Premier League Weekend Wrap: Man Utd Go Top; Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool Draw

Willie GannonSenior Writer INovember 3, 2012

Premier League Weekend Wrap: Man Utd Go Top; Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool Draw

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    All the best Premier League fixtures fell on Saturday this week.

    Arsenal traveled to Old Trafford, where Manchester United hammered them by an 8-2 score last time out. Chelsea headed to Swansea on the back of their first defeat of the season and all the activity that happened in the aftermath.

    The early kickoff saw the action started at Old Trafford, where Manchester United welcomed an Arsenal side returning to the scene of one of Arsene Wenger's worst crimes in his 16-year career as Gunners boss.

    On a side note, it was also Robin van Persie's first time facing his old club since leaving for just £24 million during the summer.

    From there, it was on to the four 3 p.m. (GMT) kickoffs, including struggling Norwich City taking on Stoke City, with boredom written all over it. Could the Giovanni Trapattoni curse strike again?

    Fulham faced Everton, Wigan went to London to take on high-flying Tottenham Hotspur and the least appetising game of the weekend saw Sunderland face Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light.

    The late kickoff saw Roberto Mancini's Manchester City side—the only unbeaten side left in the top flight—travel to the Boleyn Ground to take on West Ham United.

    The focus then turned to Sunday's fixtures where both QPR and Reading went in search of a first win of the season before Newcastle headed to Anfield, to face Liverpool, with a win firmly on their minds.

    Read on to find out what happened...

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

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    It wasn't 8-2, but the margin between the two teams on show at Old Trafford Saturday was just as great.

    Manchester United dominated the game from start to finish against a strangely lacklustre Arsenal side. 

    Right from the moment Robin van Persie scored his 12th goal in 16 games for club and country in the third minute, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Gunners.

    The Dutchman has been one of the best strikers in the world over the last 24 months, and how Arsene Wenger must rue the day he sold his star player to one of his rivals for just £24 million.

    Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverly were excellent in central midfield and snuffed out Arsenal's midfield threat completely, Jack Wilshere included.

    If anything, it was a huge mistake by Wenger to play Wilshere in such a big match, and it was no surprise to see the game pass him by.

    As his frustrations grew, he threw himself into ridiculous challenges, and he realistically could have received three or four yellow cards if it were not for the good refereeing of Mike Dean.

    Wayne Rooney missed a penalty in first-half injury time after Santi Cazorla had handled the ball from Ashley Young, before Patrice Evra capitalised on United's dominance to score his second goal of the season.

    With the Red Devils 2-0 up and cruising, Jack Wilshere then received the second yellow card that had been threatening to come for so long.

    Wilshere's sending off practically ended the game as a contest, with United knocking the ball around as Arsenal chased shadows. Yellow cards continued to rain down—the game ended with eight in total—and Anderson had a goal ruled out for offside after brilliant work from van Persie.

    As the game moved into injury time, the gulf between the two sides could be seen in the simple statistic of David de Gea having to make his first save of the game.

    Minutes later, Santi Cazorla scored a consolation goal.

    But it really was a case of far too little, far too late from an Arsenal side who have now only won four Premier League games from 10.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Wigan Athletic

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    Ben Watson was the hero for Wigan Saturday as the Latics beat Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

    Wigan, who had only won three of their previous 16 visits to Spurs, were well worth their victory and coped admirably with Andre Villas-Boas' 4-2-3-1 formation.

    In recent months, Roberto Martinez has experimented with a 3-4-2-1 formation, giving his team the platform to dictate the game against their more illustrious Premier League opponents—and Saturday was no different.

    Despite Tottenham flying high in the Premier League at the moment, it came as no surprise to see the game goalless at halftime.

    Wigan have been pretty toothless all season, while Spurs have failed to score in the first half in seven of their last 10 Premier League games.

    If anything, Roberto Martinez's team went off wondering about what might have been after Brad Friedel made two wonderful point-blank saves in succession to keep his team in the game.

    Spurs, without Moussa Dembele, who last played at the start of October against Aston Villa, lacked bite in midfield where Watson and James McCarthy held the upper hand for the visiting side. Spurs' cause was not helped by Sandro leaving the pitch midway through the first half through injury.

    The Latics got the goal their adventurous play deserved just one minute into the second half, when Brad Friedel failed to deal with Shaun Maloney's corner, resulting in Watson smashing the ball home from close range.

    After the dreadful mistake by Friedel, one must wonder if Villas-Boas will use this as the incident to force Hugo Lloris into the team going forward.

    Chasing the game, Villas-Boas introduced Emmanuel Adebayor and Tom Carroll. However, Ali Al-Habsi was in inspired form and kept out successive shots from Gareth Bale, Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

    As Spurs pushed for the equaliser, Wigan kept catching them on the break. If anything, they could have won the game by a bigger margin.

