Here’s what happened in the English Premiership over the weekend, in case you missed it…
Another United comeback
Gerry Dobson and Craig Forrest wrap up Saturday’s action, including Manchester United’s come-from-behind win over Queens Park Rangers.
Al-Habsi’s big mistake
Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi’s miscue was your choice for Twitter Play of the Day on Soccer Central Matchday.
Sunderland 2, West Bromwich Albion 4
Full credit to the Baggies for earning their fourth consecutive win and for climbing to third in the table. They’ve been brilliant this season, and are fully deserving of the accolades they’ve received. But things could have been much different at the Stadium of Light had the usually reliable Simon Mignolet not fumbled a Chris Brunt pass, allowing Shane Long to walk in and score what will surely be the easiest goal of his career. Mignolet’s howler made it 2-0 right before half time, and essentially gave the game to the Baggies.
Match fact: Zoltan Gera has scored more goals this season (three) than in any of his last five Premiership campaigns. Also, West Brom is off to their best start to a top-flight season since 1953-54, when they won 10 and lost just once in their first 13 games.
Everton 1, Norwich City 1
Sebastien Bassong’s last-gasp equalizer denied the Toffees three points at Goodison Park, but just like the game at the Stadium of Light, things could have been much different. Everton struggled without the suspended Marouane Fellaini (you can’t help but wonder how Norwich would have had problems dealing with the dangerous Belgian). They also turned off in the 90th minute, failing to deal with the free kick that led to Bassong’s headed goal. It was a contentious foul that led to the free kick, but instead of complaining to the ref about the call, Everton should have focused on defending it. They didn’t, and Norwich deservedly equalized.
Match fact: Norwich City is winless in their last 14 Premiership games against the Merseyside teams (nine losses and five draws). Also, Saturday marked Sebastian Bassong’s first Premiership goal since December 2010, when he scored to Tottenham against Birmingham City.
Manchester United 3, Queens Park Rangers 1
Eight minutes. That’s all Manchester United needed to turn things around at Old Trafford against Queens Park Rangers after the Hoops took a 1-0 lead early in the second half. Not for the first time this season the Reds managed to come from behind to claim three points, relying on their awesome offensive prowess to get them out of trouble. But simply put, they can’t continue on like this. Last week’s loss at Carrow Road was a warning, and setbacks to the likes of Norwich City are going to happen more often. You can only come from behind so often. United has to start being United, and putting teams away by setting the tone early and making their opponents chase the game
Match fact: Manchester United have won 11 and is unbeaten in their last 14 matches in all competitions against QPR. Also, Javier Hernandez has scored eight goals in his last eight games in all competitions for United.
Stoke City 1, Fulham 0
Stoke don’t exactly play an exciting brand of soccer, but you can’t argue with their results. The Potters are now unbeaten in 13 home matches dating back to February, a clear sign that the Britannia Stadium has become one of the more impenetrable fortresses in the Premiership. After a slow start to the campaign, Charlie Adam has suddenly come on strong with two goals in three appearances. If he can continue to score and if a few more road wins can be secured, Stoke might be able good enough to finish in the top half of the table.
Match fact: Charlie Adam has scored two goals in his last three league games, this after going 26 Premiership matches without scoring. Also, Stoke City has conceded just one goal and kept five clean sheets in their last six Premiership games at home.
Wigan Athletic 3, Reading 2
Jordie Gomez broke out of his scoring slump in style by bagging a hat-trick (including the late winner) to guide the Latics to their first win in three games. Gomez was without a goal this season, but his outburst against Reading means he’s already two away from equalizing his tally from the 2011-12 campaign. These are exactly the type of games that Wigan has to win if they’re going to avoid relegation. It was also a bit of a character win for the Latics, who were missing several first-choice players through injury and entered the weekend having lost seven of 12 matches this season. The victory gives them a bit of breathing space, having moved up to 15th in the table.
