Tom Pyman brings us the latest from the Premier League.
It was another weekend of goals, drama and controversy in the Premier League; one which included perhaps the biggest upset of the season so far.
The early kick-off was at White Hart Lane where Andre Villas-Boas entertained his former side who were too strong for Tottenham, running out 4-2 winners to maintain their status as the top team in the country. Gary Cahill and Daniel Sturridge were on the scoresheet for Chelsea but with two goals, an assist and a scintillating all-round display, Juan Mata was undoubtedly the star of the show. New signings Eden Hazard and Oscar have often hogged the headlines, but the Spaniard has not dwindled in their respective shadows, and is proving to anyone foolish enough to think otherwise that he is one of the finest in Europe.
Manchester City maintained pace with Chelsea however as they dug deep to snatch a 2-1 win at West Brom, courtesy of an Edin Džeko brace. The Bosnian has been criticised at times since arriving in January 2011, but, with six goals to his name already this season, he’s proving his worth as a top striker. What made Roberto Mancini’s side’s victory more impressive was the fact that, with 10 minutes remaining, they were a goal down and a man down following James Milner’s first half sending off. The ability to claim all three points in such is scenario is, as we so often hear, the mark of true champions.
The surprise result of the weekend, however, was at Carrow Road where Norwich City finally claimed their first victory of the season with a shock win over Arsenal. Grant Holt was the hero with the only goal mid-way through the first half but, whilst not taking anything away from the Canaries’ spirited performance, Arsenal were shocking, and are now already looking at a 10 point gap between themselves and the league leaders. Even this early on, a genuine title challenge looks a mere pipedream, and they’ll most likely be vying with Tottenham and potentially the two Merseyside clubs for that highly sought-after 4th spot.
Manchester United impressed at home to Stoke, with Wayne Rooney bagging his first league goals of the season; two at the right end in addition to an own goal which gave the visitors an early lead. Robin van Persie was also on the scoresheet and has praised his growing understanding with Rooney. It’s certainly a partnership to keep an eye on in the coming months. However, the biggest story to come out of the game was Rio Ferdinand’s decision not to sport a ‘Kick it Out’ t-shirt during the warm-up; for which he was publicly condemned by Sir Alex Ferguson, thus continuing the discussions about racism in football, which again came to light last week when Danny Rose was allegedly abused by Serbian fans whilst on duty for England U21s.
Elsewhere, Liverpool beat Reading thanks to a Raheem Sterling strike whilst West Ham caught the eye with an emphatic 4-1 win over Southampton. Mark Noble was at the double, and Kevin Nolan also found the net before Modiba Maiga scored perhaps the goal of the weekend late on. One rival for that accolade is Emmerson Boyce whose terrific effort wasn’t enough to prevent Wigan from losing at Swansea, whilst Chris Baird gave Fulham the points against the perennially-struggling Aston Villa.
On Sunday, Sunderland and Newcastle shared the spoils in a typically hotly-contested Tyne-Wear derby; Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba, at the wrong end, scoring in a 1-1 draw. The same scoreline appeared later that afternoon when QPR entertained Everton; with Junior Hoilett grabbing the opener before Julio Cesar scored an own goal.
Next weekend sees the Merseyside Derby take place as well as a mouth-watering clash between Chelsea and Manchester United. We can only hope the football on the pitch, and not the issue of racism, returns to the headlines then.