    The game ended with Spurs—losing for just the second time in nine games and dropping to fifth place—being booed off the pitch by their furious fans.

Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa

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    Aston Villa gained a hugely significant victory at the Stadium of Light thanks to Gabriel Agbonlahor's third goal of the season—his first Premier League goal since Nov. 5, 2011.

    The Stadium of Light is always a tough place to go, but with Villa heading into an incredibly tough period when they are to play Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, getting a win here was of utmost importance.

    Stephen Ireland dominated midfield for the visiting team, while Ron Vlaar, Matt Lowton, Ciaran Clark and Eric Lichaj—in for the injured Joe Bennett—reduced the Black Cats' shots on target to just one all game.

    The winning goal came just after halftime, when Agbonlahor battled to get onto Christian Benteke's knockdown to prod home his first Premier League goal in a year. 

    With Villa ahead, Sunderland were then forced to come out of their defensive shell, but the Black Cats were so dour and defensively minded that they rarely threatened the lead. In the end, Agbonlahor's goal proved enough for all three points.

    So far this term, the Black Cats have only managed 13 shots on goal from 10 games, and their current league run has seen them only gain one win from their last 17 matches.

    Paul Lambert set his team up perfectly against a team who rarely score two goals per game, never mind one, and as the home side pushed for the win, they could only manage two headed efforts from the smallest man on the pitch—5'6" Stephane Sessegnon.

    There will be tough times ahead for both sides this season, but on this evidence, it looks as if Lambert's side are better equipped to deal with the relegation battle than Sunderland, who continue to plummet.

Fulham 2-2 Everton

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    For the second week in a row, Martin Jol's Fulham played a major part in the most entertaining game of the weekend.

    Last week saw the Cottagers and Reading play out a highly entertaining 3-3 draw, and this week saw David Moyes' top-four-challenging Everton play out another absorbing game.

    The game flip-flopped in both directions.

    Fulham took an early lead through Tim Howard's unfortunate own goal following Bryan Ruiz's free kick. A Marouane Fellaini brace put the Toffees ahead, only for Steve Sidwell to stab home an injury-time equaliser.

    The home side took the lead on seven minutes through Howard's own goal, but it was the away side who dictated the tempo of the game through their direct style of play.

    Fellaini was a constant threat, and it came as no surprise to see the giant Belgian score after Kevin Mirallas had laid the ball off for his fellow countryman.

    With Nikica Jelavic enjoying an off day in front of goal, it then fell to Fellaini to provide the goods again. His second was as simplistic as it was brilliant.

    He chested a long diagonal ball down before turning and muscling his way past the helpless Aaron Hughes before slamming the ball home for his fifth goal of the season.

    Jol's team had the last laugh, though.

    Dimitar Berbatov continued his good form and huge influence over the Fulham side by being in the right place at the right time, and as his last-minute shot was blocked, it fell kindly for Sidwell, who could not miss.

    The draw leaves Everton with a fourth successive sharing of the spoils, as they climbed into fourth at the expense of Spurs, who surprisingly lost at home to Wigan.

    Fulham also continued their good early form by holding onto seventh, just two points behind the Toffees in fourth.

Swansea City 1-1 Chelsea

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    Pablo Hernandez's late equaliser was enough to save a point for Swansea and stop Chelsea from moving clear at the top of the table after a 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium.

    With the Blues down to second thanks to Manchester United's win over Arsenal, Roberto Di Matteo's side tried to force the tempo of the game.

    But their front line of Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses looked out of sorts without the creative genius of Juan Mata to guide them. The little Spaniard missed the game through a rare injury.

    Gerhard Tremmel was the busier 'keeper in a tight game. But even though his heroics had earlier kept out a stinging Eden Hazard drive, he could do little about Victor Moses' flicked goal after Gary Cahill caused havoc following the resulting corner.

    It was Moses' first goal for Chelsea on his first start since joining from Wigan Athletic in the summer for £9 million.

    The winger has seen his chances of a starting berth limited due to the fine form of Eden Hazard and Oscar this season, and despite scoring, he may well see those chances stay limited after a very poor personal performance.

    Seeing the game was still alive and there to be taken, Michael Laudrup made a couple of late changes and introduced Nathan Dyer, Danny Graham and Itay Shechter, who provided the assist for Pablo Hernandez's well-struck late equaliser.

    The Swans then went in search of the winner, with Graham's goal-bound shot being blocked by a last-ditch dive by Cahill. In the end, the Blues had to hang on for a point that may be very important come the season's end.

Norwich City 1-0 Stoke City

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    For the third week in a row, Giovanni Trapattoni has gone to a Premier League game to scout his Irish players. And for the third week in a row, he has seen one of the worst Premier League games of the season.

    Yes, there is a curse as far as the Italian veteran is concerned!

    There was precious little to separate the two sides in an insipid first half where both team's deficiencies were on show for all to see.

