Gameweek 12 of the Barclays Premier League came and went over the weekend after the gloom and bore of the international break.
League leaders Arsenal bounced back in championship-winning fashion to dispatch a tricky Southampton side at the Emirates after their deflating defeat at Old Trafford last time out while Chelsea got back to winning ways at Upton Park courtesy of an inspired Frank Lampard.
Liverpool and Everton served up a six goal thriller in the Merseyside derby while Tottenham’s lavishly assembled squad were left in shambles at the Etihad and United dropped more crucial points in Wales. Here is your weekly SCORECARD.
The Reds travelled to Goodison to face an Everton side under new management for the first time in over a decade. Roberto Martinez has been a mild revelation for the Toffees, as their lofty league position attests, and his shrewd summer business in acquiring Lukaku and Barry on loan deals and James McCarthy to replace the departed Marouane Fellaini, while holding onto Leighton Baines and introducing teenage sensation Ross Barkley has transformed Everton into a stronger and more fluid unit.
Liverpool travelled across town riding high near the top of the table and in good form themselves. Brendan Rogers also had a fruitful summer and managed to bring in the likes of Mamadou Sakho, Cissokho, Luis Alberto, Victor Moses and Iago Aspas helping Liverpool to their best start to the League in four years. It was set up perfectly.
90 minutes and six goals later, the Merseyside derby had lived up to expectations. Liverpool led twice, first through Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez but the hosts pegged them back both times. Kevin Mirallas reacted quickest in the box to stab home the first equaliser then after Suarez struck a stunning free-kick, Romelu Lukaku was on hand to haunt Liverpool with a quick-fire brace. Just when it looked like the Toffees were on the brink of victory, Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to head in the equaliser, capitalising on slack defending from the home side. Pulsating.
Liverpool gave a good account of themselves and had chances to win the game with Allen shooting wide when it was really easier to score after a trademark Luis Suarez run and the Uruguayan thwarted twice by Howard. Everton will feel hard done by the late equaliser but their manager should be satisfied, at the very least, with their battling performance and committed display. A draw is probably the fairest result.
Everton grade: B, Liverpool grade : B.
The Gunners came into this match on the back of a morale sapping defeat by Manchester United which had brought them crashing right back down to earth and were in need of a revitalizing win against a Southampton side that boasted the meanest defence in the league. The Saints were also on a good run and travelled to the Emirates as the fittest team in the league, their high pressing game translating into the most distance covered on average per match.
Mauricio Pochettino has slowly and quietly built a cohesive and solid unit and was looking to claim another scalp of a title hopeful after beating Liverpool at Anfield and leaving Old Trafford with a point. Unfortunately his goalkeeper did not quite read from the same script.
Artur Boruc is quickly becoming the new Joe Hart after his latest gaffe made a mockery of Southampton’s impressive progress. Boruc’s monumental blooper gifted Olivier Giroud the easiest of goals after he tried to pull a Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Johan Cruyff all at the same time, ending with the Polish stopper lying on the turf and the French forward thanking the heavens. It was comical, stuff of legend and as of now, Boruc has cost Southampton a clean four points after the wind powered goal he conceded at Stoke from all of 100 yards.
Arsenal did not really create much after that, despite hitting the woodwork twice early on when they had their visitors on the back-foot, a classic example of just how stringent a unit Pochettino’s men have become. A late penalty however secured the points after Jose Fonte’s needless tug on Mertesacker’s shirt was spotted and the Gunners extend their lead at the top of the log. Mesut Ozil was anonymous once more and this is slowly becoming a concern for the Gunners. Great result from an average performance however is typical championship form.
Arsenal grade : A.
Jose Mourinho had issued a rallying call to his players to start playing like winners after they needed a last-gasp, controversial penalty against West Brom to earn a draw last time out. Chelsea travelled to Upton Park to face a strikerless West Ham side that had beaten them 3-1 last season. Sam Allardyce had threatened to derail Chelsea’s championship hopes but former Hammer Frank Lampard returned to haunt them once more with a well taken brace.
An early penalty was followed by a late strike sandwiching an sublime Oscar effort as the Blues left the Hammers with the blues. Chelsea got the job done with a professional performance, a lacklustre West Ham side never forcing the visitors out of second gear. Routine win for Jose, more misery for ‘Big Sam.’
Chelsea grade : B.
4. Manchester City and Tottenham
Old money came up against new money as this summer’s free-spenders Tottenham travelled to Manchester to face a City side that has been a juggernaut at home but woefully inconsistent away from home. Both teams entered this game licking their wounds after defeats by Sunderland and Newcastle last time out. Pellegrini was once again left scratching his head after more dropped points against Sunderland and confessed that he could not quite put a finger on what the problem was. His opposite number was starting to feel the pressure after the home defeat to Newcastle, with some quarters calling for his dismissal after the summer spending that has not yet transcended into satisfactory performances. Spurs needed a big result to silence the critics, what the got however, was a mauling.
Sergio Aguero once again underlined his status as one of the deadliest forwards in the league as his brace led City to a 6-0 annihilation of Tottenham. Jesus Navas also scored a brace as City ran riot. City’s home form is stellar but their away form is stifling. Tottenham delivered another inept performance and more questions will be asked of AVB and his team. It seems like the Portuguese is struggling to handle such a big squad of players and is finding it hard getting the best out of the undoubtedly talented group. Yesterday’s display was nothing short of shocking and with United to come next for Spurs, AVB must be looking for inspiration from the days when a certain Welshman plied his trade on these shores.
City grade: A, Spurs grade: D.
5. Manchester United
The Red Devils produced an encouraging performance to see off high-flying Arsenal and travelled to Wales for the first time to face a Cardiff side in the Premier League that had already beaten their city rivals this season. David Moyes was forced into a raft of changes after injuries rocked his side depriving him of Robin Van Persie, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Rafael and Vidic. Chicharito, Ferdinand and Cleverley were all called into the starting eleven for the trip.
Wayne Rooney made headlines for both the right and wrong reasons after his petulant kick at Mutch was followed by scoring the opener then setting up Patrice Evra for his side’s second. Fraizer Campbell, who had been lively throughout, haunted his former side after he scored a sublime equaliser when threaded through brilliantly by Mutch.
United were flat and uninspiring for large parts of the match, sorely missing the presence of Carrick. Chicharito cut an isolated figure upfront and was anonymous for almost the entire match before being withdrawn for Giggs. Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley were worryingly basic and average in the middle of the park while Rio Ferdinand, as he has been for most of his appearances this season, was caught out of position too often and failed to organse his backline. Smalling, despite being tidy for most of the match, conceded a needless free-kick from which Cardiff equalised, after taking it twice because of a scuffle between Fellaini and Medel. United failed to take two glorious opportunities to put the game beyond doubt, once by Welbeck then by Rooney after Kim had equalised for the hosts. Moyes, once again, left undone by a late set-piece.
United grade: C.
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