.
The stand-out result is of course Tottenham Hotspur beating Manchester United 3-2; their first win at Old Trafford since 1989. The victory has helped dramatically change the general opinion of Andre Villas-Boas, who was coming under intense criticism following his first few games in charge after a difficult spell at Chelsea. An unbeaten treble at Porto suggests that, contrary to popular perception, he is indeed a very capable manager and there’s no reason why he can’t lead the North London club to a top four finish and a Champions League place; particularly with their rivals regularly dropping points.
Jan Vertonghen gave the visitors an early lead before the electric Gareth Bale doubled Spurs’ advantage with a terrific solo effort. Three goals were scored in four minutes after half-time; Nani and Shinji Kagawa bagged for United either side of Clint Dempsey scoring Tottenham’s third. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had plenty of chances to salvage a point but were consigned to their second defeat of the season. The performances of Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs were criticised in some quarters, with many questioning whether they still have the legs to cut it at the top level. Surely one poor game doesn’t trump 10 and 20 years of consistent service respectively. In terms of their vast experience if nothing else, they both still have plenty to offer.
The headline clash going into the weekend was Saturday lunchtime’s London derby between Arsenal and Chelsea; a game in which the league leaders stole all three points. Neither side played particularly well, although Roberto Di Matteo’s side’s work ethic and tactical discipline must be commended. Fernando Torres opened the scoring with a smart finish; a goal that fortunately for him overshadowed another disappointing performance on the whole. The enigmatic Gervinho equalised prior to half-time before Laurent Koscielny put through his own net after being bamboozled by Juan Mata’s teasing free-kick. The last three goals conceded by the Gunners have been from set-pieces, suggesting that praising their improved defending was perhaps a little premature. Arsenal had the chances to get something from the game, with the much-maligned Olivier Giroud missing another golden opportunity. You don’t become top scorer in Ligue 1 by being a terrible footballer, which is what some would have you believe the Frenchman is, so patience is required. That’s not to say Giroud is immune from criticism; his team have suffered from his profligacy and will continue to do so until he finds his shooting boots. Chelsea meanwhile can be pleased to have passed their first real test of the season and will look to build on what has been an exceptionally strong start.
Elsewhere, there was joy for both teams on Merseyside as Liverpool claimed their first win of the campaign with a 5-2 victory over Norwich, courtesy of a Luis Suárez hat-trick. The Uruguayan performed similar heroics last season, meaning, quite incredibly, he has scored more goals at Carrow Road in 2012 than he has at Anfield. Everton meanwhile moved up to second in the table, as they beat Southampton 3-1 thanks to a goal from Leon Osman and a Nikica Jelavić brace. The Toffees always finish the season strongly but are notoriously slow-starters. The way they have come flying out of the blocks this time around suggests that 2012/13 could be a fruitful campaign for David Moyes and his side. They are certainly one to watch out for in the coming weeks and months.
Edin Džeko was the Manchester City hero as the Champions came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage; with the Bosnian striker scoring three minutes from time, just seconds after being called from the bench. Demba Ba was at the double for Newcastle as they drew with Reading whilst Stoke and Sunderland claimed victories over Swansea and Wigan respectively. On Sunday, West Brom and Aston Villa played out a 1-1 draw in the Black Country derby before QPR lost again, this time to London rivals West Ham, who beat them 2-1 at Loftus Road on Monday night.
With another 32 games to play, it’s far too early to start drawing definite conclusions but things are already shaping up nicely. There are plenty of games to look forward to next weekend, with Manchester United’s trip to Newcastle perhaps being the pick of the bunch.