EPL Poll: Top 4 Trouble as Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea Lose

Thomas Atzenhoffer@socceratzCorrespondent IIJanuary 1, 2012

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Sunderland goalscorer Ji Dong-Won (r) celebrates at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester City at Stadium of Light on January 1, 2012 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

The last weekend before the winter transfer window has to have been one of the most exciting of the season, and was definitely a great way to ring in the new year for neutrals at least.

While the top four did not shuffle too much, it was a rather horrendous weekend for the top four clubs in the table, as it has now come to an end.

Liverpool started the weekend off with a 3-1 victory over Newcastle United at Anfield that saw Craig Bellamy score a fantastic brace, Martin Skrtel make a world class goal-line clearance to prevent Demba Ba from drawing level and Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard come off the bench to score his first goal since the Manchester United draw months ago.

With that start to the weekend, it was thought to be another one where the top clubs would dominate, but that would not be the case.

The first shocker of the weekend was Blackburn Rovers taking out Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sir Alex's 70th birthday. Steve Kean's men earned the victory in the 79th minute when Grant Hanley scored the goal of his life so far to beat David De Gea. Yakubu and Dimitar Berbatov both had scored braces, leaving the match level before the go-ahead strike.

You can blame it on the injury problems of United, but it is never a good thing to get beaten by the bottom team in the league, at home and on your legendary manager's birthday. Especially when you are tied for the top of the table and had your first chance to go clear at the top.

Next came Chelsea losing 1-3 to Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. The Blues have had a rough go of it in many instances this season and a lack of continuity and consistency from both the offense and the defense has seen them suffer on multiple occasions.

Andre Villas-Boas has world-class players, but half are aging out, others cannot find their form and others are simply not sure what their role is as the changing philosophy under AVB is yet to take effect.

Tottenham also suffered a loss of points, but not to the extent of travesty that the rest of the top four did. Spurs traveled to Wales to face off against Swansea City at Liberty Stadium, which has been a great home ground all season, as they have only lost one match against Manchester United at home.

Harry Redknapp's men took the lead just before the half thanks to a 44th-minute goal from Rafael van der Vaart. However, Scott Sinclair scrambled home a late equaliser in the 83rd minute to give the Swans a deserved point and see them increase their home record to four wins, five draws and one loss giving them a total of 17 of their 20 points in the table at home.

However, the weekend would not have been complete without another upset, and that is just what New Year's Day delivered.

Manchester City traveled to the Northeast to take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in what more than likely should have seen City go three points clear of Manchester United once again. But, the EPL has a way of changing things and Martin O'Neil's Sunderland side were a tough nut to crack all game long.

The Citizens created 27 chances but only managed to get five on goal in what, in my eyes, reminded me of the games where Liverpool created a ton of chance but just did not convert all match.

Swansea Boss Brendan Rodgers Celebrates While Spurs boss Harry Redknapp drops his head in frustration
Swansea Boss Brendan Rodgers Celebrates While Spurs boss Harry Redknapp drops his head in frustrationRichard Heathcote/Getty Images

Sunderland has only been able to get forward on a few occasions and produced only seven attempts and two semi on target for the match.

Their last shots with a chance came with a Sebastian Larsson free-kick that was blocked off the wall, but then at the 64th minute Stephane Sessegnon broke free past Vincent Kompany, but fired wide as he neglected to cross to a wide open Nicklas Bendtner.

City again tried to push forward but were just never convincing enough, and as the game went into three minutes of stoppage time, it looked destined for a 0-0 draw until the unexpected happened.

Substitute forward Dong-Won Ji, who had come on at the 78th minute for Bendtner, found himself free on goal in the Black Cats' last counter attack. He skinned Joe Hart and tapped it in from a few yards out in the 93rd minute of the match, and the Sunderland crowd went wild, as did manager Martin O'Neil.

It was a fitting end to such a weekend of results as only Arsenal and Liverpool took full advantage with victories over Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle United. The Gunners jumped up to fourth in the table while Liverpool drew level on points for fifth and are only two points back from the Champions League Places.

So my question to you is, which of the weekends results was the most shocking?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out more on Bleacher Report and at the links below. You can follow me on Twitter @thedailyatz and Facebook or visit my Web site.


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