Premiership Review (Sept 15) – Southampton hit for six
With Richard Willcox
Sorry Southampton were literally hit for six by an Arsenal team that was apparently struggling to find goals following the departure of Robin Van Persie, who left for United. And the man he ‘replaced’ made a statement to Sir Alex by scoring two on his debut as he rejoined Martin Jol at Fulham.
Paul Lambert and Andre Villas-Boas finally recorded a win for their new teams but there was no such joy for Brendan Rodgers, who could only manage a point at the Stadium of Light. Peter Crouch scored probably the most ugly goal you will ever see while it was a story of experience and youth as United thrashed Wigan – Scholes scoring in his 700th league appearance and goals from debutants Buttner and Powell.
In the West London derby between QPR and Chelsea we finally found the answer to our ‘will he – won’t he’ question – would Anton Ferdinand shake the hands of John Terry and Ashley Cole. Proof that the Premiership and the school playground are not so far apart.
Norwich 0 – West Ham 0
The score-line probably doesn’t do the game itself justice because there were plenty of chances for both sides, but the result is that Norwich have still not managed a win so far this season, while West Ham have yet to win on the road.
Both managers pointed to keeping a clean-sheet as a positive take-away, while Sam Allardyce was pleased with a point away from home. Chris Houghton can take some comfort from the fact that Norwich have only lost one of their opening four games, but have also only scored two goals in that time.
Big Sam has also only lost one, although must rue his bad fortune with Carroll’s injury after pulling off somewhat of a transfer coup (albeit a loan deal). With Andy Carroll out it was left to Carlton Cole to deputise in his absence.
While I suspected a draw I did say that I would back West Ham by a goal because Norwich are struggling to find goals – apparently West Ham are as well.
Arsenal 6 – Southampton 1
Who said Arsenal couldn’t score goals? Nigel Adkins must be hoping his nightmare will soon be over as his side has faced three of the top-four teams in their opening four games. Against both the Manchester sides however, they scored twice and lost by only a single goal. It was a much different story at the Emirates on Saturday though.
Cazorla and Podolski were superb and are certainly helping to ease the pain of losing Van Persie and Song. This was just what Wenger needed to relieve the recent pressure surrounding Arsenal’s transfer policy.
The Gunners saw 70% possession of the ball in a match that was effectively over at half-time as they went in at the break 4-1 up. The Saints would surely have liked to be back on the bus and heading south at that point.
Wenger now believes that Arsenal can win the title (which must have Gunners cringing), having thumped one of the minnows for six. We’ll see how good they really are when they face Montpellier away on Tuesday and then Man City away on Sunday (the following weekend they are at home to Chelsea).
I had the Gunners down to win comfortably, by two goals, but I don’t think anyone predicted they would thump Southampton in this manner, given the Saint’s performances against United and City.
Aston Villa 2 – Swansea 0
The Villains recorded their first win of the season with a goal from their new signing, Christian Benteke on his debut, having come on from the bench. The result is a huge relief for Paul Lambert and the performance from the 21-year old Belgian striker will have been encouraging.
Michael Laudrup was forced to make two changes at the back with both Chico and Taylor unavailable, but the introduction of record-signing Pablo Hernandez did little to change the course of the game.
I had the Swans down for an away win by a single goal, but Villa are showing signs that they are starting to sort their act out.
Fulham 3 – West Brom 0
Another striker scoring on his debut was Fulham new-boy Dimitar Berbatov, who bagged two against a Baggies side reduced to ten men for the majority of the game. Martin Jol had managed Berbatov at Spurs and was well aware of the quality he posses – the Bulgarian was obviously keen to re-pay Jol’s faith in him after being ‘harshly treated’ by Sir Alex at United.
Peter Odemwingie’s dismissal was anything but debatable after he lashed out at Riether from behind in a moment of sheer frustration and stupidity in the 37th minute. The defeat ends West Brom’s unbeaten record this season and Steve Clarke won’t be happy that his team were forced to play the second half a man-down, thanks to his striker’s petulant kick.
Not even loan signing Romelu Lukaku could rescue a point as he was introduced in the second half in place of Fortune.
I called this one a draw but when one team has a player sent off, especially the away-side, all bets go out the window. The Cottagers were a goal-up before that sending off, but with a long way to go in the game.
Man United 4 – Wigan 0
In his 700th game for United, Paul Scholes opened the scoring in the second half of the game, after the Latics had held United level going into the break. And while the United old-guard were clearly still in force, with Scholes, Giggs and Ferdinand all starting, it was the two new youngsters making their debuts who grabbed the headlines.
Scholes might have considered himself lucky to stay on the pitch as he demonstrated yet again that not only can he not tackle, but his attempts are down-right dangerous. Booked for one, it appeared the referee was giving him the benefit of the doubt to avoid spoiling his landmark 700th game.
