Premier League Saturday Wrap

Max TowleAnalyst ISeptember 29, 2012

Premier League Saturday Wrap

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    The Premier League played host to some absolutely cracking games Saturday as Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham all secured massive wins over Arsenal, Fulham and Manchester United respectively.

    The game of the weekend took place at Old Trafford, where Spurs shocked a complacent United side to win 3-2, thanks to goals from Gareth Bale and new signings Jan Vertonghen and Clint Dempsey.

    Elsewhere, Stoke dispatched with Swansea 2-0, Sunderland beat Wigan 1-0, Everton continued to roll as they trumped Southampton 3-1 and Newcastle clinched a late draw at newly-promoted side Reading.

    Last, but certainly not least, Liverpool got their first win of the season in a 5-2 goalfest at struggling Norwich City.

    Here's a complete wrap of Saturday's action.

Battle for London Supremacy Ends Blue

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    Result: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea

    Scorers: Torres 20', Mata 53' (Che), Gervinho 42' (Ars)

    Recap: Fernando Torres rolled back the clock on 20 minutes, turning Laurent Koscielny before neatly volleying a Juan Mata free kick past a helpless Vito Mannone to give Chelsea an early lead. Gervinho levelled things up just before the half with a smart turn and finish into the top corner. But the game was won when Juan Mata swung in another dangerous free kick that Koscielny deftly glanced inside his own far post. Exceptional saves from Petr Cech were also key. London bragging rights go to Chelsea.

    Key Moment: Abou Diaby comes off injured less than 20 minutes in, leaving Arsenal with plenty of guile, but little steel in the middle of the park.

    Gervinho Earns Fans' Faith, Then Loses it Again: The only thing rarer than a clinical Fernando Torres finish in the Premier League is a decent first touch and finish from the fawn-in-headlights, Gervinho. But the Ivorian's goal couldn't disguise a very poor performance, suggesting that Arsene Wenger needs to look elsewhere for the man to lead his team's line.

    John Terry Overcomes a Difficult Week: Special mention must be given to the man for whom adversity is motivation, John Terry. He overcame a difficult week to give a commanding performance at the heart of the Blues' team.

    Interesting Stat: Total shots: Arsenal, 17. Chelsea, 10.

    Man of the Match: Fernando Torres for his willingness to get stuck in in all areas of the pitch and a well-taken goal.

    Final Thought: Chelsea continue to defy those who doubt their credentials, edging an even game not for the first time this season. Arsenal need a true striker to finish off their countless chances. Time for Giroud to step up?

Everton Continue to Make It Look Easy

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    Result: Everton 3-1 Southampton

    Scorers: Ramirez 6' (Sot), Osman 25', Jelavic 32', 37' (Eve)

    Recap: Having fallen behind early to a Gaston Ramirez close-range header, Everton blitzed Southampton with a typically fierce display that truly justifies their current high standing in the league. Some terrific team moves led to a Leon Osman equaliser after 25 minutes, but before Nikica Jelavic scored two in quick succession to leave the Saints with too high a mountain to climb.

    Key Moment: With Southampton 1-0 up, young striker Jay Rodriguez is put through on goal, but can't convert an easy chance. With David Moyes' team playing such efficient football, every opportunity is vital for opposing teams.

    Marouane Fellaini is a Bully: Perhaps the player of the season so far, the one-man battering ram Marouane Fellaini continues to scare the living daylights out of his opposition with his domineering runs and powerful presence in the area. The Belgian came close to scoring yet again for the Blues Saturday as he did his best to make the game look easy.

    Interesting Stat: Corner kicks: Everton, 10. Southampton, 3.

    Man of the Match: Nikica Jelavic, not just for his goals, but for proving a constant thorn in Southampton's side.

    Final Thought: Goodison Park rang out with the song "We're Going to Win the League" Saturday. With Everton in such good form, there was nothing ironic in the lyrics. For Nigel Adkins' side, there remains a lot of work to do, but it is still too early to write them off as guaranteed relegation fodder.

