Another weekend brought with it another tantalising serving of Barclays Premier League football.
Gameweek 13 had Arsenal underline their championship credentials yet again with a convincing victory away at a Cardiff side that had taken points off both Manchester clubs.
Chelsea and Manchester City both secured home wins to keep in touch with the Gunners at the top while Liverpool slumped to a shock defeat at Hull.
Tottenham and United played out to a pulsating draw that in all truth is a result neither manager would have liked. The dropped points leaving both clubs some way off the pace but Spurs
manager Andre Villas-Boas will surely be pleased with the reaction from his players at the very least while his opposite number David Moyes, one feels, would have taken a point before the game considering the players he is deprived of at the moment.
The Gunners travelled to Wales to face a Cardiff side that had proved that they can mix it up with the big boys, well, the big boys of Manchester at least, with Ramsey heading to his former club.
The Gunners midfielder has been comfortably the best player in the league so far this season and his was an emotional return to where it all begun. Wenger had spoken of his side needing to maintain their consistency and take their chances against home side and it was almost the perfect resonance for him as Wilshere struck the inside of the bar inside the first minute.
Arsenal kept the ball well for large periods, effectively limiting this adventurous Cardiff side while keeping the stadium quiet. Olivier Giroud was next to spurn a glorious opportunity when he, thinking he was offside, dallied on the ball waiting for the linesman’s flag to go up when
clean through on goal.
Caulker sensed the danger, trod back to smother the Frenchman’s eventual shot and the chance went begging. Timid from Giroud. The man of the moment though, Ramsey, who had been given a warm welcome by the Cardiff faithful, came to the rescue once more as he got on the end of a delightful chipped-cross from Ozil to glance a header into the net from 12
The former Cardiff man did the honourable thing and did not celebrate his goal, unlike a certain Robin van Persie, and received a round of applause from both sets of supporters.
Cardiff tried to rally and Polish goalkeeper, Szczesny, was on hand to make a fantastic save from Campbell’s header and then again parried a Theophile-Catherine strike over as the home side pressed for an equaliser.
Arsenal, however, soaked the initial pressure in spurts before killing the game off when
Flamini smashed home from 18 yards after yet another Ozil pass split the home side’s defence.
Ramsey struck again after a lightning quick counter-attack in the dying embers of the match. Another game, another three points for the Gunners who are more and more looking like title contenders. A convincing victory over a difficult opponent at a difficult stadium.
Arsenal grade: A.
2. Tottenham and Manchester United.
Two teams that had both dropped points in the previous round met at the Lane as Tottenham hosted United in the weekend’s highlight fixture.
Both managers had come under varying degrees of pressure, Villas-Boas being the subject of calls for his head after the capitulation at City while the jury is still out on Moyes after the indifferent start to United’s title defence.
The Red Devils came into this match on the back of an exhilarating and more like surprising 5-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in mid-week in the Champions League, a result that entered the history books for the sizeable margin of victory.
Moyes has so far been brilliant in Europe, solid and spectacular in equal measure, but that form has not translated into domestic performances. United sat in seventh after the dropped points at Cardiff and were in desperate need for a win to climb up into a more familiar position on the table.
United had not lost at White Hart Lane for more than a decade but found themselves on the back-foot early on, Soldado wasting a glorious chance after United were sliced open on the break before Lennon’s left-footed shot was saved by De Gea.
Tottenham were in a much more competitive mood and deservedly went ahead through Kyle Walker’s cheeky free-kick that went under the wall and straight down De Gea’s net. United’s main man Rooney was on hand to draw them level moments later when he pounced on Walker’s error to blast into the roof of the net.
However, United’s vulnerability in the centre of the park was once more exposed when Sandro turned Cleverley inside out before unleashing a thunderous strike into the top corner past a motionless David de Gea.
Just when it seemed like Spurs were going to build on that goal, Wayne Rooney once again proved to be the thorn as his threaded pass to Welbeck drew a foul and a booking for Hugo Lloris who had a rush of blood to come off his line and trip the Englishman.
