Tom Pyman rounds up another weekend of drama in the Premier League.
It was another crazy weekend in the Premier League; with controversy again threatening to overshadow plenty of high-quality football.
It really was a Super Sunday as Chelsea took on Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in arguably the biggest, and most entertaining, game of the season so far. The visitors came flying out of the blocks thanks to a David Luiz own goal and a Robin van Persie strike, leaving the hitherto unbeaten league leaders staring down the barrel, seemingly bereft of ideas. United were in control for half an hour before Chelsea began to claw their way back into the game, thanks largely to Juan Mata’s sensational free-kick on the stroke of half-time. The Spaniard, much like his compatriot David Silva 12 months ago, has been ubiquitously described as the player of the season so far and you get the impression that there’s more to come. Along with Eden Hazard and Oscar, Mata helped engineer a Chelsea recovery, with Ramires netting a header to level the scores.
Drama followed soon after, however, as Ashley Young was brought down by Branislav Ivanovic en route to goal, and the Serbian was quickly dismissed. Just moments later, Fernando Torres received a second yellow for diving, despite there being clear contact from the challenge by Jonny Evans. Chelsea were understandably fuming and, down to nine men, faced a real struggle to hold on for a point. United snatching a winner was inevitable, and it came fifteen minutes from time as substitute Javier Hernandez quickly shuffled his feet to stab home from close range. Replays showed the Mexican was offside, thus adding to Roberto Di Matteo’s frustration.
A good win for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was overshadowed by incorrect decisions and even more controversial allegations against referee Mark Clattenburg, who Chelsea claim had used inappropriate and racist language towards Mata and Jon Obi Mikel on two separate occasions. Sadly, the issue of racism refuses to be anywhere other than the centre of discussion as regards to the Premier League.
Prior to that, Everton and Liverpool had locked horns in an enthralling Merseyside Derby, which ended all-square, although the visitors will be frustrated they didn’t claim all three points. Liverpool raced into an early lead thanks to a Luis Suarez brace; the first of which involved a controversial celebration in which he dived in front of David Moyes and the Everton bench. But the Goodison crowd soon inspired something of a comeback. Leon Osman pulled one back on 22 minutes with a fine strike before Steven Naismith equalised before the break. The second period was a little more subdued, until stoppage time at least, when Suarez had what he thought was a late winner wrongly ruled out for offside. It was a bitter blow for a Liverpool side who are struggling to get a significant run of form going. Everton, meanwhile will be satisfied with a point that keeps them near the top in 5th place.
There were two other games on Sunday, with Tottenham beating Southampton at St Mary’s courtesy of goals from Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey, whilst Newcastle beat West Brom 2-1, with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse getting on the scoresheet. Spurs’ win was crucial for their top four aspirations, whilst Alan Pardew’s side are also making quiet progress.
Goals were surprisingly few and far between on Saturday, except at the Madejski Stadium where Reading and Fulham shared the spoils in a six-goal thriller. Mikele Leigertwood gave the hosts a first half lead before Bryan Ruiz and Chris Baird, on something of a goalscoring streak, put Fulham ahead. With five minutes to go Gareth McCleary brought Reading back on level terms before Dimitar Berbatov netted what looked like the winner moments later. However, Hal Robson-Kanu scored in the third minute of stoppage time to make it 3-3 and salvage a point for the Royals.
Arsenal returned to winning ways in scrappy fashion with a 1-0 win over QPR thanks to Mikel Arteta’s late strike. The game also saw the return of Jack Wilshere following a 14-month spell on the sidelines. Elsewhere, the Champions beat Swansea 1-0 courtesy of a fine goal by Carlos Tevez, whilst Wigan beat West Ham 2-1 at the DW Stadium. Stoke and Sunderland played out a shocking goalless draw whilst Norwich followed up their impressive win over Arsenal last week with a respectable point at Aston Villa.
More of the same can surely be expected next weekend when Manchester United host Arsenal at Old Trafford and Newcastle travel to Liverpool in another mouth-watering round of fixtures.