Premier League Saturday Wrap: Arsenal, Fulham Cracker; Man Utd Comeback; Everton
The biggest Premier League fixtures fall on Sunday this week, but there is little doubt that the main storylines fell on Saturday.
With European football beginning to take effect, there was no early match this week. So all the real weekend action kicked off at 3 p.m. (GMT) on Saturday.
From there, QPR, still looking for their first win of the season, headed to the graveyard that is the Britannia Stadium to take on a Stoke City side that has only won once from 10 this term.
Sunderland, with only one win in 17, faced an on-form Everton team, Wigan took on West Brom and a real relegation six-pointer saw Reading face Norwich City while Southampton welcomed Michael Laudrup's Swansea City.
Read on to find out what happened...
Arsenal 3-3 Fulham
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Mark Schwarzer proved the hero for Fulham at the Emirates Saturday after the Cottagers keeper saved a 95th-minute penalty from Mikel Arteta to keep the score level at 3-3 after a pulsating match.
Having led the game through early goals from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, the game looked to be as good as over after just 25 minutes. The Gunners were cruising, and Fulham had yet to have a real shot on target.
However, the game turned on its head on the half-hour mark when Dimitar Berbatov gave the Cottagers a lifeline with his fourth goal since joining from Manchester United.
As soon as the Bulgarian's header hit the back of the net, Arsenal's confidence drained visibly. It was no surprise to see Fulham equalise after Berbatov teed up Alex Kacaniklic to fire home.
With that second goal, the Cottagers became the Premier League's second-highest scorers so far this season.
Sensing blood, Martin Jol urged his team on in the second period. As Arsenal quaked and panicked under pressure, the adventurous away team got their just desserts.
Berbatov's cleverness up front was dragging the Gunners back four all over the place, and as Bryan Ruiz picked the ball up in the box, Mikel Arteta's clumsy and lazy challenge gave away a penalty.
In a situation like this, there is probably no one better than Berbatov. The coolest footballer in the Premier League stepped up to send Vito Mannone the wrong way and put his team on course for a historic victory.
Before Saturday, the Gunners had conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League (just eight) and had never lost at home to Fulham at home across 26 matches and some 98 years.
Luckily for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal's fans, Olivier Giroud stepped up to score just minutes later with a shell-shocked Fulham still celebrating their third goal.
With the game hanging in the balance, both sides went in search of an elusive fourth goal.
Neither keeper was called to action in that final 20 minutes until referee Phil Dowd, somewhat controversially, awarded Arsenal a penalty deep into injury time.
Andrei Arshavin had been introduced for the lacklustre Theo Walcott with just five minutes to go, and his poor cross appeared to strike the hand of Chris Baird rather than the other way around.
Mikel Arteta stepped up to win the game for Arsenal, but his spot kick was sensationally saved by Mark Schwarzer to leave the game at 3-3.
This result keeps both sides in touch with the top four. However, any chance the Gunners had of mounting a title challenge is now well and truly dead and buried.
Stoke City 1-0 QPR
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QPR's miserable Premier League run of 11 games without a win continues after Charlie Adam's first goal for Stoke City was enough to see his side win 1-0.
The graveyard that is the Britannia Stadium is never an easy place to go to. Particularly when the Potters' last defeat there was more than nine months ago, and particularly when you are looking for your first three-point haul 11 games into the season.
Unsurprisingly, the winning goal came from a set piece. The ball was whipped in from the flank with Peter Crouch making the decisive touch to guide the ball to the back post where Charlie Adam fired home his first goal since joining from Liverpool in the summer.
With his side in the lead, Tony Pulis' side sat back and put nine men behind the ball. This handed the impetus to the away side, and on another day they would and should have scored if it were not for another superb display from Asmir Begovic.
The Bosnian keeper's stock is rising in football, and if he can maintain his current run, it won't be long before he moves to a much, much bigger side.
He denied Rangers time and time again to keep the score at 1-0. As the referee blew for full time, a dispirited Mark Hughes was left with nothing to face for another week except further grilling from the media.
Everton 2-1 Sunderland
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Two goals in the space of 60 seconds were enough to save Everton's blushes at Goodison Park Saturday.
Having only won one game in the last 17, having only scored eight goals this term and having never beaten a David Moyes team, Sunderland were a distant second best at the bookmakers to take all three points from Everton.
However, their determined play and style caused problems for the top-four-chasing side before Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic's second-half intervention.
Never a side to take the game to their opponents, the Black Cats played much of the game on the break and opened the scoring when Adam Johnson fired home a half-volley following a corner that Everton failed to clear properly.
In doing so, Johnson became only the second Sunderland player to score this season behind Steven Fletcher.
Despite that, the omens weren't good; the Toffees have gone behind six times in their 10 Premier League fixtures without losing.
Moyes' side picked up their game, and Fellaini was pushed further forward as their game became slightly more direct.
The second goal summed up the home side's superiority to a tee as Leon Osman picked out Fellaini, whose back-heeled assist nutmegged John O'Shea on the way to Jelavic's feet. From there, the Croatian made no mistake to leave Sunderland's game and season in tatters.
