Upsets and Big Score lines at the Top of the Table
There were some major upsets in the 12th round of games in the Premier League at the weekend. Top sides Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton all lost, while Arsenal and Manchester City both scored 5 goals in their wins.
Chelsea’s match away at West Bromwich Albion was always going to be a difficult one, with WBA sitting just behind them on the table and on very good form. But most punters would have still believed that Abramovich’s multi million dollar squad would have had the upper hand. West Brom took the lead on 10 minutes through Shane Long. Eden Hazard pulled one back for Chelsea on 39 minutes, but Peter Odemwingie scored the deciding goal just after half time and West Brom held on for all three points.
An even bigger upset was table leaders Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat at Norwich, who were hovering near the bottom of the league before the game. Anthony Pilkington scored a brilliant headed goal on 30 mins for the home side, who then managed to hold on against a very flat United performance.
Manchester rivals City took the lead in the Premiership with a 5-0 win over Aston Villa. City’s goals included 2 penalties. Amazingly there were no goals until the 43rd minute of the match, when David Silva broke the deadlock. But the goals flowed in the second half with Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez both converting penalties as a result of handball decisions. Aguero was back on the scoreboard within minutes with a deflected shot and Tevez also scored a brace, tapping in a Samir Nasri cross. The first penalty was hotly disputed, replays showed Weimann made no contact with his hand and none of City‘s players appealed for a penalty.
Possibly the most exciting match of the round was the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs made a frenzied start and dominated the first 15 minutes. Former Arsenal man William Gallas netted for Spurs only to be ruled offside. But moments later Mertesacker and Sagna failed to spring the offside trap and Jermain Defoe was through on goal, his low hard drive was saved by Wojciech Szczesny but he was unable to hold onto the ball and another ex Arsenal man, Adebayor, was on hand to tap in the rebound. Adebayor once again showed his lack of class by leaping the advertising hoardings to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans.
But Adebayor and Tottenham’s worlds came undone only 8 minutes after the goal. Arsenal had started to settle and retain some possession of the ball when Adebayor went in with both feet raised high on Santi Cazorla. He was shown a red card and instantly dismissed; forcing Spurs to play 72 minutes with only 10 men.
Australian TV commentator and former Premier League goalkeeper Mark Bosnich said in his half time comments that he thought Adebayor was unlucky to be sent off and he was not that type of player. I don’t know what match he was watching, or what has happened to his memory. Adebayor was late and high with both feet, he hit Cazorla in the ankle despite the fact he was jumping in the air. If Santi had remained on the ground he would have caught him in the throat, he is barely 5 foot 5 (1.65M). Bosnich had also conveniently forgotten that Adebayor was retrospectively sent off for stamping on Robin Van Persie when he played for Man City. He always seems to lose it when he plays against Arsenal.
The sending off proved to be the turning point of the game. Cazorla recovered to put in a man of the match performance. Spurs reshaped but Arsenal dominated possession with Podolski, Walcott and Sagna putting in an endless stream of crosses into the Tottenham 6 yard box. Mertesacker headed in the equaliser on 24 minutes from a Walcott corner, his first goal for Arsenal. Podolski dribbled in from the left to put in a shot that deflected off of Gallas and trickled over the line and Olivier Giroud scored another as a result of some great set up work by Cazorla. It was 3-1 to the Arsenal at half time.
Spurs replaced both full-backs Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton with centre-back Michael Dawson and forward Clint Dempsey at half time and the changes were effective. They started the second half much better than the siege they were under at the end of the first. But Arsenal used their numerical advantage to good effect and Walcott and Podolski set up Cazorla for a great finish on the hour.
Only one man was looking dangerous for Spurs. Gareth Bale, who surely cannot have much time left at White Hart Lane, exploited some lax Arsenal defending and put the ball in the bottom corner of the goal 4-2. Bale narrowly missed moments later and then put in a corner that Defoe should have scored from, had he connected with the ball.
But as Spurs tired and as if to rub salt in Wenger introduced the pace of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and he set up Theo Walcott for a deserved goal in the dying minutes. Final score, 5-2 to the Arsenal.
This same fixture finished with the same result last season and it was the match that turned Arsenal’s form around. If they can maintain this form it could do the same again. Cazorla was easily the man of the match with his touch, vision and creativity. But Walcott and Willshire were not far behind and Podolski, Giroud and Arteta were pretty awesome too. Roll on Wednesday, when Arsenal face Montpellier at home in the European Champions League.
In other results Liverpool beat Wigan 3-0. Newcastle lost 1-2 at home to Swansea, Fulham lost 1-3 against Sunderland and QPR went down by the same score line against Southampton. West Ham face Stoke at home on Monday night and could rise above Arsenal to 6th with a win, but I think a draw is more likely.