    

Late Dzeko Strike Gives City a Deserved Win

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    Result: Fulham 1-2 Manchester City

    Scorers: Petric 10' (Pen) (Ful), Aguero 43', Dzeko 87' (Man)

    Recap: Manchester City grabbed a late but deserved win over a spirited Fulham side at Craven Cottage. A disputable penalty won by a flailing John Arne Riise was well-converted by Mladen Petric, but after a tight opening 20 minutes, City took hold of the game. A Sergio Aguero tap-in and an Edin Dzeko swivel-and-shot were enough to take all three points.

    Key Moment: Edin Dzeko replaces Javi Garcia on 86 minutes, less than 60 seconds before he scores the eventual winner.

    Is Mark Halsey a Manchester United Fan?: Having been accused of making Manchester United-favoured decisions in the Red Devils' clash with Liverpool last weekend, the under-fire referee was the centre of attention once again 10 minutes into Fulham's game with City. His awarding of a penalty for a less than emphatic slap by Pablo Zabaleta on Riise's hip looked dubious at best.

    Interesting Stat: Time of possession: Fulham, 29 percent. Man City, 71 percent.

    Man of the Match: Yaya Toure for bossing the middle of the park with his unparalleled strength and awareness.

    Final Thought: City's fight to prevent the "Difficult Second Season Syndrome" taking hold looks set to continue for weeks to come, as the Sky Blues laboured to another difficult result Saturday. Fulham, on the other hand, will welcome the return of talismanic striker Dimitar Berbatov once he recovers from a hip injury.

Luis Suarez Catches Fire for Big 3 Points

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    Result: Norwich City 2-5 Liverpool

    Scorers: Suarez 2', 38', 57', Sahin 47', Gerrard 68' (Liv), Morison 61', Holt 87' (Nor)

    Recap: A Luis Suarez hat trick set Liverpool on the way to their first win of the Premier League season Saturday. The Uruguayan forward's tenacious play left Norwich without an answer. Goals from Nuri Sahin and Steven Gerrard added a gloss that was eventually removed by late consolation strikes from Steve Morison and Grant Holt.

    Key Moment: Seventy seconds, in and Chris Hughton's side falls behind thanks to a well-struck Suarez shot from just outside the area. After that, there's no looking back for Liverpool.

    Has the Tide Turned?: "Being Liverpool" has hardly been fun in 2012. Coming into Saturday, the Reds had only won five of 24 league games. A midweek win in the League Cup (or whatever it's called these days) gave fans a boost, but a more than welcome Premier League three points were exactly what the doctor ordered against Norwich. Everton are no longer the only team on Merseyside winning games.

    Interesting Stat: Shots on target: Norwich City, 4 (16). Liverpool, 6 (16).

    Man of the Match: Luis Suarez. Who else?

    Final Thought: Though they wont be playing Norwich every week, Liverpool finally reaped the rewards for their consistently attractive passing football on Saturday. Stoke lie in wait next weekend. Meanwhile, Norwich look early favourites for the drop, as obvious weaknesses in the squad are to sure to be exploited later in the season.

Ba Goals Silence the Madejski

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    Result: Reading 2-2 Newcastle United

    Scorers: Kebe 58', Hunt 62' (Rea), Ba 59', 83' (New)

    Recap: Reading were left still searching for their first win of the season after they were twice pegged back by Newcastle thanks to a brace from Demba Ba. The Senegalese striker's first effort to cancel out Jimmy Kebe's opener was a rasping volley that is well deserving of multiple viewings. His second though, 20 minutes after Noel Hunt had restored Reading's lead, was a bundled effort that seemed to go in off his hand.

    Key Moment: After a completely forgettable opening hour, Jimmy Kebe's neat finish sparked a dull encounter into life, and a battle that neither team eventually deserved to lose.

    Ba Continues to Outshine Cisse: During the second half of last season, Papiss Cisse's arrival at Newcastle seemed to coincide with the formerly prolific Demba Ba getting the metaphorical writer's block in front of goal. Six games in and the roles have been reversed with Cisse going through a dry spell of his own and Ba in blistering form. Unless Alan Pardew can get both playing well together, a mid-table finish may be the best the Magpies can expect from this season.

    Interesting Stat: Saves: Reading, 0. Newcastle, 3.

    Man of the Match: Jobi McAnuff. For being Reading's most dangerous player going forward, supplying the leading line with excellent passes and crosses.