    Norwich, fresh from their Capital One comeback against Spurs midweek, forced the tempo of the game and created far more chances, even if none were clear-cut. 

    On the balance of play, they deservedly took the lead right on the stroke of halftime. 

    The opening goal came from the Canaries' Leeds United connection when Bradley Johnson latched onto the impressive Robert Snodgrass cross to head home.

    Since joining from the midlands team, both players have excelled for Chris Hughton's side, and fans at Elland Road must be wondering what might have been if they had held onto the pair. 

    The second half was a better affair, even if it produced no more goals.

    Stoke, without a win in 15 away games, were by far the most dangerous side in the second period and really would have equalised if it were not for heroics from John Ruddy in the Norwich goal.

West Ham 0-0 Manchester City

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    Manchester City missed their chance to join Manchester United on top of the Premier League after a battling draw away to Sam Allardyce's West Ham.

    The draw which keeps City as the only unbeaten side left in the Premiership this season is also the first time they have failed to score in a game since last April.

    For their part, the Hammers started the better of the two teams with each and every Irons players knowing exactly what their role was in Allardyce's direct 4-5-1 formation.

    While City, once again, struggled to get to grips with yet another tactical re-shuffle by Roberto Mancini that saw them utilise a type of 4-2-2-2 that morphed into a 4-3-3 depending upon the situation.

    Indeed, the settled Hammers should have taken the lead during the first half only for Kevin Nolan's effort to be ruled offside, incorrectly, as the City defence struggled for cover.

    As the half wore on so too did City's defence and as they went in at halftime it was going to take something special from the ender-pressure Italian to turn the game around.

    That did not happen, despite City growing into the game and forcing the better chances as the game wore on.

    Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry all went close for the visitors but the home side were never far away from opening the scoring. Andy Carroll caused all kinds of problems in attack while being supported by his wingers and Nolan in particular.

    In the end the draw provided a useful point for both sides but it will be City who will rue the missed chances and the opportunity to put a poor period of performances behind them.

    The result keeps the pressure on Mancini who now enters one of the most important weeks of his managerial career as City face Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday-where nothing less than a win will suffice-before facing Tottenham Hotspur next Sunday.

QPR 1-1 Reading

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    With both QPR and Reading looking for their first win of the season it was no surprise to see the game end in a 1-1 draw.

    As a contest the game was an end-to-end affair where both sides had significant chances to win the game. However, it most importantly showed exactly why the two teams are in the bottom three.

    Over the course of the match Rangers had 23 shots on target to the Royals 18 and while one may immediately turn to the lack of goals, the real story here is the abject defending on show.

    It was far too easy to open the opposing team, with Brian McDermott's side taking advantage of that poor defending combined with the nervousness of the home side to open the scoring.

    The Royals had been the better side before, ex-QPR player, Kaspar Gorkks opening strike on 15. But, crucially, they failed to take advantage of their dominance and in the second period Rangers came roaring back.

    Djibril Cisse's composed finish following a sublime touch to control Jose Bosingwa's cross set-up a grandstand finish. As both teams pushed for the illusive winner their 'keepers came into their own some phenomenal saves.

    First Alex McCarthy denied Rangers' Adel Taarabt with a superb stop from 10 yards before Julio Cesar was called into action to deny Noel Hunt.

    In the end the draw leaves both sides without a win after their first 10 Premier League games with the odds of being relegated growing with every minute.

Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle

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    A Luis Suarez wonder-goal was enough to save Liverpool's blushes as they denied Alan Pardew's side a rare win at Anfield.

    As is always the case with Liverpool they dominated the game through possession and created numerous chances before Yohan Cabaye's phenomenal strike put the away side ahead.

    The goal came courtesy of a superb run down the right flank by Hatem Ben Arfa who cossed to Cabaye on the far side of the pitch. The French international then finished with aplomb to make the Reds, once again, regret their poor finishing. 

    With confidence draining from Brendan Rodgers side, Newcastle took over and started to dictate the tempo of the game. To their credit, Liverpool kept trying and equalised against the run of play through a sublime piece of skill from Suarez.

    Jonas Guiterrez gave the ball away cheaply on the left and Jose Enrique launched a long hopeful pass towards Suarez up front.

    These are usually bread and butter balls for Fabricio Coloccini but Suarez read the pass beautifully and left the Newcastle defender for dead as he controlled it expertly on his chest before rounding Tim Krul to finish.

    All of sudden all of that lost confidence had returned and Liverpool were searching for a winning goal when all had looked lost just minutes previously.

    As the pressure mounted Coloccini was deservedly sent-off for a rash challenge on Suarez and as the final whistle approached it was the away side who were clinging on the point. 

    The Reds will feel they should have won this game and they really should have. But, once again, it was a case of profligate finishing that, once again, undermined all their good play.