Alex Buttner was already having an impressive afternoon before he scored a fantastic solo effort, while Chris Powell, brought on with twenty minutes to go, scored a screamer just minutes after his introduction.
El Habsi first conceded and then saved a penalty just five minutes into the game, as he dived to deny Hernandez (who went on to score in the second half).
Sir Alex’s 500th home league game was marked by an emphatic win, but marred somewhat by United fans singing abusive chants about Liverpool, following the news surrounding the Hillsborough tragedy during the week.
I had United down to win by at least two goals but there was never going to be much value in backing that result.
QPR 0 – Chelsea 0
The build-up to this game was dominated by speculation over whether Anton Ferdinand would shake the hands of John Terry and Ashley Cole – the answer was a resounding ‘no’. In a game that had little else to comment on apart from two strong penalty shouts for Chelsea, the ongoing feud and theatrical drama surrounding these fixtures is getting embarrassing.
In a feisty encounter there were actually only two bookings, for Ramires and Bertrand, but Di Matteo can probably feel aggrieved that both penalty shouts were waived away. The draw leaves his Chelsea top of the table but just a point ahead of United now.
The bad news for Mark Hughes is that injury-prone striker Andy Johnson could be out for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury, while Fabio de Silva (on loan from United) also picked up an injury.
I predicted that Chelsea would nick it by a goal, but have to confess that I thought it would be a high-scoring encounter, so I was wrong on both fronts.
“Were the FA right to go ahead with the pre-match handshake knowing that Ferdinand would not shake the hands of Terry and Cole?” – let me know what you think.
Stoke 1 – Man City 1
Stoke had been making the news all week due to the signing of Michael Owen, who made a pointless appearance in the 90th minute of the game, but it was his team-mate Peter Crouch who was the topic of conversation after scoring a bizarre (and ugly-looking) goal in which he clearly used his hand(s).
City players were left somewhat bewildered that Mark Clattenberg allowed the ‘goal’ to stand and it was another debutant goal which rescued a point for City, with a powerful header from Javi Garcia.
City might have been without Aguero through injury, but still had Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko available. The concern for Mancini though may well be their failure to keep a clean sheet in any of their four opening matches. Better news for City fans will be that David Silva signed a five year contract extension which will keep the 26 year-old Spanish midfielder at the club until 2017.
There was late drama when Ryan Shawcross cleared a speculative effort from Dzeko off the line, who very nearly robbed the home side at the death.
City face Real Madrid on Tuesday in the Champions League before hosting Arsenal on Sunday.
Sunderland 1 – Liverpool 1
Brendan Rodgers has yet to win a game for Liverpool as they rescued a point against Martin O’Neil’s Black Cats at the Stadium of Light. While Suarez was the scorer for the reds in the second half, the main talking point was his yellow card for ‘diving’ in the penalty area. That’s his third yellow and two more will see him pick an automatic suspension.
Initially it looked as though there was no contact at all as Suarez dived over John O’Shea’s leg. Replays from another angle suggested that his leg did brush Suraez, but that he went down very easily the moment he felt contact. Perhaps Suarez’s reputation went against him on this occasion, but it would have been a very harsh call to award a penalty.
I heard a number of pundits at the weekend (all former strikers), who claim that because there was contact (albeit minimal) he was ‘entitled’ to go down. This is why some former footballers shouldn’t be pundits – because there was contact he was in his right to collapse to the floor…!?
Borini still looks unconvincing to me and did little with the chances that came his way, eventually replaced by Stuart Downing in the 67th minute, but Sterling put in another solid performance.
I expected more from Sunderland and thought they would take all three points against this struggling Liverpool side, who are at home next weekend to United. On the balance of it, Liverpool perhaps deserved more than the single point.
Reading 1 – Tottenham 3
Andre Villas-Boas secured his first win for Spurs in a dominant display which the score-line hardly reflected. Jermain Defoe had an outstanding game, scoring two, before Gareth Bale added to the tally in the second half. A consolation goal from Reading in injury time denied Brad Friedel a clean-sheet, who was given the nod over new signing Hugo Lloris.
Former Reading man Gylfi Siggurdson was just one of Tottenham’s newcomers who impressed, with Dembele and Sandro sitting behind lone striker Defoe, who may have been given a new lease of life under AVB.
Reading felt they should have had a penalty when the game was still scoreless, but it probably would have made little difference in truth.
I tipped Spurs to get their season’s first win at the Madjeski, in part because Reading hadn’t played a competitive game for 25 days.
Spurs are in European action on Thursday night when they face Lazio, before a home derby against West-Londoners QPR on Sunday.