    Final Thought: Reading were yet again hampered by their very weak back line, central defenders Adrian Mariappa and Kasper Gorkss not yet up to Premier League level. Newcastle continue to regress and no doubt regret not making any significant moves in the summer transfer window.

Sunderland Remain Unbeaten, Get First Win over Poor Wigan

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    Result: Sunderland 1-0 Wigan Athletic

    Scorers: Fletcher 51' (Sun)

    Recap: Steven Fletcher now has five goals in four games since making the move to Sunderland from Wolves. His solitary goal was enough to beat 10-man Wigan, with Jordi Gomez having been shown a straight red card after an X-rated tackle on Danny Rose not long after the half.

    Key Moment: Only three moments before Fletcher's winner, Jordi Gomez's studs-up moment of madness undoubtedly cost his team the game.

    Adam Johnson Starts for Sunderland: He may have had a bit of a shocker, understandable considering this was his first game of the season, but Martin O'Neill will be glad his £10 million marquee coup of the summer is back and ready to fire his team into the top half of the table.

    Interesting Stat: Time of possession: Sunderland, 50 percent. Wigan, 50 percent.

    Man of the Match: Simon Mignolet for making some outstanding saves, most notably to prevent Arouna Kone from opening the lead in the first half.

    Final Thought: Decent at home, terrible away, Wigan have long been the most inconsistent team in the Premier League. Who knows how they'll do next weekend when they host Everton? Sunderland are probably the opposite. O'Neill's side will never be world beaters, but always seem capable of getting a result whenever they play.

Stoke Rule the Britannia Once Again

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    Result: Stoke City 2-0 Swansea City

    Scorers: Crouch 12', 36' (Sto)

    Recap: Two first half Peter Crouch goals maintained the reputation of the Britannia Stadium as a fortress for Stoke City as the Potters easily dispatched with Swansea Saturday afternoon, despite the visitors having the majority of possession.

    Key Moment: Peter Crouch's second, and the effective dagger in Swansea's hearts. Though Michel Vorm saved the English striker's initial effort, Crouch made no mistake with his second.

    Swansea's Descent into Mediocrity Continues: Lackadaisical defending and uninspired attacking play has stunted what had seemed to be the perfect start to the season for the Swans. Michael Laudrup's side had plenty of the ball against Stoke, but failed to create many clear chances for the attack. The Danish boss will have a real job on his hands trying to resurrect the team's form of less than a month ago.

    Interesting Stat: Time of possession: Stoke City, 39 percent. Swansea City, 61 percent.

    Man of the Match: Peter Crouch for scoring one with his head and one with his feet.

    Final Thought: Stoke move up to twelfth with the win, level on points with their opponents, who seem to be heading in the opposite direction as of late.

Tottenham Take Full Advantage of Slow-out-of-the-Blocks United

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    Result: Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur

    Scorers: Vertonghen 2', Bale 32', Dempsey 52' (Tot), Nani 51', Kagawa 53' (Man)

    Recap: A dramatic comeback fell short this time for Manchester United as Clint Dempsey added to Jan Vertonghen's and Gareth Bale's first half strikes to give Tottenham a massive win. Though it seemed that Kagawa and Nani goals were going to spark a climactic second half, spurned opportunities cost Sir Alex's side in the end.

    Key Moment: Sent clear one-on-one halfway through the second half, Robin van Persie blew United's best chance to level things when he fired well wide of Brad Friedel's goal.

    United Pay Penalty for Shocking Start: It seemed that United were deploying a "donut" formation for much of the first half, meaning the middle of the park was left completely open for Spurs to attack a fragile defence. The midfield and defensive woes of Sir Alex's side look nowhere near close to being resolved.

    Tottenham Top Four Contenders?: Andre Villas-Boas has masterminded a near-miracle recovery at White Hart Lane considering his team's appalling start to the season. The motivation is back, the passion is back—are they now genuine contenders for a top four spot?

    Interesting Stat: Time of possession: Manchester United, 74 percent. Tottenham Hotspur, 26 percent.

    Man of the Match: Gareth Bale for absolutely terrorising Rio Ferdinand with his pace and movement.

    Final Thought: Tottenham continue to improve, United continue to look exploitable. Will it be long before the former overtakes the latter in the Premier League standings?