Wigan 1-2 West Brom
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Steve Clarke's star continues to rise after West Brom recorded their first away win of the season at Wigan to move to fifth in the Premier League table.
The Baggies raced into a two-goal lead thanks to James Morrison's fourth goal of the season and an own goal from Gary Caldwell.
The home side, in search of their third Premier League win of the season, hit back through the in-form Arouna Kone, but they failed to convert their superior possession in the second half to goals, and the game ended 2-1.
If anything, despite having only 34 percent possession, the away side was always the more dangerous.
Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku caused all manner of problems for Roberto Martinez's 3-6-1 formation. When Long did eventually begin to tire late in the second half, Peter Odemwingie was introduced to the fray, which stretched the Wigan backline even further.
As the Latics pushed for the equaliser, Ali Al-Habsi was actually the busier keeper, and if it were not for his stunning save from Lukaku, the score would have been far different.
Reading 0-0 Norwich
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Reading continue to look for their first win of the season after drawing 0-0 at home with Norwich City. In truth, the result does little for either side.
Having only won two games between them so far this season, we really should not have been surprised by the lack of skill or goals on show as the Canaries and the Royals battled to a no-score draw.
For much of the match, the standard on show was sub-Premier League, and one must have wondered if Giovanni Trapattoni was in attendance.
Over the past four weeks, the under-pressure Irish manager has been to see four Premier League matches, with each and every one a contender for the worst Premier League match of the season—if not all time.
Honesty of effort was in great show at the Madejski Stadium, with the Canaries shading the best chances as Grant Holt, Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass all went close.
However, the most revealing statistic of a very poor game was the shots on target. Reading managed a terrible two to Norwich's woeful one.
As the game strolled to an end, the pace quickened, but neither side could find a winner in their first top-flight meeting since 1909.
Southampton 1-1 Swansea
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The Saints and the Swans played out an entertaining 1-1 draw, but the home side will be left to rue more dropped points as potential relegation begins to look more and more likely.
The point is enough to move Southampton off the foot of the table at the expense of QPR, but pressure continues to mount on Nigel Adkins.
While Everton have gained the most Premier League points from losing positions this season, the Saints have squandered the most amount of points from winning positions (13 points), and Saturday was no different.
They did break one hoodoo, though, as they took the lead for the very first time in a match this season.
Southampton hold the record for having gone behind in each of their past 10 fixtures, but Saturday, roared on by a partisan home crowd, they opened the scoring.
After a period of intense pressure where Swansea were reeling on the ropes, Morgan Schneiderlin popped up to fire the home side ahead following Rickie Lambert's intelligent assist.
Scoring goals has not been their problem, though; conceding them has.
At the last count, the Saints had allowed 28 goals. Once again, they conspired to almost snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Up 1-0 and by far the more comfortable side, the Saints gifted Swansea the equaliser after Paulo Gazzaniga, Southampton's keeper, cleared the ball to the Swans' Nathan Dyer when it would have been easier to pass to a teammate!
Dyer accepted the assist with glee and raced home to score. From there, Southampton's game almost collapsed.
In the end, they had to rely on good luck to preserve the draw, and as the pressure mounts on Mark Hughes, it also mounts on Nigel Adkins.
Aston Villa 2-3 Manchester United
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Manchester United produced the comeback of the season so far to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Aston Villa.
Down 2-0 into the second half, United fired back through two Javier Hernandez strikes, either side of a Ron Vlaar own goal, to secure an unlikely victory at Villa Park.
Paul Lambert’s team, playing with the kind of abandon not seen so far this term, deservedly took the lead and increased through Andreas Weimann’s double either side of halftime.
The game hinged on Sir Alex Ferguson’s halftime substitution of Ashley Young for Hernandez, with the intent being the Red Devils going out in the second period all guns blazing.
That tactic took a severe hammering just four minutes into the second half when Weimann added his second of the game.
Ferguson’s canny tactics then changed the game completely. Playing without a conventional left-sided position, United overloaded Villa through the middle and down to their left and started to dominate.
Hernandez scored his first on the hour mark when he capitalised on a deft through ball by Paul Scholes to score his sixth goal in six games this term.
Four minutes later, and the Red Devils were in command after Wayne Rooney released Rafael down the right with a superb ball. The Brazilian full-back then crossed to the back post when Hernandez’s volley cannoned in off Ron Vlaar for the equaliser.
In truth, the Dutch defender could do little about the goal, but there was no doubting that United deserved it.
From there, it was all hands to the pump for Villa; a United win looked more and more likely.
Both sides exchanged chances as Weimann went close to getting his hat trick, and Robin van Persie hit the woodwork twice.
The inevitable happened in injury time when Villa, who looked like they had weathered the storm, conceded deep into injury time to yet another Hernandez goal.
The win moves the Red Devils four points clear of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League while unlucky Aston Villa remain rooted to the relegation zone with Manchester City and Arsenal up next for Paul Lambert’s side.