Match fact: Jordi Gomez is only the third Wigan player (after Marcus Bent and Henri
Camara) to score a hat-trick in the Premiership. Also, Saturday marked the first time this season Wigan collected points from a losing position, having previously lost all seven games when they conceded first.
Aston Villa 0, Arsenal 0
How is it that a team boasting Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski struggles to create scoring chances and often looks creatively inept? There’s no excuse for the Gunners not to have won away to lowly Aston Villa, but talk of axing Wenger remains premature. The Gunners are through to the knockout round of the Champions league and despite their recent poor run of form in the league, they remain only five points out of fourth place. Come the end of the season and if the Gunners have not qualified for the Champions League, then there will be serious talks about firing Wenger. Until then, it’s not going to happen.
Match fact: Lukas Podolski has been subbed off in all 13 Premiership games for Arsenal this season. Also, Aston Villa has won only two of their last 19 home games (with eight draws and nine losses).
Swansea City 0, Liverpool 0
A dire 90 minutes of soccer saw Brendan Rodgers settle for a single point against his old club in his return to Swansea. It’s been said before but it bears repeating: Luis Suarez needs help. Raheem Sterling has shown flashes of brilliance, but he’s only a teenager and it’s unreasonable to expect him to step up and be able to influence games every week. Liverpool needs to use the January transfer window to sign a strike partner for Suarez, and a creative midfielder (or two!) to help lessen the load that the Uruguayan is carrying on his shoulders.
Match fact: Liverpool has kept just two clean sheets in their last 13 Premiership away games. Also, Liverpool is the only team not to score a goal in the final 15 minutes of game this season.
Southampton 2, Newcastle 0
The Saints keeping a clean sheet? Will wonders never cease! Gaston Ramirez was bought by the club from Serie A side Bologna in the off-season, and the expectation was the young Uruguayan would serve as the creative spark in Southampton’s midfield. Thus far, he hasn’t impressed, but against Newcastle Ramirez was brilliant, setting up Adam Lallana’s goal with a deft pass and then scoring in the 60th minute to secure the Saints’ third win of the season and propel them out of the relegation zone.
Match fact: The Magpies previously lost three Premiership games in a row within a single season in September of 2008. Also, Newcastle is winless in their last seven Premiership away games (with four draws).
Chelsea 0, Manchester City 0
All the booing and chants against Rafa Benitez by Chelsea fans on Sunday was mis-directed. Instead, Blues supporters should have directed their scoring at Roman Abramovich, as it was the club’s Russian owner who decided to hire the Spaniard after foolishly letting Roberto Di Matteo go. You have to wonder how long Benitez will last at Stamford Bridge. Results aren’t enough for Abramovich, who likes to see his team win with style. Benitez has always been more focused on earning results, and is totally pragmatic in his approach. We caught a glimpse of that against Manchester City when the attacking trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard ad Juan Mata dropped further back, and didn’t offer much going forward. That’s the Benitez influence. How long before Abramovich taps the Spaniard on the shoulder and brings someone else in?
Match fact: Chelsea has lost just two of 16 Premiership games at Stamford Bridge in 2012 (with 10 wins and four draws). Also, Manchester City is unbeaten in their last nine Premiership away games since losing to Arsenal in April (five wins and four draws).
Tottenham 3, West Ham United 1
Will the real Spurs team please stand up? Andre Villas-Boas’ club is hard to figure out. One week they’re positively uninspiring and lifeless (like they were in a recent home loss to Wigan). And then there are games like Sunday, when they were flying against a tough West Ham side. Jermain Defoe and Gareth bale have the potential to be one of the most dangerous attacking duos in the Premiership. But they need to produce on a consistent basis.
Match fact: Tottenhan is unbeaten in their last 11 Premiership games against West Ham (eight wins and three draws). Also, Jermain Defoe has scored in five of his last right Premiership games for Tottenham against West Ham.