Rooney stepped up to blast the penalty right down the middle and peg the hosts back again.
Both sides had half-chances but none did enough for the three points in a result that did not do much good for both teams.
Tottenham will feel disappointed not to get the three points despite being the better side while United, who have been without the likes of Van Persie, Carrick and Rafael, remain unbeaten in 12 but drop to 8th after drawing for the second time in succession.
Tottenham grade: B, United grade: B.
The Reds travelled to face Hull with history heavily on their side. Hull had never beaten Liverpool in the Premier League and had lost four of their previous five league matches.
Liverpool, with one half of the revered SAS partnership in Daniel Sturridge missing, dominated the early possession but fell behind when Victor Moses’ lazy pass was intercepted before Jake Livermore’s shot deflected off Skrtel and into the net. This was his first goal for the club since joining from Spurs.
Liverpool were soon level, however. Steven Gerrard’s sumptuous free-kick flew into the left-hand corner of McGregor’s net from 25 yards.
Luis Suarez, who had cut a frustrated figure for most of the match, had a great opportunity when played in by Sterling but his tame effort was easily saved by the Hull stopper. Liverpool spurned a glorious chance when Coutinho’s cross was met by Moses but his shot was blocked by the onrushing McGregor who did well to thwart the Nigerian.
They were left to rue those missed opportunities when, a minute later, Meyler picked up a loose ball and calmly fired in for his first goal.
Tigers fans went into delirium after that goal and with four minutes to go, Tom Huddlestone’s scuffed shot was deflected in by a less-than-amused Skrtel who could not believe his luck after his deflection led to the first goal for Hull.
Steve Bruce was delighted with the much needed three points and must have had extra reason for the good feeling being an ex-United player of course.
Liverpool’s inconsistency showed again on the road and Brendan Rogers will be disappointed with the manner of the defeat more than the loss itself.
Liverpool grade: D.
4. Chelsea and Manchester City
Both sides had home matches as the Blues hosted Southampton while City welcomed a troubled Swansea side.
Jose Mourinho blamed his side’s defeat at Basel on fatigue in mid-week and consequently made four changes to the side with Torres, Hazard, Mata and Essien starting. The Ghanian making his first league start since May last year gifted the away side a goal within the
first 15 seconds as his poor back pass was seized by Jay Rodriguez who placed past Cech.
This goal mirrored the one conceded against Cardiff a few weeks back when Luiz’s mistake led to the Welsh side’s opener.
Chelsea sparked by that goal, bombed forward in search of a goal, Oscar and Torres both having headed efforts saved by Boruc. Mourinho replaced Essien with Ba at the break after Lampard had come on for the injured Oscar and the veteran midfielder forced the Polish keeper into a smart save to tip his goalbound effort over the crossbar.
Chelsea were level soon after when Mata’s delivery from a corner caused mayhem in Southampton’s box and culminated in Cahill nodding in the equaliser. Boruc injured himself in the build up to that goal and his replacement, the young Argentine Gazzaniga, had a rude
introduction to the game when Terry headed in Mata’s teasing cross past him.
Chelsea remained on the front foot, Ba dragging an effort narrowly wide before eventually ghosting in ahead of Lovren to poke home for the third goal. The three points catapulted Chelsea into second, right where Mourinho would have wanted before the first whistle.
Things were a bit more straight-forward for at the Etihad, however, as a brace from a revtalised Samir Nasri inspired the Citizens to a dominant 3-0 victory over an out-of-sorts Swansea side who are struggling to replicate last season’s form. Negredo continued his hot streak in front of goal, once again justifying his selection ahead of Dzeko when he curled in a
free-kick in the 9th minute.
The Etihad faithful must have had designs on a repeat of recent thrashings of Norwich and Spurs but Swansea more than matched their hosts in the early stages, De Guzman wasting a glorious opportunity to draw his team level on the stroke of half-time.
However, Nasri continued his resurgence under Pellegrini with a well-taken brace that guaranteed his team the three points. City move up to third, six behind Arsenal while Swansea drop to 13th.
Chelsea grade: A, Man City grade: A.
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