Manchester United had to come from behind to rescue their game against Stoke, Arsenal won despite going down to 10-men, Liverpool once more showed why they should be considered challengers this time round, while Tottenham and Chelsea both won in rather fortuitous circumstances.
Let's take a look at how the big-boys got on this past weekend.
1. Manchester United
Another home game…another torrid and enduring afternoon for United and their fans. Old Trafford played host to a Stoke City side that had not scored in 6 games but a few minutes after kick-off, it looked like that stat was just a rumor. Stoke scored with their first meaningful attack and for the umpteenth time this season, the Old Trafford faithful were stunned.
United were punished for slack, shocking defending as Smalling, Jones and Evans were all at sea for Peter Crouch’s opener. Things went from bad to worse at the back as time and again as United’s defence was too easily breached. David De Gea in goal must have thought he could carry a set of mp3 players to the pitch, not anticipating much activity on his part. It is a good thing he did not as he produced two magnificent saves, first to deny Walters from point blank and then parry an effort for Arnautovic that was heading for the bottom corner. Crouch really should have hit the target after Walters nodded down invitingly for the giant striker but he blazed over the bar. United were being rocked, by Stoke City, at home. Almost mythical you would think.
Van Persie did eventually draw them level but a moment of head rush form Jones, who had been torrid the entire half, gifted Stoke a needless freekick right on the edge of their own box and the impressive Arnautovic stepped up and curled wonderfully beyond a diving De Gea to put Stoke back in front. Half-time could not come fast enough for a bewildered United side. They did manage to turn things around, after some inspired substitutions from Moyes as wonderkid Januzaj came on for Nani who once again had been awful. Rooney dropped to midfield as Cleverley came off for Hernandez and after Rooney equalised, the little pea grabbed the winner to send Old Trafford into raptures, more in relief than expectation. United do not look like championship material.
On the back of a deflating Champions League defeat against Dortmund, Arsenal faced a reeling Palace side in desperate need of three points. The hosts started better and forced Scezney into early saves. Marouane Chamakh played like a man out to prove a point to Wenger as he was at the center of most things positive for Palace. Arsenal still looked to be in the midst of the Lewandowski hangover as they struggled in the early parts of the game but went into the break ahead after Gnabry, who had been effervescent on the right, was brought down in the box and Arteta thumped the penalty home.
Giroud was guilty of missing opportunities and poor hold up play as he was repeatedly dispossessed just when Arsenal needed him to hold up play better. Arteta was sent off for clattering into Chamakh as the last man and despite the pressure form Palace, a combination of brilliant goalkeeping and intelligent play from Ramsey put the game to bed for the Gunners and broke Palace hearts after a spirited performance. Good win for Arsenal, sets them up
well for a decisive coming month.
Luis Suarez underlined his status as one of the best strikers - if not the best - in England at the moment. He struck his first treble at home for Liverpool and his fourth overall. Together with Sturridge, who ended a frustrating evening in front of goal with a deft and arrogant chipped goal, it is safe to say that The Reds have the most lethal strike duo in the league.
They dispatched a tricky West Brom side with minimal fuss. It was a composed, dominant and assured display from Rodgers men and although there were shaky moments at the back, Liverpool looked in total control form the off. West Brom were put to the sword clinically by a rampant and ruthless Suarez who turned in a typical performance. The midfield was marshaled well by skipper Gerrard and Lucas, the defence was organized by Kolo Toure and Mignolet was a calming presence in goal. The Reds look like breaking into the top four at the
very least; question is, at the expense of whom?
Spurs spent upwards of 100 million and lost Bale but the squad looks unsettled. Against Hull City, Spurs were plain and bland. They struggled for large portions of the match and found it hard to break down a well organised Hull City team. Steve Bruce made six changes to the team that lost at Everton but it did not show at all. Hull stayed deep and after a frantic
opening 10 minutes, settled well into the match and showed attacking endeavor themselves.
Tottenham’s forward play lacked cutting edge and fluidity. Soldado was isolated for most parts of the game, as Spurs were forced into long-range attempts. Only a contentious penalty afforded them all three points. Spurs do not look capable of challenging for the title just yet.
5. Chelsea and Manchester City
The clash of the cash took place at the Bridge as the top two title favourites went toe to toe. City came into the match on the back of an impressive away win at CSKA as did their hosts who, Torres-inspired, destroyed Schalke in Germany. Kun Aguero has been in scintillating form and coupled with Torres’ recent resurgence, a battle of the two strikers who were always likely to be fielded alone was in the offing.
Chelsea started brightly and could have taken the lead once through Torres who volleyed over with only Hart to beat and then Cahill who found himself unmarked in the box but followed his compatriot in striking the ball into the stands. It did not take long though, as the lively Torres beat Clichy to the byline and squared for Schurrle to tap in. A deserved lead for the Blues.
City begun the second period on the front foot and equalized through Sergio Aguero in emphatic fashion. The diminutive Argentinian darted in between Chelsea’s center backs and received a through ball before thumping it first time past a dumbfounded Petr Cech. It was a goal from a man in form and brimming with confidence. It was set up for a grand finish.
City pressed and peppered Chelsea’s goalmouth with attempts that Cech comfortably dealt with as the teams traded blows. With neither able to get one over the other, a fairly deserving draw was on the horizon before Joe Hart pulled a ‘Joe Hart’. A harmless ball forward was inauspiciously headed back by Nastasic for Joe Hart only for the ball to evade the onrushing keeper. Torres latched onto it and bundled into an empty net. Another costly mistake from City’s and England’s number one to be added to a growing list of howlers. Nothing much to read form this match, only that both sides remain favourites for the title come May. Oh, and another thing, Pellegrini really needs to do something about his goalkeeping conundrum before it costs him more than just another three points.
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