Here’s what happened in the English Premiership over the weekend, in case you missed it…
Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer’s save on Mikel Arteta’s penalty kick was your choice for Twitter Play of the Day on Soccer Central Matchday.
Sportsnet commentator Craig Forrest answered fans’ questions during Saturday’s Soccer Central Matchday broadcast.
The fact United stormed back from a two-goal deficit to earn the win was the major storyline from this match. Alex Ferguson’s team is to be congratulated for the way they fought back. But it was also a troubling sign that United was carved open with relative ease by a team of Villa’s calibre – they had scored only eight times in their previous 10 league games. Chris Smalling was easily shrugged off by Christian Benteke, who then set up Andreas Weimann for his first goal of the game. And instead of appealing for a offside call, Rio Ferdinand should have been more concerned with marking Weimann and preventing him from getting on to the end of low cross from Gabriel Agbonlahor to make it 2-0. One of these days, United is going to give up a 2-0 lead and an opponent of genuine quality is going to make them pay for it.
Match fact: Aston Villa hasn’t beat Manchester United at home since 1995 – a run of 14 games. Also, Villa has one only win (in 2009) in the last 31 league meetings between the two sides.
There are a lot of negatives you could point out about Arsenal’s performance against Fulham, foremost among them being the Gunners’ dreadful defending. But let’s look at one of the positives, namely the play of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman was joint top scorer in Ligue Un last season with Montpellier, and while he wasn’t expected to fill the shoes of Robin van Persie, the hope was he could supply a steady string of goals. But Giroud struggled through the first few months of the season, much like Thierry Henry first did when he arrived before eventually breaking out. Perhaps this is the match that could set Giroud on his way. Both of his goals were superbly taken, both brilliant headers that the Frenchman buried with aplomb. Hopefully for the Gunners and Giroud, this game is a sign of things to come.
Match fact: Fulham’s 24 goals on the season rank second in the Premier League (Manchester United has 29), and are spread among nine players. Also, Arsenal is 0-2-2 against Fulham since earning a 2-1 win over the Cottagers at the Emirates on Dec. 4, 2010
The grace and effectiveness of a simple run inside the box – that’s what you should take away from this match. Both goals were scored off set pieces with John Terry and Luis Suarez giving their defensive markers the slip with simple moves to head home for their clubs. Watch the video and see how Terry broke away from Daniel Agger to get onto a Juan Mata corner. Nothing complicated about it. Likewise for Suarez, who peeled off Ramires to nod home from inside the six-yard box. Sometimes, the simple play is the best option.
Match fact: Chelsea has not kept a clean sheet in any of their last six matches. Also, Liverpool is unbeaten in their last five league meetings with Chelsea (four wins and a draw).
Not for the first time this season Manchester United took all three points despite being outplayed for most of the game. So, how does City keep racking up victories? By keeping it close and then relying on individual acts of brilliance to push them over the top. Sunday’s win against Tottenham was a prime example, with Sergio Aguero’s swift move and sublime finish levelling the score for the Blues. Then in the 88th minute, David Silva played a sublime ball over the Spurs defence for Edin Dzeko to finish. Two moments of individual brilliance, two goals, one win. That’s how City gets it done. Just wait until they wake up and play to their potential.
Match fact: Manchester City’s Edin Dezko has seven goals (in the Premiership and Champions League) this season – six of them have come off the bench. Also, City has won 29 of their last 30 home games in the league and is unbeaten in their last 45 home contests.
Why has Kevin Nolan, with a team-leading five goals for West Ham, been so effective this season? Because he’s a smart player. Like John Terry and Luis Suarez, Nolan understands that sometimes it just takes is a simple move to create valuable space inside the box. That’s what the former Magpie did against Mike Williamson, quickly breaking away from the Newcastle defender and getting open to slot a perfect pass from Joey O’Brien home. Simplicity is something Nolan understands. It’s a lesson that his teammate Andy Carroll, still looking for his first league goal for the Hammers, needs to learn.
Match fact: West Ham’s previous win away to Newcastle came in October of 1998. Also, the Hammers only have nine wins in 62 visits to St James’ Park.
Other than Juan Mata and Robin van Persie, has there been a player in the league this season who has meant more to his team than Everton’s Marouane Fellaini? The Toffees are a well-balanced side with quality at every starting position, but it’s hard to imagine they’d be challenging for a top four spot without Fellaini. When he’s on his game, the talented Belgian is a difference maker – a player who can score critical goals and can create them for others. He showed a deft touch on the ball and great finishing ability to level the score, even though he was surrounded by a horde of Sunderland players. Moments later, it was his gorgeous back-heel pass that freed Nikica Jelavic inside the box to score the winner.
Match fact: Everton manager David Moyes has now been in charge of 400 Premier League matches during his career. Also, Everton is unbeaten in 17 meetings (12-5-0) with Sunderland since Moyes took over as manager in 2002.
Reading is in big trouble. Still looking for its first win after 10 games, the Hoops could take comfort in the fact that they were only a few points away from climbing out of the relegation zone. But the fact they couldn’t put one past Norwich – a team that hasn’t kept a clean sheet in eight years (see stats below) – suggests are every bit as poor as their 0-6-4 would indicate.
Match fact: Before Saturday, Norwich City hadn’t kept a clean sheet in 38 straight top-flight games – a run that dated back to 2004. Also, Norwich has scored just three goals in six games on the road this season, the worst record in the Premiership.
Nathan Dyer was one of the best players in the league during the first few weeks of the season, scoring a brace in Swansea’s opening day 5-0 win over QPR. He cooled down after that and eventually lost his place in the starting lineup, but he’s looked impressive in his recent stints off the bench. And against the Saints, it was his heads up move that allowed the Swans to leave St. Mary’s with a point. Dyer read the play and stripped Maya Yoshida of possession and then sprinted into the box before scoring with a cool finish. It was another great performance by the substitute, one that may force manager Michael Laudrup to give him back his spot in the starting 11.
Match fact: This was the first meeting between the sides since the 2008-09 Championship campaig, when Swansea took 4 points off Southampton. Also, Swansea is winless in their last nine trips to Southampton, it last road victory over the Saints coming in March of 1953.
Another loss for QPR and the calls for Mark Hughes to be fired grow louder. There’s little doubt that the Welsh manager should be given his marching orders, but in the interest of fairness, it has to be said that his players were at fault for Saturday’s loss at Stoke. The Hoops registered 16 shots but only managed two on target. Adel Taarabt was one of the many guilty culprits – he spurned a glorious scoring chance just before halftime when he tried a comical chip that floated wide of the post, instead of putting his foot through the ball after being played into a dangerous position by Junior Hoilett.
Match fact: QPR has lost 12 of their last 13 road games in the league and hasn’t won away since beating Stoke 3-2 at the Britannia Stadium last season. Also, Charlie Adam’s goal on Saturday ended Stoke’s 264-minute scoring drought.
West Brom’s Chris Brunt may just be one of the most under-rated midfielders in the league. The Northern Ireland international isn’t flashy and he doesn’t score spectacular goals. But he does provide quality service, as evidenced by the perfect ball he delivered from the left flank into the middle of the box for James Morrison to head home.
Match fact: West Brom’s previous away win at Wigan came in 2005. Also, the Baggies have won just two of their last 11 on the road in the league.