This weekend saw the battles at each end of the premier League table intensify and included a face-off between the top two teams, Champions Manchester City and Manchester United who sit top of the league. Here is a roundup of each game that took place.
Arsenal 2 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
Arsenal almost took the lead in the opening exchanges as Boaz Myhill punched the ball to the feet of Gervinho only for the striker to scuff his shot over the bar. With 25 minutes on the clock Santi Cazorla went down in the box without contact and Mikel Arteta converted the wrongly awarded penalty. Arsenal continued to spurn clear cut chances until just after the hour mark Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed to push Goran Popov to the ground before bursting into the box and being fouled. Arteta stepped up to convert his second penalty but West Brom were understandably peeved but never really threatened to grab a goal of their own and the north London club ended comfortable winners.
Aston Villa 0 – 0 Stoke City
This was most definitely a game won by the defenders, with very little in the way of goal mouth action. Aston Villa could have taken the lead early on but Christian Benteke’s close range volley was cleared off the line by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross. Benteke had another chance just after the break but it was Asmir Begovic that this time denied the striker. The main talking points of this game were the decisions made by referee Roger East which culminated in two bookings given to Ryan Shotton. The first was given for what looked like a good tackle and the second, in stoppage time, seemed to come after he made no contact at all.
Southampton 1 – 0 Reading
Southampton were vastly superior in this game but despite their possession were unable to test the Reading goal seriously until just after the half-hour point when Jason Puncheon headed in only for the referee to blow for a push on Adam Federici. Jay Tabb did break free in a counter attack but shot straight at Saints keeper Kelvin Davis. The away side almost snatched a lead before half time as Hal Robson-Kanu hit the post. Southampton continued to press Reading in the second half and eventually took the lead on the hour mark as Puncheon hit the bottom corner with a cross goal shot. The south coast club held on comfortably and in fact looked the more likely to add to the scoring as they continued their impressive form.
Sunderland 1 – 3 Chelsea
Chelsea started very quickly and in fact had a penalty appeal turned down before Fernando Torres scored a well hit volley after ten minutes. Stephane Sessegnon forced Petr Cech into a save with a long range shot before Torres added a second from the penalty spot on the stroke of half time. Four minutes into the second half Torres was denied his hat-trick by the crossbar but fellow Spaniard Juan Mata tucked in the rebound to effectively end the game. With just over an hour played Sunderland did grab a goal thanks to Adam Johnson but were unable to stage an unlikely comeback despite testing Cech on several occasions.
Swansea City 3 – 4 Norwich City
The game started brightly and Steven Whittaker scored his first goal for Norwich on 16 minutes to give his side a deserved lead. Swansea started to work their way into the game but found themselves two down five minutes before the break as Sebastien Bassong headed in Grant Holt’s cross at the near post. Holt completed a brilliant half for Norwich by heading his side further ahead just two minutes later. The home side started the second half explosively though and Michu gave them hope five minutes after the restart. A comeback seemed likely when Jonathan de Guzman scored a second for Swansea with an hour left but Robert Snodgrass curled in a free-kick on 77 minutes to give Norwich all three points. Michu did score again for Swansea but there wasn’t enough time to snatch a point from The Canaries.
Wigan Athletic 2 – 2 Queens Park Rangers
QPR started the game brightly but found themselves behind before seriously testing Wigan as James McCarthy hit a fantastic volley past Robert Green on 18 minutes. Ryan Nelson scored a powerful header seven minutes later to put Rangers level and that’s how it stayed until half time. Wigan started to dominate in the second half but spurned chance after chance before Djibril Cisse scored what looked to be a winner with 20 minutes to play after a defensive error by Adrian Lopez. But Wigan got the goal they deserved just four minutes later though as McCarthy slotted home his second and the game ended all square.
Manchester City 2 – 3 Manchester United
City started the game the better of the two teams but it was United that struck first as Wayne Rooney’s weak shot wrong footed Joe Hart on 16 minutes. United grew into the game more with every passing minute and extended their lead on 29 minutes with Rooney again putting the ball past Hart. United should have been three up as Ashley young was controversially ruled offside before putting the ball into the City net and minutes later found their lead halved as Yaya Toure scored with an hour played. With four minutes to play City grabbed a dramatic equaliser through Pablo Zabaleta but a brilliant Robin Van Persie free kick won the game for United in stoppage time.
Everton 2 – 1 Tottenham Hotspur
This game was all about defences as both teams defended very well for almost the whole game. Everton were denied several times by a stern Spurs defence in the first half and even had an optimistic penalty appeal waved away. The second half continued in the same vein with both teams being limited by on-form defenders but Spurs struck first with 15 minutes to play as Clint Dempsey’s deflected shot looped over Tim Howard. This looked to be the winning goal until Steven Pienaar scored against the club he played for briefly last season with the clock ticking over into stoppage time. Spurs were rattled but Everton weren’t finished and dramatically won the game as Nikica Jelavic squirmed free of the defence to slot the ball past Hugo Lloris and win the game for the home side.
West Ham United 2 – 3 Liverpool
Liverpool started the game brightly and got their reward after just 11 minutes as Glen Johnson put them ahead. West Ham equalised on 36 minutes with Mark Noble slotting home from the penalty spot and were leading before half time as an unlucky Steven Gerrard steered the ball past his own keeper. West Ham looked good for their lead but with 15 minutes left Joe Cole grabbed an equaliser for the away side and three minutes later the reds were in front as James Collins deflected the ball past his own keeper and Liverpool held on for all three points.